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What Is the Connection between Anger and Aggression?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Anger and aggression that lead to violence represent an inability to control feelings of frustration. Psychologists believe anger is a normal response necessary for survival when faced with a threatening situation. Acting on anger with aggression might lead to problems with social interactions, work, or law enforcement. The link between anger and aggression hinges on learning to control negative emotions without resorting to verbal or physical violence.

Physical indications of anger include increased heart rate and breathing. The body also releases adrenaline to deal with a situation deemed threatening. In men, extra testosterone might be available to prepare the body for fight or flight. Tense muscles, faster speech, and a red face are other signs of anger.

Preschool children tend to express anger and aggression by striking out at playmates or throwing a tantrum when frustrated. Youngsters who are not taught how to express anger in a healthy way might grow up to become angry adults who use aggression when upset. If they learn how to verbalize frustration and problem-solving skills, children face a better chance of controlling anger and aggression.

Psychologists list certain factors that increase the risk of aggression in children. Those raised in a low-income family, and children born to young mothers, face greater risks of acting aggressively in adulthood. A younger sibling also influences how a child deals with frustration. These risks might be overcome by good parenting skills and a stable home life.

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Suppressing anger and aggression might lead to intense stress from anger turned inward. People who fail to express anger in a healthy way might internalize emotions, leading to low self-esteem, depression, substance abuse, and problems interacting with other people. Health problems might also develop, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and a compromised immune system.

Anger management techniques generally focus on three ways to control emotions. A person might learn to use assertiveness instead of aggression to express feelings and solve problems. Redirecting anger without internalizing negative emotions might also help a patient gain control, along with learning better ways to communicate. Psychologists also recommend relaxation techniques to address physiological effects of anger.

In some people, learning to recognize triggers helps control aggression. Hunger, fatigue, and chronic pain might cause an angry response that spirals out of control. Women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome linked to hormonal levels might also become prone to anger. Alcohol also sparks anger in some people.

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