the difference between anger and aggression

The Difference Between Anger and Aggression

These days, a lot of people use the terms anger and aggression interchangeably, assuming that both of them mean the same thing. However, in reality, there is a big difference between anger and aggression which everyone needs to understand so that they may effectively deal with them.

In a nutshell, anger is a feeling or emotion that almost everyone experiences once in a while. Your boss discriminating at work, a teacher grading you unfairly, or even a sibling finishing all your snacks, all these situations can trigger feelings of anger, frustration, or hurt.

In comparison, aggression is a behavior or action that follows those feelings of anger. It is the physical display of anger in the form of violent behavior, throwing objects, damaging property, verbal insults, or even self-harm.

Side by Side Comparison Between Anger and Aggression

AngerAggression
A feelingA behavior
A healthy emotion (when expressed in a positive manner)An unhealthy action
Usually beyond our controlUsually in our control
Important for survival and challenging ourselvesDetrimental for our relationships and overall health

Anger

Anger is an often intense emotional state which comes about as a response to some perceived threat, provocation, or feelings of hurt. It can be accompanied by feelings of irritation, frustration, stress, anxiety, jealousy, embarrassment, and many more negative emotions.

While all this sounds quite harmful, anger is not always a bad thing. Some people believe that anger actually triggers the fight or flight response which is crucial for our survival. It helps us protect ourselves in the face of danger by giving us a boost of adrenaline. Similarly, it can motivate us to take on new challenges and give us that push to overcome obstacles.

Causes

Anger is an entirely normal, healthy, and mature feeling. It can be caused by any number of reasons which could be rational or irrational. For instance, you might feel angry if someone cuts in line in front of you or if your partner cheats on you. In every circle and phase of life, you will face certain people or situations that will trigger your anger.

Sometimes, people also use anger to avoid dealing with some other emotion. The loss of a loved one can force some people to develop anger issues as they can’t or don’t want to deal with the grief and pain of the loss. Besides that, anger can also be the result of other medical conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or substance abuse.

Symptoms

When not expressed in a healthy manner, anger comes with its own dangers as well. If not controlled or channeled the right way, anger can turn detrimental, straining relationships and causing problems in a person’s professional as well as personal life. Since anger is an intense emotion, it is often accompanied by intense physical symptoms as well.

There are certain biological and physiological reactions in the body. You can experience a spike in heart rate along with raised blood pressure. These two alone are enough to make anyone feel agitated.

However, different people experience and express their anger differently. For some people, they might also experience an increase in muscle tension, body temperature, and hormones like adrenaline or noradrenaline. Others might find themselves crying in anger or getting the sweats.

Overcoming Anger

Often, people also get the urge to raise their voices and start displaying physical violence. This is where anger turns dangerous and needs to be controlled. The purpose is not to suppress the emotion but to let it out in a constructive way. One of the best ways to treat excessive anger issues is therapy.

Seeking therapy with a healthcare professional can help you identify any underlying reasons behind your anger outbursts and then receive treatment accordingly. You can also opt for anger management courses online that touch upon various anger triggers and help you cope accordingly.

Since people express anger in different ways, they also require different coping mechanisms. For some, it can be as simple as deep breathing to let the anger go. For others, they might need to indulge in certain physical activities like a workout or meditation to release that anger in their body.

Common Expressions of Anger

Despite the propensity for a physical display, it is actually quite hard to recognize anger in everyone. One person may start shouting loudly in the least bit of anger while another person may seem completely cool and collected while an angry storm brews inside them. In fact, anger may not even be expressed always.

People who have learned to control their anger may be able to work through their emotions before anyone even notices their anger or gives them a chance to express it. Nevertheless, there are a few common expressions of anger that you will notice in people around you, such as:

  • Frowning or scowling
  • Clenching fists
  • Clenching jaw
  • Shouting
  • Arguing
  • Cursing
  • Sarcasm

If these common expressions of anger escalate and turn into physical acts of anger or violence, then it is a form of aggression. This is the main point to consider when comparing anger with aggression.

Aggression

The comparison between aggression and anger is a simple one. When you are confused between anger versus aggression, all you need to remember is that anger is a feeling and aggression is an action.

Aggression usually stems from feelings of anger or antipathy and eventually leads to violent and hostile behavior, confrontation, or even readiness to attack. Aggression is not necessarily always directed at someone else. In fact, aggression can include harmful behaviors towards yourself as well. Moreover, aggression is not limited to physical violence either. It also includes psychological damage such as gossiping or spreading rumors about someone.

The main purpose of aggression is to hurt someone or cause pain either physically or mentally when they do not wish to be harmed. So, for instance, a soccer player accidentally injuring another player won’t be considered aggressive as it was not intended even though some damage was done.

Causes

We’ve already established that aggression is usually an outcome of anger. However, as we must have noticed ourselves, not everyone who gets angry turns it into aggressive behavior. This is because there are other reasons behind aggression as well, which include biological reasons, environmental factors, and psychological reasons too.

Aggressive behavior can be a result of certain genetic factors, for instance, if a person has a family history of anger management issues. Hormones like testosterone, cortisol, serotonin, or dopamine can also lead to aggression if they are imbalanced.

If you compare anger vs aggression, another major difference is that while anger is innate, aggression is more of learned behavior. Therefore, the environment you grew up in can also be one of the causes of aggressive behavior. Besides that, various psychological conditions such as ADHD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and more, can cause aggression in individuals.

Symptoms

Different types of aggression can appear differently. There is physical aggression which appears as physical acts of violence done against someone. For example, a person hitting someone or breaking objects around them in anger will be identified as physical aggression.

Similarly, there is verbal aggression which includes mocking someone, swearing at them, or simply yelling at them. Relational aggression is when a person is trying to harm someone’s relationship by spreading false rumors about the couple. Moreover, there is passive aggression as well which is when a person is trying to hurt someone in a more subtle manner, such as by giving them the silent treatment.

Overcoming Aggression

Unlike anger, aggression is not something you can easily control on your own. That is why you need to reach out to a mental health professional who can help you strengthen your emotional regulation skills. You can also opt for an anger management course to help you with coping mechanisms for when you start feeling very angry.

Common Expressions of Aggression

Some of the most common expressions of anger include:

  • Hitting, kicking, or beating someone
  • Stabbing or shooting someone
  • Hitting or damaging objects
  • Shouting or cursing at someone or something
  • Gossiping or spreading lies about someone
  • Lying or stealing
  • Standing by and allowing someone to be harmed

Conclusion

Uncontrolled anger is already quite unhealthy. If left alone for too long, it can turn into physical acts of aggression, which is even more dangerous. That is why it is crucial to understand the difference between anger and aggression so that you can identify when you are experiencing anger vs aggression and take steps accordingly.

If you or someone around you is displaying excessive aggressive behavior, you can help them by recommending an online anger management course or by seeking out a therapist. In either case, the problem cannot be left alone as it will continue to harm the person’s mental and physical health.

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