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What Causes Aggression?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Aggression is when an individual becomes actively engaged in the pursuit of a specific goal or action. Some forms of aggressive behavior are healthy, such as the eager pursuit of an education or proactively initiating a discussion with people at a social event. Behavior of this type can move on to be a negative approach that limits social and work opportunities, however, especially when accompanied by anger.

Sudden changes in behavior are sometimes attributable to medication. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause a normally balanced personality to suddenly become both aggressive and somewhat combative. This is especially true with medications that are used to treat depression, schizophrenia, or other types of psychological issues. Some anti-seizure medications may also trigger a sudden increase in aggression. Often, adjusting the dosage or switching to a different medication will correct the problem and allow the individual to return to a more even frame of mind.

Aggressive behavior causes can also stem from the presence of some type of disease or brain disorder. People with autism or some form of mental retardation may exhibit this behavior in spurts, while appearing docile in between explosions of anger. In a similar way, people suffering with epilepsy are also more likely to become aggressive. When the individual suffers with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), the behavior may develop out of sheer frustration, especially if the ADD has not been diagnosed and the individual has no idea why these sudden moods of aggressive conduct occur.

Aggression can also occur when an individual is recovering from some type of addiction. For example, people who stop using tobacco products often feel agitated and may exhibit short tempers, impatience, and other manifestations of aggressive behavior as the body goes through withdrawal. When recovery from addiction is the root cause for these tendencies, using some type of medication to calm the body while it adjusts to the new set of circumstances will often soothe the tendency to engage in the negative behavior and allow the individual to begin enjoying life once more.

Injuries to the brain can also lead to the development of aggression. Severe trauma to the head that causes the brain to bounce within the skull may lead to bruising that, in turn, affects the brain’s production of different types of neurotransmitters. The end result is that the individual is overcome with intense feelings of anger and is likely to lash out at anyone within a relatively close vicinity. Often, the behavior will fade as the brain begins to heal, especially if medication is taken to help compensate for the imbalance of neurotransmitters.

Emotional traumas can also lead to fits of anger. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness can often create an emotional imbalance that is partly manifested by bouts of aggressive behavior. Therapy, along with medication, can often help move the healing process along, and help the individual recover from the trauma. As the healing progresses, the episodes will likely occur less frequently, while also becoming shorter and less intense.

Individuals who feel they are experiencing what seems to be an abnormal amount of aggression should seek medical assistance. The unusual behavior may be a sign of an emerging health issue, or it could be due to factors that can be easily identified and corrected. Seeking help sooner rather than later helps to minimize the damage that aggressive behavior can do, especially in terms of personal relationships and job opportunities.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By reader888 — On Feb 03, 2011

I like how the article touches on the fact that aggression isn't always a bad thing. Most of the time, aggression and anger go hand in hand, but that's not always the case.

I think that a lot of the world's most successful people chased that success with an aggressive attitude. They didn't let anything stop them from achieving their goals.

This kind of aggression can be a positive thing, although even as a good thing, it can be taken too far, and turn into a bad thing. For example, the person who walks all over people and treats them badly, while they are trying to reach their goals.

It's good to aggressively chase your dreams, as long as you keep it in balance.

By jlmk — On Feb 02, 2011

Thank you so much for this article! My dad has epilepsy, and he can be very aggressive, especially the day or two before he has a seizure. I never understood this behavior, although I knew that the two must somehow be connected.

Although this doesn't help the aggression go away, it helps to understand why it is occurring in the first place. Now, maybe he can go to the doctor and find out if there is a way to lessen these aggressive feelings.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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