Aggression and stress are two common and significant psychological phenomena that can significantly impact adults’ well-being. Evidence suggests that there may be a link between aggression and stress in adults, with high levels of stress potentially leading to an increase in aggressive behaviours.

This relationship may be complex and multifaceted, and further research is needed to understand the link between aggression and stress in adults fully. However, exploring this relationship can be important for developing strategies to manage stress and reduce aggression in individuals and society.

What is Aggression

We use the word “aggression” frequently to describe other people’s actions and occasionally even our own. When people yell at or beat each other, cut off other automobiles in traffic, or even pound their fists on the table out of exasperation, we label them aggressive. However, not everyone will perceive some detrimental behaviours as aggressiveness, such as injuries sustained by athletes during a hard game or the killing of enemy soldiers in a conflict. Social psychologists, judges, and legislators have spent a lot of effort trying to define what should and should not be called aggression since it is so difficult to define.

The term “aggression” in psychology refers to various actions that might cause bodily and psychological harm to you, other people, or inanimate objects in the environment. A person’s bodily or emotional harm to another is at the heart of aggressiveness. There are different types of aggressiveness which include:

  • Impulsive aggression: is an immediate and emotional response to a perceived threat or challenge. It is often driven by negative emotions such as anger and frustration and is not typically planned or premeditated. Impulsive aggressiveness may more likely occur in individuals with high impulsivity, irritability, or frustration tolerance. It may be more common in response to situations perceived as unfair or unjust.
  • Instrumental aggression: is characterized by a more calculated and goal-oriented approach to aggressiveness. It is often used to achieve a particular goal or objective rather than as an emotional response to a perceived threat or challenge. Instrumental aggressiveness may be more likely to occur in individuals who are more calculated and strategic in their behaviour. It may be more common in situations where aggressive behaviour is seen as a means to an end.

Impulsive and instrumental aggression are two types of aggressiveness that the motivations behind aggressive behaviour can distinguish.

What Causes Aggressive Behaviour?

The following are just a few examples of the factors that can lead to aggressive behaviour:

  • Stress, worry, fear, burnout
  • Unfulfilled emotional or physical needs (such as hunger or solitude) (recognition, love)
  • Traumatizing events
  • Pain
  • Impaired mental capacity (e.g., a result of intellectual disabilities, mental illness, or dementia)
  • Communication difficulties
  • Frustration
  • Lacking or losing personal authority or decision
  • Not feeling valued; lacking respect
  • Coping methods (e.g., displaced anger, projection, learned helplessness)
  • Others’ attitudes and actions (family members, peers, staff, etc.)
  • A physical setting (space, cleanliness, noise, temperature, etc.)

How are Stress and Aggression linked?

Evidence suggests that there may be a link between stress and aggressiveness in adults. Stress is a normal psychological and physiological response to perceived challenges or threats. It can be caused by various factors such as work, relationships, financial problems, and health issues. High-stress levels can lead to various negative outcomes, including physical and emotional symptoms such as burnout, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Exploring the link between aggression and stress in adults

Research suggests that stress can also increase the likelihood of aggressive behaviour. This relationship may be complex and multifaceted and depend on individual and contextual factors. For example, individuals with a tendency towards impulsive behaviour or a history of trauma or abuse may be more prone to aggressive behaviour when under stress. In addition, environmental factors such as social support and access to healthy coping strategies can influence the link between stress and aggression.

It is important to note that not all individuals who experience high-stress levels will display aggressive behaviour, and other factors may be at play in the relationship between stress and aggressiveness. Further research is needed to fully understand this relationship and develop strategies to manage stress and reduce aggressiveness in individuals and society.

What Are the Warning Signs of Aggression?

Aggressive behaviour must require action since it is meant to hurt someone who doesn’t want to be hurt; just having an aggressive thought or mood is insufficient, and accidentally hurting someone is not considered aggressive behaviour. Aggressive actions include:

  • Physical, such as punching, kicking, beating, or stabbing another individual. Physical hostility might also take the shape of property damage.
  • Verbal, which includes yelling, calling names, and mocking.
  • Relational, which aims to ruin someone else’s connections. This can involve spreading untruths and fabricating information about other people.
  • Passive-aggressive behaviours include ignoring someone at a social gathering or giving unintentional compliments. Instead of physically harming someone, passive-aggressive behaviour frequently intends to allow harm to occur.

