Violence is never acceptable. If you think you might have a problem with aggressive or violent behaviour, taking responsibility for your actions is the first step to finding more appropriate ways of dealing with difficult emotions.
If you think you have a problem with violence
If you are concerned about your immediate safety or the safety of another person, call 000.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, call the Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 RESPECT or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.
Violence and aggression are not just about physically lashing out. Violence can include threats and intimidating acts.
It can also mean making people do things they don’t want to do, or stopping them from doing things that are important to them.
Violence and aggression can permanently damage relationships with family and friends. It can hurt people physically and psychologically, and destroy property or possessions. Violence may also result in life-changing legal problems, including imprisonment.
If you hit something or someone, if you break things deliberately, or if you become verbally aggressive and threatening, you have a problem with violence.
- Are you worried about the impact of your behaviour on your mates, family, partner or children?
- Do you feel guilty and feel like you need to make amends for your behaviour?
- Is your partner, a family member, friend or colleague afraid of you?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you and those close to you might benefit from you getting professional help.
You can change aggressive and violent behaviours with the right support.
If anger is making you violent
Violence can be part of an anger cycle.
Anger can build up gradually, without us being aware of our increasing level of emotion. This is the escalation phase. You can learn to deal with your anger during this part of the cycle even if your anger is very high.
If you don't learn how to identify the early warning signs to deal with your anger, it may progress into violence and aggression. That might mean breaking or hitting things, or punching someone during the explosion phase. This is when you can do serious damage to people, property and your life.
In the next stage of the cycle – the post-explosion phase – you may feel ashamed and guilty. You may suffer the consequences of your violent behaviour such as loss of your job, or legal and financial problems. You may lose friends and loved ones.
What you can do about it
Putting an end to violent behaviour involves taking responsibility for your anger so you don’t get to the explosion phase of the anger cycle.
You can start by identifying the early warning signs of rising anger and dealing with it before your reach your breaking point:
Be aware of the triggers: what sets you off?
Watch for signs that your anger is building up: what are your particular signals? Can you identify what happens in your body? What you are thinking? As your anger escalates, how does your behaviour change?
Monitor your anger level. Try rating it on a scale of 0 – 10, where 0 is perfectly calm and 10 is your worst anger level. Keep track of your feelings as your anger builds up.
Try to express what is upsetting you calmly and BEFORE your anger becomes uncontrollable. If you can’t do that, or it doesn’t seem to work, take a time out. Leave the situation for a few minutes: walk away, go to the toilet, count slowly from 100 to zero or go outside. You should try to create distance between you and whatever is making you angry. There's nothing wrong with walking away from a tense situation.
Learn to stop your anger from escalating by finding more helpful ways of thinking, or learning strategies to defuse anger.
Think differently to prevent violent and aggressive behaviour
The way we think influences the way we feel.
Thinking in an unhelpful way can make you feel angrier and increases the chances you’ll lash out at others.
Use the Challenge Your Thoughts tool to help you identify unhelpful thoughts in situations that upset or bother you. When you identify them, you can change them.
Use the Defusing Anger tool to change your physical reactions, behaviours and thoughts when you start to get angry.
Use the Problem Solving tool to work through problems step-by-step to help you find the best solution.
When you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to learn and practice helpful thinking skills in a situation that irritates you but isn’t too overwhelming. Once you’ve learned the skills you can use them in more anger-provoking situations. With practice, you’ll be able to apply these skills quickly and effectively.
These tools are also available on the High Res app to use on the go.
Manage violent behaviour
You might find that you’re more prone to violent and aggressive behaviour in certain situations. It pays to develop skills and strategies to manage situations that are risky for you and identify the situations that set you off.
You should also think ahead to limit triggers and tools which might make violent episodes catastrophic:
- Limit your access to weapons.
- Limit the time you spend with other people who are likely to be violent or encourage violence.
- Think about the places you go and the situations you put yourself in. Perhaps you need to limit your time around certain people, venues, places or situations until you are able to control your anger and aggressive behaviour.
A good first step is to manage risky moods by exercising regularly, eating well and getting enough sleep. If you can reduce your stress levels you will be able to think more clearly.
Improve your sleep to help manage violent and aggressive behaviour
If you are feeling tired you’ll tend to feel more irritable, angry and prone to violence.
Use the Healthy Sleeping tool and answer some questions about your typical sleeping behaviours, and get tailored advice and tips to improve your sleep.
Get active to help manage violent and aggressive behaviour
Physical activity is a great way to improve your mood and help you manage stress.
Choose activities that are the most appealing to you and are relatively easy to do. Once you’re in the habit of being active you can try some more challenging activities.
Consider getting treatment and support for any physical or mental health condition you are experiencing. Having a mental health problem might sap the strength you have to manage your violence so it’s important to get on top of the problem as soon as possible.
The Physical Activities tool has tips for getting started and staying active.
Manage your drinking to reduce the risk of violence
Alcohol is the number one risk factor for violent behaviour.
In stressful situations, you are far more likely to react with violence if you have been drinking. Alcohol also makes it harder to control violent behaviour.
If you or a friend/family member is concerned about your violent behaviour, seek professional help:
- Contact Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046 for free and confidential counselling 24/7. This service provides specialised counselling services for veterans and their families.
- 1800 RESPECT provides a telephone and online counselling service to assist people experiencing the effects of sexual assault, domestic or family violence.
- A GP can help with a thorough assessment of the problem and make referrals for specialist care if necessary.
- Family violence prevention programs are run by Relationships Australia and include a range of services to assist those with violence and or abuse issues in their relationships including family violence programs for perpetrators.