Violence and aggression

Violence and aggression can arise with feelings of anger, betrayal, fear or a lack of control. This can result in harm, hurt or injury to another person. 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 might have a problem with violence

Violence and aggression are not just about physically lashing out. It can include things you do, things you say, 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 seriously damage relationships with family and friends, hurts people physically and psychologically, and destroys property or possessions. It can also lead to legal problems and even imprisonment.

If you hit something or someone, if you break things deliberately, if you become verbally aggressive and threatening, then you have a problem – no question.

Some important questions you might ask yourself to see if you have a problem with violence or aggression include:

  • 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, another 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 some help. You can change aggressive and violent behaviours with support. Read on to learn techniques that can help you get control of your behaviour

If anger is making you violent

Violence can be part of an anger cycle. Anger can build up gradually, without us being aware of the increasing level of emotion. You can think of this build up as the escalation phase of the cycle. You can learn to deal with your anger during this part of the cycle – even if it is very high. If you do not learn how to identify the early warning signs and to deal with your anger it may progress into violence and aggression – breaking or hitting things, or punching someone – during the "explosion" phase. This is when you can do serious damage. In the next stage of the cycle – the "post-explosion" phase – you may feel ashamed and guilty, and you may suffer the consequences of your violent behaviour; for example, legal and financial problems and – worst of all – losing friends and loved ones.

What you can do about it


Putting an end to your violent behaviour involves taking responsibility over anger and other risky moods so that you don’t let the explosion phase of your anger cycle happen. This means taking responsibility for noticing the early warning signs, and being prepared to act well before your breaking point. You can do this by:

  • Being more aware of the triggers: What kinds of things set off your anger?
  • Watching 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, or how you behave as your anger escalates?
  • Monitoring your anger level – try rating it on a scale of 0 – 10, where 0 is perfectly calm and 10 is your worst anger level, and keep track as it builds up.
  • Trying to express what is upsetting you calmly and assertively BEFORE the anger gets too high.
  • If you can’t do that, or it doesn’t seem to work, taking time out for five minutes: walk away, go to the toilet, go outside.
  • Learn to stop your anger from escalating by finding more helpful ways of thinking, or learning strategies to defuse anger on the High Res website.

Take action: When you’re angry think about things differently to prevent violent and aggressive behaviour

The way that we think influences the way we feel. Thinking in an unhelpful way can make you feel angrier and increase the chances you’ll lash out at others.

Use the Challenge Your Thoughts tool to help you to identify your unhelpful thoughts in situations that upset or bother you and then start to change these thoughts.

When you’re starting out it’s a good idea to learn helpful thinking skills with a situation that is irritating 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 day-to-day as situations arise.

This tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go. 

Take action: Take responsibility for your anger to prevent violent and aggressive behaviour

There are some simple strategies you can use to manage your anger (and your behaviour) in stressful situations.

Use the Defusing Anger tool to plan which strategies you would like to use when you are angry. These strategies will help you to change your physical reactions, behaviours and thoughts.

When you’re starting out, practice using the strategies when you are feeling calm. Once you’ve learned the skills you can use them whenever you feel yourself becoming angry. These skills can be used before, during or after a difficult situation.

The Controlling Anger tool is also available on the High Res app. 

You can use the problem solving tool from the High Res website, so that you are better equipped to deal with problems.

Take Action: Use problem solving to prevent violent and aggressive behaviour

If you are having trouble dealing with a problem in your life, it can cause you to feel angry and put you at risk of becoming violent.

Use the Problem Solving tool to work through the problem step-by-step and find the best solution.

When you’re starting out use the tool to solve a problem that is not too frustrating or overwhelming. Once you’ve learned the skills you can start to apply the problem solving steps to all sorts of situations, particularly those that are causing anger.

You might also find the tips for managing anger helpful.

Manage violent behaviour

You might find that you’re more prone to violent and aggressive behaviour in certain situations. The following tips might help you manage situations that are risky for you. Try to get on the front foot with managing risky moods – by exercising regularly, eating well, and getting enough sleep you’ll be able to reduce your level of stress which may help you think more clearly. The High Res website.has tools to help you to improve your sleep and become more physically active.

Take Action: 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. Some simple changes can help you to get the best possible sleep.

Use the Healthy Sleeping tool and answer some questions about your typical sleeping behaviours and get tailored advice and tips to improve your sleep and optimise your mental and physical functioning.

This tool is also available on the High Res app.

Take action: Get active to help manage violent and aggressive behaviour

If you find yourself feeling angry and having violent outbursts, physical activity is a great way to improve your mood and help you to manage stress.

The  Physical Activities tool has suggestions of activities you can try and tips for getting started and staying active.

Choose the 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.

This tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go.

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 any problem as soon as possible.

Cut right back on alcohol and other drugs – they can lower your inhibitions and alcohol in particular is the number one risk factor for violent behaviour. The Right Mix website can help you develop an action plan for managing your alcohol consumption.

Take action: Manage your drinking to reduce the risk of violence

In stressful situations, you are far more likely to react with violence if you have been drinking. Alcohol makes it harder to control your violent behaviour.

Making a plan helps you to consider how you can start to cut down your drinking.

Use the action plan tool to identify and record the motivations, goals, strategies and supports that will help you to manage your alcohol consumption. Once you have a plan you can start to put your goals into action.

Make an action plan before you start making changes to give yourself the best chance of sticking to your goals.

You can also use the ON TRACK with The Right Mix app to manage your drinking.

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 situations you put yourself in – perhaps you need to limit certain people, venues, places or situations until you are able to control your anger and aggressive behaviour.

Getting help

If you or a friend/family member is concerned about your violent behaviour, it’s definitely a good idea to get some professional help.

  • A GP is always a good place to start when trying to overcome problems with violence, as he or she can help with a thorough assessment of the problem and make referrals for specialists if necessary.
  • Contact Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling (formerly VVCS) on 1800 011 046, they are available 24/7
  • This website has information on a range of professional care that is available to current and former serving members.
  • 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.
    • 1800 RESPECT provides a telephone and online counselling service to assist people experiencing the effects of sexual assault, domestic or family violence.