September 5


Anger vs. Aggression: What’s the Real Difference?

By Joshua Turner

September 5, 2023

Anger and aggression are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Anger is a natural emotion that we all experience from time to time, while aggression is a behavior that is often associated with anger.

Understanding the difference between these two terms is important, as it can help us to manage our emotions and avoid destructive behaviors.

Aggression is a behavior that is intended to cause harm or injury to another person or object. It can take many different forms, including physical violence, verbal abuse, and passive-aggressive behavior.

While anger can be a trigger for aggressive behavior, it is not always the cause. Other factors, such as frustration, fear, and insecurity, can also contribute to aggressive behavior.

Key Takeaways

  • Anger and aggression are not the same thing.
  • Aggression is a behavior that is intended to cause harm or injury to another person or object.
  • Understanding the difference between anger and aggression can help us to manage our emotions and avoid destructive behaviors.

Understanding Aggression

Aggression is a behavior that is intended to cause harm or injury to another person or an object. It can be physical or verbal and can be expressed in various ways. Aggression is often associated with hostile feelings and emotions, such as anger, frustration, and fear.

There are different types of aggression, such as reactive aggression, which is an impulsive response to a perceived threat or provocation, and instrumental aggression, which is a calculated behavior aimed at achieving a goal or objective.

Relational aggression is another type of aggression that involves damaging or manipulating social relationships, such as spreading rumors or excluding someone from a group.

Physical aggression is the most visible and obvious form of aggression, but verbal aggression can also be just as harmful. Verbal aggression includes insults, threats, and name-calling and can be just as damaging to a person’s well-being as physical aggression.

Bullying is a form of aggression that involves repeated acts of hostility and aggression towards a person who is perceived as weaker or vulnerable. It can take many forms, including physical, verbal, and relational aggression.

Passive aggression is another type of aggression that involves indirect and subtle behaviors aimed at expressing hostility or anger, such as ignoring someone or giving them silent treatment.

Causes of Aggression

Aggression can be caused by a variety of factors, including frustration, stress, and feelings of powerlessness or injustice. It can also be a response to a perceived threat or hurt or a desire to control a situation or individual.

In some cases, aggression may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as ADHD, depression, or anxiety. These conditions can affect impulse control and the ability to regulate emotions, leading to outbursts of rage or self-harm.

Therapy and medication can be effective in managing aggression related to these conditions, as well as addressing underlying emotional needs and reducing feelings of guilt or blame.

Research has shown that aggression is linked to changes in brain activity, particularly in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. These areas play a role in emotional regulation and impulse control and can be affected by factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.


It is important to note that not all aggressive behavior is abnormal or unacceptable. In some cases, aggression may be a normal response to a particular situation or need. However, it is important to learn healthy ways of expressing and managing these emotions rather than resorting to violence or other harmful behavior.

Certain conditions, such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder or Conduct Disorder, may require specialized treatment to address aggression and related symptoms. It is important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with aggressive behavior.

Types of Aggressive Behavior

Aggressive behavior can take many forms, from physical violence to verbal abuse. Some common types of aggressive behavior include:

  • Physical aggression: This type of aggression involves physical acts of violence, such as hitting, kicking, or punching. It is often the most visible form of aggression and can cause significant harm to the victim.
  • Verbal aggression: Verbal aggression involves using words to threaten or intimidate others. This can include shouting, cursing, or using derogatory language.
  • Reactive aggression: Reactive aggression is a response to a perceived threat or provocation. It is often impulsive and can be difficult to control.
  • Instrumental aggression: Instrumental aggression is a premeditated form of aggression used to achieve a specific goal, such as obtaining resources or gaining power.
  • Relational aggression: Relational aggression involves damaging someone’s social status or relationships. This can include gossiping, spreading rumors, or using social exclusion to hurt others.
  • Bullying: Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior that involves repeated acts of harm or intimidation toward a victim. It can take many forms, including physical, verbal, and relational aggression.
  • Passive aggression: Passive aggression involves expressing anger in an indirect or subtle way, such as through sarcasm or withholding communication.

Note that aggressive behavior can be exhibited by people of any gender and can occur in a variety of settings, such as at home, school, or work. Understanding the different types of aggression can help individuals recognize and address aggressive behavior in themselves or others.

Managing and Controlling Aggression

Managing and controlling aggression can be a challenging task, but it is essential to maintaining healthy relationships and avoiding harm to oneself and others. It is important to identify the triggers that lead to aggressive behaviors and work on managing them effectively.

One way to manage aggression is through anger management techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness exercises. These techniques help to calm the mind and body, reducing stress and promoting rational thinking.

Another important aspect of managing aggression is setting healthy boundaries in relationships. It is important to communicate assertively and avoid insults or threats, as these behaviors can escalate conflicts and lead to abuse. Seeking support from friends, family, or professionals can also provide valuable resources and guidance in managing aggressive behaviors.

In some cases, medication may be necessary to manage aggression, particularly when it is related to a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Substance use can also contribute to aggressive behaviors, so avoiding drugs and alcohol is important in managing and controlling aggression.



In conclusion, anger and aggression are two separate concepts that are often used interchangeably. While anger is an emotional response to a perceived threat or injustice, aggression is a behavioral response that involves physical or verbal actions aimed at harming others.

One needs to understand the differences between anger and aggression to effectively manage and control them. Anger can be a healthy emotion when expressed appropriately, but it can become problematic when it is suppressed or expressed in a harmful way. Aggression, on the other hand, is always harmful and should be avoided.

To manage anger effectively, individuals can practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, and use assertive communication to express their feelings in a non-threatening way. To prevent aggression, individuals can learn conflict resolution skills and practice empathy and understanding towards others.

Overall, understanding the differences between anger and aggression can help individuals improve their emotional intelligence and develop healthy coping strategies. By recognizing the signs of anger and aggression and taking steps to manage them, individuals can improve their relationships and overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about this topic.

What is the relationship between anger and aggression?

Anger and aggression are related, but they are not the same thing. Anger is an emotion that we feel when we are frustrated, annoyed, or threatened. Aggression is a behavior that we engage in when we want to harm someone or something. Anger can lead to aggression, but it doesn’t always.

Can you be aggressive without being angry?

Yes, you can be aggressive without being angry. Aggression can be a learned behavior that we use to get what we want or to protect ourselves. For example, a person might use aggression to intimidate others or to establish dominance.

What are the four types of anger?

The four types of anger are passive anger, assertive anger, manipulative anger, and explosive anger. Passive anger is when a person suppresses their anger and doesn’t express it. Assertive anger is when a person expresses their anger in a healthy way.

Manipulative anger is when a person uses their anger to control others. Explosive anger is when a person loses control and becomes violent.

What comes first, anger or aggression?

Anger usually comes before aggression. When we feel angry, we may have the urge to lash out and harm someone or something. However, we can learn to control our anger and avoid becoming aggressive.

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