How can Aggression Be Controlled?

One way to manage feelings of aggressiveness is to develop an anger management plan that can help coping with strong emotions more constructively. The plan should include strategies to reduce stress levels, such as being aware of anger warning signs (e.g., clenched jaw, fast pulse, sweating), practising relaxation techniques (e.g., deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation), using senses to focus on the present moment, taking a break from the situation, exercising, seeking social support, distracting oneself with another activity, reframing negative thoughts, and exploring and accepting the emotions underlying the aggressiveness. By having a plan in place, one can be better prepared to manage anger and reduce the risk of aggressive behaviour.

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Best Ways to Deal with Aggressive Behaviour

If aggressiveness is being experienced by someone from another person, it’s essential to prioritize mental and physical well-being. To instil self-protection, it can be helpful to try to stay calm and avoid escalating the conflict. If it feels safe to do so, walking away from the situation is a solution. This can help to de-escalate the situation and reduce the risk of further aggressiveness.

If faced with aggressiveness from an intimate partner, it is especially important to be aware of warning signs that the relationship may be becoming dangerous. These warning signs can include threatening behaviour, use of weapons or other objects as a means of intimidation, a history of violent or aggressive behaviour, and difficulty managing emotions or controlling impulses. If concerned about safety, it’s important to reach out for help and support.

Where Can I Get Help to Recover from Aggression

If aggressiveness has been experienced, it is important to know that there are resources available to help recovery. Here are some options to consider:

  • Talk to a mental health professional: A coach, therapist, counsellor, or other mental health professional can help explore and process feelings, develop coping skills, and work through any underlying issues contributing to aggressiveness.
  • Seek support from friends and family: It can be helpful to have a supportive network of people who can listen, offer emotional support, and provide help through this difficult time.
  • Participate in group therapy or support groups: Group therapy or support groups can provide a safe and supportive space to share experiences and connect with others who are going through similar challenges.
  • Seek help from a domestic violence hotline or shelter: If aggressiveness is being experienced from an intimate partner or family member, it is important to know that resources are available to help one stay safe and get support. Domestic violence hotlines and shelters can provide information, support, and resources to help to escape an abusive situation.
  • Seek help from a crisis hotline: If there is a crisis occurring or there is a need for immediate support, a crisis hotline can offer help. Crisis hotlines [1] are available 24/7 and can provide confidential and anonymous support.

It is important to remember that recovery from aggressiveness is a process, and it may take time to heal and learn new coping methods. It is also important to seek help as soon as possible. Many resources are available which offer help and the challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone.

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Yes, aggression can impact anyone. Anyone can exhibit aggressive behaviour, and various factors such as genetics, environment, personality, and past experiences can cause it. Some people may be more prone to aggressiveness due to their temperament or upbringing, while others may only show it in certain situations or circumstances.

People with aggressive tendencies may have difficulty managing their anger, feel hostile towards others, and act impulsively. It is important to recognize the signs of aggressiveness and find healthy ways to cope with and manage aggressive feelings, as aggressive behaviour can be harmful to oneself and others and lead to conflicts and difficulties in relationships and social interactions.

Aggressive behaviour can hurt others in many ways. It can lead to physical harm, emotional distress, and damaged relationships. For example, aggressive behaviour that involves physical force, such as hitting or pushing, can cause physical injury or damage to property. Seeing or experiencing aggressiveness can be distressing and can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, or insecurity. In addition, aggressiveness can damage relationships with friends, family, and colleagues, and can lead to conflicts and strained communication.

Moreover, aggressive behaviour can make it difficult for individuals to interact with others and lead to social isolation. It is important to recognize the negative impact of aggressive behaviour on others and find healthy ways to cope with and manage aggressive feelings. Aggressive behaviour can harm oneself and others and lead to conflicts in many scenarios.

Dealing with aggressive people can be challenging, but some strategies can help. One approach is to remain calm and not let aggressive behaviour escalate the situation. It can be helpful to set boundaries and communicate clearly and assertively about unacceptable behaviour. Seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist can also help when dealing with aggressive people. If the aggressive behaviour is severe or threatening, it may be necessary to seek help from a professional or immediately be removed from the situation for safety’s sake. It is important to find healthy ways to cope with and manage aggressive behaviour and prioritize well-being at all times.


  1. – Crisis hotline – 10/01/2023
    Link to page on

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