Personal Skills

Aggression and Aggressive Behavior

What is Aggression?

Aggression is behavior that is intended to harm another person or group of people, either physically or emotionally. Aggression can take many forms, including physical violence, verbal abuse, and social exclusion.

It can be motivated by a variety of factors, such as anger, frustration, jealousy, or a desire for power or control. Aggression can have serious consequences for both the person exhibiting aggressive behavior and the person or group targeted by the aggression.

It is important to recognize and address aggressive behavior in a healthy and appropriate way, as it can lead to conflict and damage relationships.

Types of Aggressive Behavior

There are several different types of aggressive behavior that can be identified, including:

  1. Physical aggression: Behavior that involves the use of physical force or violence to harm another person. Examples of physical aggression include hitting, pushing, or throwing objects.
  2. Verbal aggression: Behavior that involves the use of words or language to hurt or intimidate another person. Examples of verbal aggression include yelling, cursing, or threatening.
  3. Passive-aggressive behavior: Behavior that is indirectly aggressive, often in the form of sulking or procrastination. Passive-aggressive behavior can be difficult to identify and can be harmful to relationships.
  4. Cyberbullying: The use of technology, such as social media or texting, to bully or harass another person. Cyberbullying can be a form of verbal or emotional aggression.
  5. Proactive aggression: That is initiated in order to achieve a specific goal, such as dominating a conversation or gaining power over another person.
  6. Reactive aggression: Aggression that is a response to a perceived threat or attack, often characterized by impulsivity and a lack of control.
  7. Relational aggression: Behavior that is designed to hurt another person’s relationships or social status, often through social exclusion or manipulation.

How to Recognize Aggression?

There are several signs that can help you recognize aggression in others:

  • Verbal cues: Aggressive individuals may use threatening language or tone, such as yelling, cursing, or making threats.
  • Nonverbal cues: Aggressive individuals may show aggressive body language, such as clenched fists, a tense posture, or aggressive facial expressions.
  • Aggressive actions: Aggressive individuals may engage in behavior that is intended to harm or intimidate others, such as hitting, pushing, or throwing objects.
  • Disrespectful behavior: Aggressive individuals may show a lack of respect for others, including their feelings, boundaries, or personal space.

It is important to remember that aggression can take many forms and may not always be easy to recognize. Paying attention to verbal and nonverbal cues, as well as the actions and behavior of others, can help you identify aggression and respond appropriately.

Physical and Behavioral Changes During Aggression

During episodes of aggression, a person may exhibit physical changes in their body as a result of the emotional and physiological arousal that occurs. These changes can include:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure: The body’s “fight or flight” response to aggression can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Sweating: Increased perspiration is a common physical response to aggression, as the body’s sweat glands are activated in response to the increased arousal.
  • Flushed or red skin: The blood vessels in the skin may dilate in response to aggression, leading to a flushed or red appearance.
  • Rapid breathing: It can cause a person to take rapid, shallow breaths as their body prepares for a physical response.

In addition to physical changes, a person may also exhibit behavioral changes during episodes of aggression. These can include:

  • Verbal outbursts or yelling: Aggression may be accompanied by verbal expressions of anger or frustration, such as yelling or using threatening language.
  • Aggressive actions: A person may engage in behavior that is intended to harm or intimidate others, such as hitting, pushing, or throwing objects.
  • Withdrawal or avoidance: Some individuals may try to avoid conflict or confrontation by withdrawing from the situation or ignoring the source of their aggression.
  • Difficulty controlling emotions: A person experiencing it may have difficulty regulating their emotions and may struggle to calm down or think clearly.

It is important to recognize and address aggressive behavior in a healthy and appropriate way, as it can lead to conflict and damage relationships.

When a person becomes angry, their body’s “fight or flight” response is activated, which releases hormones such as adrenaline into the bloodstream. Adrenaline is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal gland and plays a role in the body’s stress response.

It is released in response to situations that are perceived as threatening or stressful, and it helps to prepare the body for physical action by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and energy levels.

Why Do People Become Aggressive?

There are many different reasons why people may become aggressive. Some common factors that can contribute to aggression include:

  1. Emotional triggers: Emotions such as anger, frustration, and jealousy can lead to aggressive behavior.
  2. Stress: Chronic stress or overwhelming levels of stress can lead to aggressive behavior as a way to cope with the demands of the situation.
  3. Learned behavior: Some people may learn aggressive behavior through observation and imitation, especially if they have been exposed to aggression in their environment or upbringing.
  4. Substance use: The use of alcohol or drugs can increase the risk of aggressive behavior, as these substances can impair judgment and inhibit inhibitions.
  5. Mental health issues: Certain mental health conditions, such as personality disorders or mood disorders, can increase the risk of aggressive behavior.
  6. Personal history: A person’s personal history, including their experiences and relationships, can also contribute to aggressive behavior.

It is important to recognize and address aggressive behavior in a healthy and appropriate way.


It is important to remember that aggression is often a response to feelings of discomfort or vulnerability.

People may become aggressive when they are in unfamiliar or stressful situations, or when they are worried about what might happen.

In these situations, they may already be feeling upset, distressed, or frustrated, and they may be hesitant to approach large organizations or unfamiliar places for fear of encountering problems or being treated unfairly.

It is important to be understanding and empathetic towards people who may be feeling this way, and to try to provide them with the support and assistance they need in a respectful and compassionate manner.

This can help to prevent aggressive behavior and promote healthy communication and relationships.


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Marty Hoffman

Marty Hoffman, MBA, PhD Management Consultant for Fortune 500 and Corporate Strategist 📍 San Francisco, CA More »

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