What is aggressive behaviour?

Learn more about aggression and dementia.

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People with dementia may sometimes behave in ways that are physically or verbally aggressive. This can be very distressing for the person and for those supporting them, including their family and friends. It can also often be a factor in the decision to move the person with dementia into a care home.

This page explains why a person with dementia might behave in aggressive ways. We also give practical tips to help those caring for a person with dementia to prevent and manage aggressive behaviour and look at the types of support available.

Aggressive behaviour may be:

  • verbal – for example swearing, screaming, shouting or making threats
  • physical – for example hitting, pinching, scratching, hair-pulling or 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 – often referred to as ‘behaviours that challenge’ – that can result from dementia. Other behaviours that challenge include agitation, restlessness, walking about, and being sexually inappropriate. For more information about these types of behaviour see our page on behaviour changes.