Aggression describes a variety of socially unacceptable behaviors that are undertaken with the intention of establishing dominance and/or causing fear or harm.In humans, aggression can be caused by various triggers, from frustration due to blocked goals to feeling disrespected. It is an action or response by an individual that delivers something unpleasant to another person.Aggression can take a variety of forms, which may be expressed physically, or communicated verbally or non-verbally.
Because aggressive behavior is intended to harm someone who doesn’t want to be harmed, it must involve action—simply thinking about harming someone or feeling angry isn’t enough.
Aggressive behaviors can be –
• Physical, like beating, hitting, kicking, or stabbing another person. Damaging property is also a form of physical aggression.
• Verbal, which may include mocking, name-calling, and yelling.
• Relational, which is intended to harm another person’s relationships. This can include spreading rumors and telling lies about someone else.
• Passive-aggressive, like ignoring someone during a social event or offering back-handed compliments.
• Hostile aggression, emotional or reactive acts that involve a specific intent to hurt someone or destroy something.
Cyberbullying is another form of non-physical aggression that can cause serious harm to others.
Psychologists divide aggression into two main types.
• Impulsive Aggression
Impulsive or reactive aggression is characterized by strong emotions. Impulsive aggression, especially when it’s caused by anger, triggers the acute threat response system in the brain.This form of aggression is not planned and often takes place in the heat of the moment. If another car cuts you off in traffic and you begin yelling and berating the other driver, you’re experiencing impulsive aggression.
• Instrumental Aggression
Instrumental or predatory aggression is marked by behaviors that are intended to achieve a larger goal. Instrumental aggression is often carefully planned and usually exists as a means to an end. Hurting another person in a robbery is an example of this type of aggression.
Aggression usually doesn’t have one single specific cause. Rather, suggests a number of factors can contribute to aggressive behavior.
▪︎ Biological factors
Brain chemistry and other biological factors that might play a part in aggression include:
• Irregular brain development. Experts have linked increased activity in the amygdala and decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex to aggression. Lesions in the brain, which can happen with neurodegenerative conditions, can also lead to aggressive behavior.
• Genetics. Mutations of certain genes, including monoamine oxidase A, can also contribute.
• Brain chemical and hormone imbalances. Unusually high or low levels of certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA), may lead to aggressive behavior. Higher levels of testosterone can also lead to aggression in people of any gender.
• Side effects of prescription medications and other substances. Medications and substances that cause changes in the brain can sometimes lead to aggressive behavior. A few examples include corticosteroids, alcohol, anabolic steroids, and phencyclidine (PCP).
• Medical conditions. Aggressive behavior could happen as a result of certain health conditions that damage your brain, including stroke, dementia, and head injuries
▪︎ Psychological factors
Aggressive behavior can sometimes happen as a symptom of certain mental health conditions, including –
• conduct disorder
• intermittent explosive disorder
• oppositional and defiant disorder (ODD)
• attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
• post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• bipolar disorder
• substance use disorders
• chronic stress
• certain personality disorders, including borderline, antisocial, and narcissistic personality disorders
▪︎ Environmental factors
Circumstances and challenges in your everyday life and environment can also contribute to aggressive behavior.
You might also be more likely to behave aggressively if your upbringing exposed you to aggression and violence. This could happen if you:
• had abusive parents and caregivers or siblings who bullied you
• grew up in a neighborhood or community where violence and aggression happened frequently
• experienced cruel or unfair treatment from teachers and classmates
a person who behaves in a chronically aggressive manner is also likely to experience a variety of negative effects and outcomes themselves, including but by no means limited to the following:
• Family discord, separation/divorce, and loss of child custody
• Strained or ruined interpersonal relationships
• Physical injury due to tendency to engage in fights
• Physical injury due to risky or reckless behaviors, such as aggressive driving
• Onset or worsening of mental health disorders
• Poor performance in school and/or at work
• Academic failure and/or job loss
• Chronic unemployment
• Legal problems, including arrest, fines, and incarceration
• Financial instability
• Social isolation
• Substance abuse and addiction
• Pervasive sense of hopelessness and/or helplessness
• Social withdrawal and isolation
Aggression Management –
If you’re experiencing feelings of aggression, you can learn to manage your anger and cope in a more constructive way. The plan should include ways to reduce your stress levels, such as –
• Being mindful of your anger warning signs, like clenching your jaw, a fast pulse, or sweating
• Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
• Engaging with your senses by focusing on things you can see, smell, hear, touch, or taste
• Walking away from the situation
• Exercising to burn off excess energy
• Reaching out to a trusted friend or family member for social support
• Distracting yourself with another activity
• Reframing negative thoughts
• Learning to explore and accept the emotions underlying the aggression
If someone in your life is behaving aggressively toward you, it’s important to protect your own mental health and physical safety. Try to stay calm and avoid escalating the conflict, and walk away if it’s safe to do so.
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