It is not entirely uncommon for a person to become aggressive when triggered by a situation or circumstance that is frustrating or anger-provoking. However, there are some individuals who display verbal or physical aggression to such a degree that it can put a person in danger of harming him or herself or others. When verbal hostility or volatile acting out are part of an individual’s life, it is likely that a mental health condition is present. People, both of younger and older age, can be afflicted by a mental illness that causes aggression to occur. When this is the case, mental health treatment can be life-saving.
The presence of a mental health condition is tied to aggressive behavior such that certain mental health disorders include aggression as a symptom or cause poor impulse control, of which could make it more difficult for an individual to resist urges to be aggressive in certain situations. Allowing such behavior to remain constant in an individual’s life could render a number of harmful effects that could be permanent. However, a key thing to know is that there are beneficial treatment options available that can help a child, adolescent, or adult learn how to manage his or her aggressive feelings in a healthy and appropriate way.
Causes of Aggressive Behavior
Experts in the field of mental health agree that there are a number of contributing factors that could explain why some individuals are more aggressive than others. The following concepts are those that are widely accepted by mental health professionals and explain why and how a person comes to display aggressive behaviors:
Genetic: Through extensive research, it has been realized that there exists a single gene that is believed to be responsible for aggressive behavior. When this gene is passed on from one’s biological parents, an individual has an increased risk for displaying aggressive behaviors at some point in life.
Environmental: The environment in which a person is raised or spends most of his or her time can cause an individual to become aggressive. For example, home environments in which caregivers display aggressive behaviors can model such actions for children and adolescents as being appropriate. For adults, ongoing exposure to violence, chaos, or stress can trigger a person to be more aggressive. Lastly, people who have a history of being victimized are likely to display aggressive behaviors, as such experiences can create inner turmoil and lead to acting out in an overtly hostile manner.
Mental health disorders: There are a number of mental health conditions in which aggression is symptomatic. When these types of disorders are present in a person, it is necessary to seek mental health treatment to alleviate this and other existing symptoms so that the risk for negative effects can be reduced. The following disorders are those in which aggression can be a symptom:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Other forms of dementia
- Substance use disorders
- Conduct disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Oppositional defiant disorder
Medications: Some medications, such as those prescribed to alleviate pain symptoms, are known to include aggression as a potential side effect. Should an individual ingest a medication that elicits such behavior, it is important to consult with a medical professional as soon as such behavior becomes apparent.
Effects of Aggressive Behavior
Ongoing aggressive behavior can elicit a number of adverse effects for an individual. The following consequences are known to occur if aggression remains untreated:
- Inability to acquire or maintain employment
- Disciplinary action at school
- Academic failure
- Discord among peers and loved ones
- Development of a problem with drugs and/or alcohol
- Increased need for hospitalization
- Interaction with the legal system
- Development of a mental health condition or conditions
- Inability to adjust to change in a healthy manner
- Overall decline in one’s physical health
- Financial strife
Treatment for Aggressive Behavior
There are many mental health conditions that can cause a person to become aggressive. Overtly hostile behavior towards oneself, others, or property can pose a number of risks if treatment is not sought to alleviate the symptoms of an existing mental illness or illnesses. Young people, for example, may be unable to form healthy relationships with peers if their aggressive actions occur in settings in which said relationships could be formed. Within a school setting, a youth who is antagonistic or acts out in a violent manner may experience disciplinary action from school personnel if such behaviors or verbal disrespect compromise the safety or rules of his or her school. Increased interaction with law enforcement is also probable for young people should aggressive actions become criminal.
Adults who display aggression are also likely to experience adverse effects as a result of their actions. Similar to young people who are aggressive, relationships with others could become damaged, performance at work could decline, and there is an increased risk for being arrested if aggression crosses the line and causes a person to break the law. Fortunately, there are a number of advantageous treatment options in existence that can address the symptoms of an existing mental health condition and teach a person how to manage aggressive impulses.
Among the many care options available, inpatient treatment is one of the most effective at treating those who are aggressive. Within this type of treatment, a young person or adult can receive the immediate and stabilizing care that can identify the existence of a mental health disorder that could be causing aggression. Mental health professionals are readily available in inpatient treatment to provide support 24 hours a day for the duration of an individual’s care. Additionally, for those who may require medication to alleviate the symptoms of a mental illness, psychiatrists are on hand in inpatient treatment settings so that the need for medication can be determined, supervised, and altered in order to elicit the most favorable outcomes. Ultimately, individuals who seek and receive inpatient treatment can learn the skills and tools needed to manage aggressive behaviors so that a happier, healthier life can be realized.