Into the violent mind…

Look out for early signs to a violent mind, warns , even as she asks experts for tips on dealing with aggression

ISN’T it intriguing that the more we progress as a society, the more we seem to regress as individuals? How else would you explain the increase in violence all around? Be it on the domestic or the corporate front, violence is becoming so common that we’re getting almost inured to its occurrence. From supermodel Naomi Campbell hurling her phone at her housekeeper, to Aishwarya Rai being manhandled by Salman Khan, celebrity fisticuffs are as common as a fishwife’s spat. And increasingly so.

Why are we, as a society, so much more able to express that violent streak today, as compared to our forefathers? To find answers, it might do well to delve into the development of the violent mind… According to neurologist, Dr Rakesh Singh, Lok Hospital, Thane, “There is no change in the brain patterns of a violent mind. But certain experiments have shown links between imbalance of certain neurotransmitters like noradrenaline and dopamine and the violent mind.”


If you’re wondering whether or not to call in the cops when your neighbour cuts up your doormat, Dr Vikas Mohan Sharma, psychiatrist at the Vidyasagar Institute of Mental health and Neurosciences (VIMHANS), Delhi, explains what really constitutes violent behaviour. “It’s any act that stems from aggression. I emphasise the word ‘aggression’, which may be a precursor to violence. We are all aggressive to some extent as it is the basic instinct for survival. When this aggression is unchecked at the provocation of something or someone, the person may resort to violence. Usually, it is seen that children who are born stubborn, very impulsive or extremely short-tempered, are more susceptible to becoming violent if their aggression is not channelised into positive directions. Parents must play a big role in this, perhaps even liaising with the child’s teachers to check for any signs of excessive, uncontrolled aggression. Counselling at an early age can help stem the rot,” advises Dr Sharma.


An extremely short-tempered person has a limited ability to control temper and therefore can, on an impulse, commit violent acts, adds Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Amit Upasham. He says, “Today, stress in general has increased. There is pressure to excel in every aspect of life, which gives rise to frustration. Our coping skills have also reduced considerably. Increased portrayals of violence in movies and television serials are also influencing the mind. For example, there was a recent media report on how a man tortured his wife to death inspired by actor Nana Patekar’s role in the film Agnisakshi. A combination of all these factors could lead to violent repercussions.”


Our fast-changing lifestyle has much to do with the increase in violent outbursts too, he maintains. “For instance, we no longer sleep enough. Less sleep affects the biological rhythm of the body and consequently the person becomes more irritable, snappy and often violent,” says Dr Upasham. Similarly, food habits can trigger violent behaviour too, says Purwa Duggal, chief dietician at Wockhardt. “Studies claim that poor nutrition may trigger aggressive behaviour. Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, cola-type beverages and chocolates, stimulates the central nervous system and dehydrates the body, which can affect mood and incite violence,” she explains.


“When a person has to make do with fewer resources like time, money or coping skills to manage their stresses, they are more prone to violent behaviour,” says Dr Sharma. Some indicators for a potentially violent person would be him or her snapping at people, being under constant pressure (creating a pressure cooker-like situation which might result in violence), etc.

A violent mind born out of such social or situational reasons cannot be clinically treated, as these are not illnesses, says Dr Sharma. And terrorists, too, can be perfectly normal human beings who look at their violent acts as a part of their job, driven by a strong belief, somewhat like that of a hangman. Dr Upasham, though, maintains that terrorists could be products of psychopathic minds, where people do things that are not normally perceived to be right. Such a psychopathic mind, which cannot differentiate between right and wrong, can be treated.


  • People suffering from personality disorder can also be prone to violence.
  • Someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder does not have any regard for laws, rules or regulations and hence sees no harm in flouting them. This trait can be seen among children as part of Conduct Disorder. Counselling and psychotherapy can be effective here.
  • Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder may have a major difficulty in controlling his or her emotions and nurture a poor self-image.
  • The mentally ill suffering from severe depression, paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can also become violent because the disease affects their judgement.

If you live with a violent person…

  • Be patient and keep your cool
  • Ensure that he/she does not have easy access to sharp objects like knives or glass
  • Don’t bring up topics or do things that you know will disturb or enrage him/her
  • Avoid confrontations. If possible, try to distract the person. Arguing is a strict no-no. Talk gently and softly.
  • Whenever you see signs of escalating aggression, try to ensure the presence of family/friends/neighbours
  • Restrict his/her consumption of caffeine-based products…

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