Detecting, Preventing, & Avoiding Mental Aggression

Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC

Published 06/22/2022

We all experience aggression often. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what kind of household you grew up in, where you live, what type of job you have, or what sex you are; aggression is everywhere, and sometimes it’s inevitable.

Teenage boys starting to fight

Not only that, but most people are under the impression that there’s only one kind of aggression — physical aggression. Most people believe it’s not considered aggression unless someone is physically hurt or injured, but that’s not the case.

In fact, mental aggression is much more common than physical aggression and can be far more damaging in some scenarios. That’s why we must understand how to detect, prevent, and avoid all types of aggression — including mental aggression.

So, what is mental aggression?

Mental aggression, commonly referred to as psychological aggression, is a form of aggression characterized by behavioral, emotional, verbal, social, and cognitive harm to oneself or another individual. It includes any harm outside of physical harm.

While most people operate under the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” it’s important to understand that words can hurt, too. In fact, there are a wide variety of ways to hurt someone that doesn’t include physical violence, and they often lead to more long-term issues.

Mental aggression can be expressed in a wide range of ways, and each situation likely has a different background to it. Suppose you want to properly detect, prevent, and avoid mental aggression in your life. In that case, you have to prepare for certain situations and need a deep understanding of the different types of mental aggression.

Don’t worry; we’re going to break it all down for you below.


When detecting aggressive behavior in yourself or in someone you love, it’s important to note that everyone is different. Just because something is offensive to one person doesn’t mean it’s offensive to another person.

Since we have no idea how the other person will react, it’s best to avoid aggressive behavior altogether. Of course, we must be on the same page as far as what’s considered mental aggression and the different ways it can be expressed.

Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent examples of mental aggression:

  • Cyberbullying is an extremely common form of mental aggression that involves harming another individual over the internet.
  • Gossiping, ignoring someone, excluding others, name-calling, teasing someone, and yelling at others are all considered mental aggression.
  • Getting mad at someone while driving and using inappropriate hand gestures when you pass them is a form of mental aggression.
  • Making someone feel less valued because they didn’t know the answer to a question is an example of mental aggression.

Sometimes, mental aggression can become so severe that it transitions into physical aggression. This is extremely apparent with suicidal individuals who want to end their lives based on how others treat them.

Business partner in argument while they are in a meeting

In fact, mental aggression can have an enormous negative impact on the individual, so let’s take a look at some of the complications:

  • Depression, anxiety, stress, and a loss of fulfillment in life.
  • Mental aggression can cause individuals to suffer in school, at work, and in the home.
  • Since mental aggression wears out the individual mentally, they often lack energy and lack motivation through life.
  • Makes people feel less-valued, takes away their sense of purpose, and makes them feel less-deserving of the things they’ve worked so hard to obtain.
  • Those who experience mental aggression have a higher chance of falling into their own ‘funk’ and mimicking others’ same behaviors (learned behavior).
  • Difficulty forming relationships with others out of fear of being made fun of stressed out or depressed by someone else’s actions.

When you start to realize how damaging psychological aggression is to someone’s life, it starts to make more sense why we need to prevent and avoid this type of aggression in our lives — even as much as physical aggression.


Now that we’ve taken a quick look at some of the different examples of mental aggression, as well as some of the complications, it’s time to understand all the different ways we experience mental aggression.

These are characterized by subtypes, including accidental, hostile, expressive, and instrumental aggression. Each of the subtypes can be implemented physically or psychologically, but the intent, reasoning, or goal of aggression changes — which could change how the other person reacts to the aggressive behavior.

  1. Accidental Aggression

The first type of aggression is accidental aggression. This occurs when an individual harms someone else — physically, mentally, emotionally, socially — on accident. The individual wasn’t trying to harm the other person, but it happened, and it needs to be addressed.

Most accidental aggression cases occur out of carelessness, laziness, or the inability to pay attention to their surroundings. While most people immediately think of physical ways of performing accidental aggression, let’s take a look at some ways to do it mentally:

  • Telling someone a joke that you don’t think is offensive, but the other person finds offensive. You were trying to solicit a laugh, but you instead acted aggressively on accident.
  • Scolding one of your coworkers for making a mistake while clocked in, but scolding the wrong employee or being overly aggressive out of frustration (not that you’re angry).

As you can see, aggressive behavior doesn’t always have to be your intent. Sometimes you’re trying to teach someone a lesson, sometimes you’re trying to make someone laugh, and sometimes you’re just going about your day as usual.

