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What is Aggression?

Violence, verbal and/or physical hostility, and forcefulness in one’s own needs or wants are the most common characteristics of aggression. Aggression may also be defined as confrontation or actively seeking conflict.

While aggression may often have a negative connotation, it’s also a natural social instinct for humans. Displays of aggression have changed throughout history, but it’s a key component in the development of social norms. Aggression may be effective in addressing socially unacceptable behavior. But, when aggression escalates, it may result in violence and physical or psychological harm. At this point, aggression may be recognized at a harmful behavior.

Aggression appears differently in men than it does in women. In men, aggression tends to be more direct and is more likely to escalate into physical violence. Generally speaking, male aggression may result in more physical and psychological harm than female aggression does.

Signs of Aggression

There are many different forms of aggression and the signs of aggression vary from person to person. However, there are two main types of aggression: physical and verbal.

Signs of physical aggression include:

  • Punching, hitting, or slapping
  • Pinching
  • Pushing
  • Breaking objects or property (i.e. punching a hole in a wall)
  • Pulling hair
  • Spitting on people or property

Signs of verbal aggression:

  • Yelling
  • Spreading rumors
  • Calling someone by an offensive name
  • Ignoring an individual or leaving them out in social situations

Aggression can also be recognized as physical and psychological symptoms in the individual. Examples of these physical symptoms include:

  • Quickened heart rate
  • Heightened body temperature
  • Flushed complexion
  • Tensing the jaw, hands, and muscles throughout the body
  • Headache

Examples of psychological symptoms include:

  • Inhibited ability to focus or concentrate
  • Inhibited judgement
  • General feelings of anger, agitation, and/or irritation
  • Mood swings

How is Aggression Treated?

To treat aggression, you and your doctor must first pinpoint its cause. The cause of aggression may vary depending on the individual. In some cases, aggression is a symptom of a different condition such as bipolar disorder or adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD). In these circumstances, more extensive treatment involving medication and therapy may be required to ease aggressive behaviors.

Therapy is a common and often effective treatment for aggression. Therapy can give the affected individual an outlet to reflect on their triggers for aggression and foster a greater understanding of the feelings that lead to aggression. A therapist can help introduce strategies to avoid or cope with these triggers.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapy method frequently used in the treatment of aggression. It focuses on identifying destructive aggressive behaviors and replacing them with healthy behaviors. Over time, the healthy behaviors may become habits and aggressive behaviors may lessen in frequency or stop completely.

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