Philadelphia’s Leading Aggression Hospital

If you or a loved one is struggling with aggression, finding the right treatment can be a challenge. We’re here to help you determine whether the care we offer is the right fit.

Learn About Aggression Treatment

Learn about aggression treatment at Belmont Behavioral Health System in Philadelphia, PA

Aggression occurs when a person engages in violent, destructive, or hostile behaviors that are intentional. Aggression can include either verbal or physical actions. In many cases, verbal aggression may be as destructive to the well-being of other people as physical aggression. If the behavior is done with the intent to cause discomfort, damage, or pain to another person, animal, or object, it is classified as aggression.

There are many causes of aggressive behavior. Aggression is not a mental illness, but it may be caused by a mental illness, which makes it even more pressing to seek supportive help for this type of concern. In some cases aggression occurs when a person feels threatened, or if a person has felt severely threatened or violated in the past, especially for long periods of time. In other cases, aggression may be connected to substance use or mental illness. Aggression may also be a symptom of mental health disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, personality disorders, or even psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Furthermore, aggressive behavior may be caused by substance abuse or an underlying physical health condition.

Aggression is usually easy to identify, and it often leads to difficulties within one’s family, at work, or even with the legal system (in extreme cases). At the very least, it often creates a pattern of unhappiness that is difficult to break. Those who consistently show aggression toward others often experience loneliness, guilt, or a decline in overall life satisfaction.

If you or a person you love has struggled with aggressive behavior, there is hope. Evidence-based treatment programs can help those grappling with aggression understand more about this concern, which can lead to improvements in behavior that can lead to a happier life.

Causes & Risk Factors

Learn what is known about the causes of aggression

Aggression may become worse under stress, or it may be a long-lasting issue. Aggression is often made worse when coping skills are not well-developed. Mental health professionals agree that there are many possible causes of aggression, and the factors that cause aggression may also make aggression worse. These risk-factors include, but are not limited to:

Genetic: Aggressive behavior may be tied to specific genotypes and genes. Therefore, it is possible to see aggressive behavior that is shared among family members, even if those family members do not live together.

Environmental: A number of environmental influences can impact aggressive behavior. Anxiety and stress can put a strain on coping skills, resulting in aggression. In some cases head injury or illness may lead to aggressive behavior. The Adverse Childhood Experience Survey has shown that individuals who experienced abuse or violence as children may be more likely to choose aggressive mates or engage in aggressive behavior than others without a similar history. Trauma can also result in aggressive behavior, especially if trauma related illnesses, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, are present. Poor coping skills and peer groups that lack coping skills may increase aggression as well.

Substances and medications: In some cases, the use of medications or substances may result in an increase in aggressive behavior. Alcohol and stimulant-based medications are well-known for triggering physical or verbal aggression. Prescription medications may also lead to unexpected aggression. One study by the Institute for Safe Medication looked at over 483 prescription drugs and found that some drugs may increase aggression.

Mental health disorders:  Aggression is a symptom of many mental health disorders. Mental health disorders have both environmental and genetic causes, and may lead to an increase in aggressive behavior. Some disorders commonly associated with increased aggression include:

  • Bipolar disorder, especially during manic episodes
  • Personality disorders such as narcissistic, paranoid, antisocial, or borderline personality disorders
  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • Substance use disorders
  • Neurocognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stressor-related disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of aggression

Every person exhibits aggression in different ways. Two types of aggression include instrumental aggression and affective aggression. Both types of aggression can cause distress to others.

Instrumental Aggression: Instrumental aggression includes pre-planning or premeditation before the aggressive action. Instrumental aggression is also known as predatory aggression or goal-oriented aggression. When a person engages in instrumental aggression, that person acts aggressively but usually also meets a personal goal as well. This type of aggression may take time to become readily apparent, and may include indirect methods of aggression such as creating rumors or emotionally bullying others. For instance, gossip can be an aggressive action that harms others when the goal of increasing self-popularity among peers is intended.

Instrumental aggression examples include:

  • Pre-planned damage to property of others
  • Bullying or teasing
  • Excluding others
  • Spreading rumors or gossiping
  • Online harassment
  • Passive aggressive comments in social settings

Affective Aggression: Affective aggression, also known as hostile aggression, is usually a direct result of immediate feelings of anger. It is usually emotional and impulsive in nature.

Some examples of affective aggression include:

  • Road rage, or sudden aggressive driving maneuvers
  • Shoving or pushing others
  • Punching or breaking walls or other objects
  • Name calling, verbal assault, or threats of violence
  • Hitting, punching, slapping, or shoving others
  • Grasping, scratching, or pinching another person
  • Making hostile gestures or faces, or spitting toward others
  • Using weapons to shoot, stab, or maim another person, animal, or thing
  • Rage-induced harm to objects or animals
  • Impulsive threats of violence

Instrumental aggression and affective aggression often occur at the same time. For instance, in cases of bullying, an aggressor may use gossip or pre-meditated pranks to act aggressively toward a victim (instrumental aggression), and then also suddenly hit or kick a victim in an impulsive act of rage (affective aggression).


Effects of aggression

Aggression, by definition, is designed to inflict damage or distress. Ultimately, aggression harms both the aggressive individual and his or her targets. When aggression is a symptom of a mental health disorder, it will not go away without some type of treatment. Some of the possible negative effects that untreated aggression can create include:

  • Expulsion from school or work
  • Lowered academic abilities
  • Family conflict
  • Family violence
  • Social isolation
  • Strained or dissolved interpersonal relationships
  • Ongoing unemployment
  • Substance use
  • Physical injury or harm
  • Legal difficulties or incarceration
  • Worsening of mental health disorder symptoms
  • Financial strain

Why Consider Belmont

Why consider treatment for aggression at Belmont Behavioral Health System in Philadelphia, PA

Aggression can make life much more difficult for the aggressive person, and may lead to unhealthy or even unsafe situations for the loved ones of that person. Within families, aggression is related to increased chances of mental health distress, substance abuse, or other health problems. Over time, ongoing aggression can take a toll that can be more challenging to overcome.

However, help is available for those struggling with aggressive behavior. Inpatient treatment at Belmont Behavioral Health System, an aggression treatment center in Philadelphia, employs a dedicated team of professionals who can help each patient uncover the causes behind aggressive behavior in order to truly get to the root of the problem and make recovery achievable.

Because there are usually underlying causes for aggressive behavior, inpatient treatment offers an opportunity for patients to look at his or her history of aggression in order to find new coping skills and process any underlying issues.

If aggression is caused by past trauma, or past experiences of stress or chaos, our treatment center’s dedicated staff can ensure a comfortable and friendly place to begin healing. Because every situation is unique, treatment plans are personalized for every individual who comes for care.

Every person has the ability to live a happier life. Inpatient treatment at our hospital offers a place for patients to overcome underlying health issues, substance use issues, or any other medical causes for aggression. Because support staff are on-hand at all times, each person can benefit from a higher level of care.

A better life is possible. Call us today to find out more.

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