What is aggressive behaviour?

Learn more about aggression and dementia.

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Aggressive behaviour is not unique to people with dementia. However, more than one third of people living with dementia have at times behaved aggressively, particularly in the moderate to severe stages of the condition. There are reasons why a person with dementia may act in an aggressive way and this will be explored further in this factsheet.

Aggressive behaviour can be very stressful and upsetting for the person with dementia and their carers. It can also be a factor in the decision to move the person with dementia into a care home.

Aggressive behaviour may be:

  • verbal - eg swearing, screaming, shouting, making threats
  • physical - eg hitting, pinching, scratching, hair-pulling, biting.

Aggression may be linked to the person's personality and behaviour before they developed dementia. However, people who have never been aggressive before may also develop this type of behaviour.

Aggression is one of a number of behaviours - referred to as 'behaviours that challenge' - that can result from dementia. Other behaviours that challenge include agitation, restlessness, walking about, and being sexually inappropriate. It can also be hard for carers to deal with restlessness, repeated questioning and being followed around.