Anger vs. Aggression: What’s the Difference?


Anger is an acceptable feeling. Aggression is a behaviour.

For many, anger is a problem feeling. It gets a bad name and is considered tricky and challenging to address and acknowledge within ourselves. This often comes down to a confusion between the two emotions. Identifying anger vs. aggression may support someone to understand more about the origins and triggers. Anger and aggression which have different purposes and come from different places and knowing which is which for us is a positive starting place.

If our boundaries are jeopardised in any way or if our needs are not appropriately met, feeling angry is a way of attempting to change our environment and to get those needs met. Anger is an acceptable feeling and functional response to desire to change or do something in the present. It can be problem solving and a ‘vehicle for change’, i.e. a healthy way to get things done. It is also a primary emotion and a survival tool if it is in direct response to an active stimulus at that point in time.

Aggression is how we choose to behave in response to a stimulus and involves forcibly and harmfully attempting to get others to behave differently. Exerting ourselves over others in any way is an unacceptable way of dealing with our emotions and can be bullying and harmful.

When anger feelings are confused with aggressive behaviours it can result in any healthy anger being denied. We may box our “angry feelings”, deem them unsafe and leave them to fester in a repressed box of emotions. This is the point we may have mixed up healthy anger for unhealthy aggression. On the other hand, if we accept and deal with angry feelings as and when they arise we are more likely to get our needs met. Embracing our anger is a perfectly acceptable and healthy way to articulate our feelings towards our need not being met or having our boundaries crossed.

Understanding the origins of our anger can tell us a lot about how we deal with anger and what purpose it serves us individually. During an assessment your therapist may ask you questions around how you deal with anger and what happens when you are angry to establish an appropriate treatment plan.

To work on anger management issues, ask any questions or make an appointment, please get in touch.