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Coping Skills for Aggression

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

This lesson will review some coping skills for managing aggressive behavior. Some techniques for others dealing with aggressive individuals will also be discussed.

Aggression at Home

Julie has been married to David for almost five years. She constantly feels like she's walking on eggshells because David's moods are often unpredictable, and he is easily angered over minor situations. On a recent occasion, David was unable to find the remote control and forcefully shoved a bar stool into a wall, leaving the wall in need of repair. Julie is becoming afraid of David's aggressive behavior, and even though he has not physically harmed her, she wants him to be able to adopt some coping skills before things escalate even further.

What is Aggressive Behavior?

Aggressive behavior is best defined as behavior that has the potential to cause physical or mental harm to other people. It is characterized as an overreaction to situations where others would be able to use coping mechanisms to manage the situation without causing harm. Aggressive behavior can range from a derogatory comment, such as calling someone a worthless human being, to actually harming someone physically.

Aggressive behavior tends to escalate over time. An individual who engages in aggressive behavior often experiences the following:

  • feeling restless and irritable
  • acting impulsively without thinking
  • sensing the urge to seek revenge to right a wrong
  • blacking out during aggressive episodes

Coping with Aggression

Because aggressive behavior can lead to serious and unintended consequences, it is important that individuals who have a tendency to engage in aggressive behavior develop and adopt coping skills for aggression to mitigate their reactions. It is of equal importance that individuals who have aggressive people in their lives learn some strategies on how to react when situations escalate.

Coping Skills for Aggressive People

In order to identify appropriate coping skills for aggression, it is important to understand that there are many possible underlying causes that contribute to aggressive behavior. Anyone who finds themselves frequently predisposed to aggressive behavior should consult a medical professional first to rule out any underlying physical or mental health conditions. The following are some examples of physical or mental health conditions that can be causes of aggression:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Brain injuries
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Stroke

If a medical or mental health condition is determined to contribute to aggressive behavior, appropriate interventions might include combining a therapy program with a medication regimen.

Aggressive behavior doesn't always stem from underlying health conditions and can be the result of stress, one's upbringing, or family and work difficulties. The following strategies can serve as important coping skills for individuals trying to manage their aggression:

  • Practicing relaxation techniques - learning to relax can really help someone manage their anger. Techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, positive self-talk, visualization, and yoga can alleviate that out-of-control feeling.
  • Changing your thoughts - changing your way of thinking can help defuse overreactions. Avoiding all-or-nothing thinking, keeping your focus on goals, being logical, and avoiding demands can all mitigate anger.
  • Focus on problem management - don't focus on solving the problem. Instead, focus on managing it.
  • Communicating - allowing yourself to listen to what other people are saying rather than reacting immediately can help you cope.
  • Laughing - when things get tough, sometimes the best medicine is laughter. Being able to laugh at yourself and find the humor in bad situations can help put things into perspective.
  • Taking a time out - pay attention to your feelings and step away when you feel anger and aggression within yourself escalate. Take a walk and come back to the situation later.
  • Exercising - exercising on a regular basis has been shown to alleviate aggressive behavior by providing an alternate outlet in which to deal with negative thoughts and feelings.

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