Either way, you have to be careful about how you present yourself and how you word certain things. Otherwise, you might end up offending the wrong person.

  1. Hostile Aggression

Hostile aggression isn’t as subtle as accidental aggression. It’s the exact opposite of accidental aggression. With hostile aggression, the individual has one goal in mind, and it’s to physically, mentally, emotionally, or socially harm the other individual.

These people often don’t care about the consequences of their actions. They aren’t looking to gain anything out of harming the other individual — other than having the other person hurt or injured. It’s truly a ‘hostile’ way to act and certainly the type of situation you want to avoid.

Let’s take a look at some examples of hostile aggression that affects an individual mentally:

  • If you see someone that just dyed their hair pink or walk up to someone with face acne and start making fun of them to their face, this is considered hostile aggression.
  • Spreading rumors and gossiping about an individual to make them look bad in front of other people.
  • Telling someone they’d be better off if they weren’t alive, just because you think the other person is weird, awkward, or ‘not your type.’

Hostile aggression is one of the worst forms of aggression and must be detected and shut down immediately — including those that encourage this type of behavior. It’s no way to live your life, and it’s a way of life the victims don’t deserve.

What makes hostile aggression so dangerous is it’s done on purpose (opposed to being an accident). Where accidental aggression requires an apology and a vow to be more careful in the future (as well as the effort it takes to achieve it), hostile aggression requires different therapy to the right the individual’s behavior.

Islamic women gossiping and bullying thier friend
  1. Instrumental Aggression

Instrumental aggression is another dangerous form of aggression that’s quite similar to hostile aggression. With instrumental aggression, the harmful attack is premeditated and planned ahead of time, as opposed to hostile aggression, which generally happens in the heat of the moment.

These individuals are often thorough with their attacks; that way, they can ensure the victim is impacted differently. The main difference between instrumental and hostile aggression is the goal of aggression.

With instrumental aggression, the aggressor generally doesn’t want to harm anyone. Instead, they often have another goal in mind that leads to their behavior. It just so happens that the behavior harms other people, and the aggressor won’t care.

Here are some examples of instrumental aggression that affects someone mentally:

  • Robbing a bank is a form of instrumental aggression because the main goal behind the aggressor’s actions is to get as much money as possible. In doing that, he puts a lot of people under mental stress and anxiety, whether they inflict physical harm or not.
  • A bully at a playground that uses intimidation and threat tactics to get lunch money from other classmates. They don’t always use physical force, but that doesn’t mean it’s not aggression. At the same time, they’re more focused on the lunch money, not the mental impact on the victim.

For the most part, instrumental aggression has to do with someone having what someone else wants. Instead of getting that something for themselves, they create a plan to take it from someone else by using physical, mental, emotional, or social scare tactics.

  1. Expressive Aggression

The final type of aggression we’ll discuss is expressive aggression. It’s similar to hostile aggression because aggression’s main goal is to harm the other individual. The main difference here is that the aggressor enjoys doing it and feels pleasure from it.

As you can likely imagine, this leads to the aggressor repeating these behaviors because they make them feel good. The more they do it, the harder it is to stop.

Let’s take a look at some examples of expressive aggression that affects you mentally:

  • A child ruining another child’s puzzle or Lego creation because it’s funny when it breaks apart is an example of expressive aggression or when the other child starts to cry from it.
  • Cheating on your partner and flirting with other people because you know it makes them depressed, stressed, and anxious when around you.

Expressive aggression can become a habit extremely quickly, which is why it’s important to detect, prevent, and avoid it as much as possible. Anytime you notice someone else going through it, make sure you speak up and support the victim.

Angry little brothers fighting and pulling toy to sides


Mental aggression is no joke, and it’s something that needs to be dealt with immediately — not just on the aggressor’s side of the spectrum, but on the victim’s side as well. Of course, aggression is often hard to detect, prevent, and avoid; otherwise, it’s what we all would do.

That’s why we’ve created an online aggression test for individuals just like you. It’s designed to help detect aggressive behavior in most individuals; that way, you know when it’s time to seek professional help for your issues in life. Keep in mind; early detection is crucial to receiving the proper treatment for your symptoms.

To ensure maximum accuracy, we’ve created an online female aggression test and online male aggression test, both of which are free for everyone. We also provide a wide range of other mental health tests for those that need it.