Signs & Symptoms of Aggression

Understanding Aggression

Learn About Aggression

When you act out with the intent to cause physical or emotional harm to another person or object, this behavior is known as aggression. Aggressive behavior can be a knee-jerk reaction to a trigger, or it can be planned in advance.

Aggression typically falls into two categories:

  • Physical or hostile aggression
  • Emotional or relational aggression

Hostile aggression happens when you attempt to injure an individual by way of hitting, pinching, biting, pushing, or inflicting any other type of physical harm. Destroying property is also considered hostile aggression. Relational aggression can involve spreading rumors, teasing someone, or intentionally excluding a person so that he or she feels badly.

However, regardless of the type of aggression that you display, it is likely that this kind of behavior can cause problems within your own life and in the lives of those you care about.

For many people, aggressive behaviors are learned early in life. Some people behave aggressively while under the influence of drugs, or due to the presence of an untreated mental health disorder.

What is most important to know is that aggression, no matter the cause, can be treated with proper care. With the support of professionals, you can learn to manage your aggression so that you can live a happy and productive life.


Aggression Statistics

Research shows that females are more likely to engage in relational aggression, while males are more likely to display hostile aggression. Additionally, some studies show that those who are suffering from schizophrenia or mood disorders may act more aggressively than individuals without a history of such mental health concerns. Furthermore, alcohol and drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants are believed to contribute to aggressive behaviors.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Aggression

The causes and potential risk factors for aggression can differ from person to person. However, researchers believe that the following may explain why you may be behaving aggressively:

Genetic: Certain heritable mental health disorders can trigger aggressive behavior. Therefore, if you have a family history of such illnesses, you may be more likely to struggle with aggression.

Environmental: Your environment is capable of influencing whether or not you act aggressively. For example, if you are exposed to violence, crime, trauma, or someone else’s aggressive actions, you may also present with aggressive behaviors. Additionally, if you are unable to cope with stress or adversity, you may be more inclined to struggle with aggression as well.

Mental health disorders: Some mental illnesses either include aggression as a symptom or can lead to aggressive actions if they are not properly managed. The following are examples of mental health disorders that can include or cause aggression:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Dementia
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders
  • Substance use disorders

Risk Factors:

  • Being the victim of a crime
  • Exposure to violence, crime, chaos, or stress at an early age
  • Having a history of substance abuse
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Lacking healthy coping skills
  • Lacking positive role models as a child or adolescent
  • Suffering from a mental health disorder
  • Surviving a trauma

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Aggression

There are many telltale signs of aggression. The following symptoms suggest you are behaving in an aggressive manner:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Biting another person or an object
  • Bullying
  • Destroying property
  • Excluding others
  • Gossiping
  • Having difficulty calming yourself down after exerting aggressive behavior
  • Hitting another person or an object
  • Ignoring someone on purpose
  • Kicking another person or an object
  • Name-calling
  • Pinching someone
  • Pulling someone’s hair
  • Pushing another person or an object
  • Spitting on another person or an object
  • Spreading rumors about someone
  • Teasing a person or a group of people
  • Yelling

Physical symptoms:

  • Accelerated breathing
  • Clinched fists
  • Flushed skin
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Teeth grinding
  • Tense muscles
  • Tension headache

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Feeling as if you “black out” when angry
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Poor decision-making
  • Problems focusing
  • Problems with concentration

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Abrupt mood changes
  • Angry mood
  • Feeling agitated
  • Feeling irritated
  • Low tolerance threshold


Effects of Aggression

When aggressive behavior remains unaddressed, it is possible for the following consequences to happen:

  • Arrest and jail time
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Development of mental health concerns
  • Injury as a result of aggressive behaviors
  • Job loss
  • Loss of child custody
  • Divorce and/or loss of other important relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Substance abuse, which could lead to addiction
  • Worsening of existing mental health concerns

Co-Occurring Disorders

Aggression and Co-Occurring Disorders

If you are treated for aggressive behavior, you may also need care for other mental health or substance use concerns at the same time. The following are the disorders that may be impacting your life if you struggle with aggression:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)
  • Dementia
  • Conduct disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
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