Aggression, Violence, and the Brain

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Aggression and violence are states which are inherent to the majority of people. These phenomena are the most destructive factors in human relationships. Aggression is generally defined as behavior with an intention of hurting others. Violence is considered to be an act targeted at causing serious physical damage such as injury or death to another individual. These negative emotions are one of the characteristics that humans have in common with animals. However, the reason for this behavior in the animal world is justified by their fight for food or dominance, while people choose to behave aggressively for multiple reasons. All over the world, psychologists debate on these issues, trying to prove whether the origin of aggression is natural and innate, or it is an acquired behavior. It is generally thought that there is a certain part of the human brain which is responsible for violent emotions and, thus, it can be influenced by different processes occurring in the person’s head.

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Studies have shown that subcortical brain regions, especially the limbic system and the amygdala, are associated with emotions. The amygdala is connected with the cortical areas, and it is “responsible for information processing that subserves emotion, learning, motor control, cognition, decision-making and social interaction (Gongora et al., 2019, p. 2379). This part of the brain is situated between the emotional center and the cerebral cortex, and in case of its damage, there may be a loss of negative feelings suppression, appearing as a response to provocative stimuli. There are two possible sequences in the process of irritant detection which define the person’s reaction. The first one “follows the cortex sensory pathways and then is sent to the amygdala, <…> and subsequently investigates the “importance” (Gongora et al., 2019, p. 2390). The other one goes directly to the amygdala and “generates emotional and behavioral responses without immediate awareness” (Gongora et al., 2019, p. 2390). The amygdala mediates and controls a wide range of emotions, such as love, affection, fear, anger, and aggression. This regulation is necessary for self-preservation by identifying the disturbance and creating the feeling of anxiety, alertness, and others.

Hormones, testosterone and serotonin, are another factor influencing aggression and violence. There is an established link between impulsive anger and serotonin in the prefrontal cortex. A serotonergic system is generally associated with numerous psychiatric disorders and it predominates on two important endophenotypes: impulsivity and aggression (Çetin et al., 2016). It has been found that low levels of serotonin predict future aggression. The male sex hormone testosterone is also important in this regard, and it is usually associated with increased aggression in animals, as well as in humans. However, the relationships between this hormone and anger are only correlational, as it does not provoke violence, but increases under the influence of negative emotions.

Apart from biological factors, there are external influences which can become a reason for violent behavior. Alcohol or drug abuse is one of the most serious issues that impact is proven by experts. Substances increase chances that people will respond aggressively to provocations, even those individuals who are usually non-violent can show signs of anger when being intoxicated. There are two reasons which explain why this can happen. First, alcohol and drugs destroy executive functions, the cognitive abilities helping people plan, organize, and control emotions and behavior. Second, when being intoxicated, people become more self-focused and less aware of the surroundings, as a result, they tend not to notice the social constraints which typically prevent them from anger manifestation.

Aggression is an important issue when it concerns children, as violent behavior for them can be a method of shouting for help and attracting parental attention. Such a child gives signals demonstrating the lack of love and care, and the feeling of neglect. In addition, it is estimated that children who spend much time in front of their gadgets tend to show more signs of violent behavior than those who prefer other activities. Certain signs point that a child has problems because of their absorption with screens; they are irritability, mood swings, low tolerance, sleep deprivation, disorganized behavior, poor short-term memory, and problems with learning. In case the reason for an inappropriate behavior is in gadgets, their removal for a couple of weeks solves the problem. In addition, it needs to be considered that certain mental problems such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also impact the child’s behavior and may cause episodes of aggression. In this case, there should be a specific medical treatment which would help with managing brain processes and, thus, would discard such symptoms as violent behavior.

Aggression and violence should always be under control as they are the most destructive emotions causing much damage and, in many cases, leading to criminal deeds. For adults, the best help is psychological as people need support and encouragement to be content with their lives to be able to control their behavior and not allow negative emotions outbursts. It is always useful to be aware of the triggers which make an individual show signs of aggression, trying to eliminate them, and develop strategies which could help such a person. For children, the best way to fight aggression is to serve as a good example, be consistent with demands and praise good behavior. In addition, a limitation for screen time may be required in most of the cases. Moreover, there are different types of art therapy which can be helpful with violent behavior, such as drawing, sand, dancing, and others. In serious cases of mental disorders, medical treatment can be recommended by doctors. Such antipsychotics drugs as risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, ziprasidone and aripiprazole are usually prescribed in order to discard symptoms of mental problems.

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It is important to remember that aggression and violence are not normal for the society. Such negative emotions have many consequences for health, as anger can eventually damage many systems of the body. A person can experience headaches, digestion problems, insomnia, skin problems and depression, which sometimes can lead to a suicide. From a medical point of view, aggression also involves such huge risks as cardiovascular disease and premature mortality. From a psychological perspective, there are many consequences, as well. Violent behavior results in loss of trust in other people, difficulties in concentrating and performing at school or work.

In conclusion, aggression and violence are emotions that connect humans with animals, representing a serious problem as furious behavior is not appropriate for the life in a society as it causes many damages. Anger is connected with certain parts of the brain which control negative feelings and typically stop people from demonstrating signs of aggression. However, there are health conditions and external factors which can impact these brain areas and lead to the loss of emotional control. In order to cope with this problem, different techniques and an opportunity for medical treatment exist. A solution for such issues can be found in all the cases, but it is important to remember that a violent person needs specific help.

References

Çetin, F.H., Torun Y.T. & Güney E. (2016). The role of serotonin in aggression and impulsiveness. IntechOpen, Web.

Gongora, M., Teixeira, Martins, L., Marinho V., Velasques B., Moraes L., Nicoliche E., Bastos V. H., Nunes M. K., Cartier C., Nascimento V., Vicente R., Wanik Di Giorgio Silva L., de Carvalho, M., Di Giacomo J., Junqueira J., Santos F., Cagy M., …Ribeiro P. (2019). Neurobiological evidences, functional and emotional aspects associated with the amygdala: From “what is it? “ to “what’s to be done?“. Neuropsychiatry Journal, 9(3), 2379-2396. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, January 29). Aggression, Violence, and the Brain. Retrieved from https://psychologywriting.com/aggression-violence-and-the-brain/

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PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Aggression, Violence, and the Brain'. 29 January.

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PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Aggression, Violence, and the Brain." January 29, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/aggression-violence-and-the-brain/.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Aggression, Violence, and the Brain." January 29, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/aggression-violence-and-the-brain/.


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PsychologyWriting. "Aggression, Violence, and the Brain." January 29, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/aggression-violence-and-the-brain/.