Aggressive Behavior

Written by Amber Erickson Gabbey | Published on December 23, 2013
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on December 23, 2013

What Is Aggressive Behavior?

Aggressive behavior is behavior that causes physical or emotional harm to others, or threatens to. It can range from verbal abuse to the destruction of a victim’s personal property. People with aggressive behavior tend to be irritable, impulsive, and restless.

Aggressive behavior is intentional, meaning it’s done on purpose, violates social norms, and causes a breakdown in a relationship. Emotional problems are the most common cause of aggressive behavior.

Occasional outbursts of aggression are common and even normal. Aggressive behavior is a problem because it occurs frequently or in a pattern. Generally speaking, aggressive behavior stems from an inability to control behavior, or from a misunderstanding of what behaviors are appropriate.

Aggressive behavior can be reactive, or in retaliation. It can also be proactive, as an attempt to provoke a victim. It can be either overt or secretive.

Aggressive behavior can also be self-directed.

The key to handling aggressive behavior is to understand what the cause is.

What Causes Aggressive Behavior?

A variety of factors can influence aggressive behavior, including:

  • family structure
  • relationships with others
  • work or school environment
  • societal or socioeconomic factors
  • individual characteristics
  • health conditions
  • psychiatric issues
  • life experiences

Children

Aggression in children is often a byproduct of poor parenting, biological factors, or a lack of relationship skills. In many cases, the child is exposed to aggression or violence and imitates that behavior. A child might receive attention for it from parents, teachers, or peers. When parents ignore the behavior or unknowingly reward it, they can further encourage it.

In some children, aggressive behavior is a result of the manic stage of bipolar disorder. It can also be caused by irritability due to depression.

Sometimes, children will lash out due to fear or suspicion. This is more common in cases of schizophrenia, paranoia, or other psychotic conditions.

Aggression can also be a byproduct of the inability to deal with emotion, especially frustration. This is common in children who have conditions on the autism spectrum or mental retardation. If they become frustrated, they may be unable to rectify or verbalize the situation effectively. Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other disruptive disorders may show lack of attention, lack of understanding, or impulsiveness. The consequences can be viewed as aggressive behaviors, especially if they disrupt social situations.

Adults

In adults, aggression can develop from negative life experiences or mental illness. In some cases, people who suffer from depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) unintentionally exhibit aggressive behaviors as a result of their condition. For those without an underlying medical or emotional disorder, aggressive behavior is usually a response to frustration. It can also occur when someone stops caring about others or the consequences of their behavior.

How Is Aggressive Behavior Treated?

To work through aggressive behavior, a person must identify the primary cause and underlying factors.

The most common way to treat or reduce aggressive behavior is psychotherapy. One method is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches a person how to control his or her behavior. It can also help a person to develop coping mechanisms and the ability to assess behavioral consequences. Talk therapy can help a person understand the causes of aggression and work through those feelings.

These therapies help people regulate emotion, identify triggers, and develop coping skills.

What Is the Outlook For Aggressive Behavior

Unaddressed aggression can lead to more aggression and violent behavior.

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.


Show Sources

Recommended for You

Detox Diet: 8 Natural Plans
Detox Diet: 8 Natural Plans
Detox diets, such as juice cleanses or raw food diets, have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Unfortunately, the risks are often overlooked.
The 15 Best Breast Cancer iPhone & Android Apps of 2014
The 15 Best Breast Cancer iPhone & Android Apps of 2014
These 15 apps can help you detect breast cancer, stay informed if you have cancer, and even remind others how important it is to conduct self-exams.
The Best Alcoholism iPhone & Android Apps of the Year
The Best Alcoholism iPhone & Android Apps of the Year
Whether you’re trying to remain sober, cut back, or just get a handle on you’re drinking, these mobile apps can help.
The Best Crohn’s Disease iPhone and Android Apps of the Year
The Best Crohn’s Disease iPhone and Android Apps of the Year
Learn which Crohn's disease health apps can help you track your symptoms, keep a record of your medications, or even help you find a bathroom.
The Best Multiple Sclerosis Blogs of 2014
The Best Multiple Sclerosis Blogs of 2014
Read these MS blogs for a shot of inspiration. Return to them regularly to witness the unstoppable progress of their inspiring authors and contributors.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement