Blog > Anxiety > How Does Anxiety Lead To Disruptive Behaviors?

How Does Anxiety Lead To Disruptive Behaviors?

Anxiety is an irrational fear and worry that may be experienced alongside disruptive behaviors, such as aggression, anger, mood swings, and irritability. These disorders may appear together or separately and can have drastic effects on sufferers if left untreated, they can lead to feelings of self-harm and destruction to self, others and property around. Age of onset is usually around childhood and mid to late adolescence and can last a lifetime.

Anxiety and disruptive behaviors are usually caused by stress and pressure. They can affect educational, occupational functionality and overall functionality. Environmental and biological factors can also influence levels of anxiety and behavior disorders.

Get all the support and tools you need to be happier

Anxiety And Disruptive Behavior

Anxiety is the persistent feeling of worry, fear, and unease. It is the human body’s response to threats. Disruptive behavior is a variety of symptoms ranging from tantrums, excessive arguments, mood swings, irritability.

Sometimes, anxiety precedes disruptive cases, and at other times, disruptive behaviors may precede anxiety. These behaviors, although normal, can become severe and cause social impairment at school, work, family, and with peers.

Anxiety is a psychological response to a threat that is activated through the fight-or-flight mode and manifests in different forms. These manifestations can be mild or severe depending on the level of anxiety.

High levels of anxiety caused by hormonal imbalances from stress and pressure results in a variety of symptoms called Anxiety Disorders.

These disorders each have distinct symptoms that may occur separately or co-occur.  Anxiety symptoms can include disruptive behaviors such as aggression, antisocial behavior, and/or delinquency.

Disruptive behavior such as defiance, truancy, hostility can also aggravate anxiety. The following anxiety disorders can contribute to disruptive behaviors and/or co-occur with them.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, excessive and uncontrollable worry towards every aspect of life with no particular source.

Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as SAD is the fear of social gatherings, people suffering from SAD experience discomfort from social situations and events.

Understanding Disruptive Behavior

Disruptive behavior is a term used to describe certain behaviors portrayed as abnormal and inappropriate in society.

These are attitudes with early onset in childhood and adolescence mostly from age 6 upwards, they are usually aggressive, impulsive and argumentative behaviors.

These disorders violate social norms and cause significant disturbances to others around, educational settings, and occupational settings, they can also limit overall functionality, lead to bullying, truancy, poor academic achievement, school dropout in adolescents and crime involvement in youths. There are different disruptive behaviors.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder: this involves a pattern of negative behaviors such as defiant, disobedient, hostility, and uncooperative behavior towards authority figures such as parents, teachers, guardians, elders. It may appear in behavioral symptoms such as physical aggression, property destruction, and anger, irritability associated with emotional symptoms.

ODD occurs earlier and is a milder version of disruptive behaviors, mostly prevalent in toddlers, early preschool and before 8. Oppositional Defiant Behavior appears in both boys and girls, although it can be under-identified in girls because of behaviors like lying, and rumormongering.

RIGHT NOW: Get a Free therapy due to the coronavirus pandemic

Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is the persistent pattern of behavior involving violations of social norms and the basic rights of others. CD is a repetitive occurrence and a more severe type of disruptive behavior prevalent among childhood and adolescence, with an increase in mid to late adolescence. Indications of Conduct Disorder are usually from Oppositional Defiant Disorder, however, it is not common in all cases. There are four groups of CD symptoms following:

Deceitfulness, serious rule transgressions, aggression towards people and animals, destruction of property.

These disruptive disorders and anxiety can become high-risk factors of harm to self and others if left undetected for too long. Often parents think disruptive behaviors are common to children and overlook them. This is partly true as some behavioral patterns are common to growth but can cause damaging effects if it is not curbed early.

What Are The Behavioral Symptoms Of Anxiety

Signs of anxiety come in a variety of ways, ranging from physical, emotional, psychological, and behavioral. These symptoms defer with individual experiences, anxiety levels, and intensity. Behavioral symptoms of anxiety include:


Constant agitation, inability to sit still and/or remain calm is associated with anxiety. Individuals suffering from anxiety are always on edge and find it difficult to stay focused.

Unexpected reflex action

When the hormones responsible for anxiety response are activated or imbalanced, your mind is stuck in reaction mode, causing unintended reflex actions that may be exaggerated depending on the individual anxiety level and situation.

Unhealthy Behaviors

Feelings of self destruct and harm to oneself and others are likely to arise. Persistent, negative notions and beliefs can take control, confusing and tricking your mind into believing what is unreal to be reality. These unhealthy lifestyles and behavioral choices, such as drinking, smoking, drug use, can cause aggression, anger, mood swings, and irritability.


Anti-social attitudes are also prevalent in disorders. Fear of others’ perception, criticism and occasional sensation of “what, why, and how” in people’s opinion can gradually lead to social withdrawal. You feel a frequent need to escape from anxiety-induced situations.

Loss of concentration

Difficulty concentrating may lead to decreased performance level, poor educational performance, occupational productivity, and eventually cause dropouts or unemployment. These difficulties can have effects such as aggression, anger or other disruptive behavior patterns.


Frequent mood swings are not left out. Sufferers of anxiety disorders experience bouts of mood swings. You can sometimes be unpredictable with your actions and are quick to anger.


With the mind being confused into believing what is wrong to be right, there may be sensations of attachments with certain people or things. For instance, someone who derives happiness from substance and alcohol use can get so attached to these actions, believing that they are the only solutions available. These actions can have consequences of disruptive behaviors.

How Anxiety Affects Behavior

Looking at the above behavioral symptoms of anxiety, it is safe to conclude that anxiety affects behaviors. These behavioral patterns of aggressiveness, anger, temper, mood swings, defiance, inconsistency might get overlooked during anxiety episodes.

Disruptive behavior disorders are also symptoms of anxiety, sometimes they appear as predecessors of anxiety, with anxiety disorders or maybe aggravated during anxiety disorders. When you experience bouts of inexplicable fear, unease, worry, and over-thinking, your brain goes into overdrive, making you think, believe, and act irrationally without considering the consequences.

Sometimes it is not your fault, it is merely your body responding and reacting to situations that seem threatening even when they are not. Anxiety at a mild level is a necessary emotion for survival. However, it can be critical when at high levels and affect or aggravate your psychological, medical and behavioral patterns.

Behavioral Therapy For Anxiety

Cognitive-behavioural therapy is the most effective and widely used method to control and conquer anxiety. It is a simple, effective and natural process. CBT involves key steps that encompass subsidiary components.

Cognitive therapy – involves analyzing how your negative thoughts contribute to your anxiety level.

Behavior therapy – studies your behavioral patterns and reactions to situations that trigger anxiety.

Exposure Therapy – exposes you to situations to confront your fears and worries.


Other CBT methods to combat anxiety include:

Identify Negative Thoughts

The first step to conquering fear from anxiety is to recognize thoughts that make you anxious. What are those irrational beliefs that increase your anxiety?

Evaluate Negative Thoughts

Assess your anxiety-induced thoughts, identify how these thoughts affect you, your decisions, and your actions. What are the pros and cons? What are the chances of these thoughts becoming reality?

Embrace Realistic Thoughts

Replace negative thoughts with rational thinking, discard negative thoughts and embrace problem-solving skills rather than anticipation and panic attacks. Focus on how you can counteract anxiety-induced situations.

Practice Coping Skills

Everyone has different coping mechanisms. What are yours? Practice relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation. Relaxation to some people involves listening to soft melodious songs, reading a book, or watching a movie. Discover what relaxes you and practice them or learn new coping skills.


Disruptive behaviors are prevalent in anxiety, just as anxiety also appears in behavioral disorders. These emotions, however, required for growth can cripple when at excess levels. There are no age or gender factors necessary for the development of anxiety or disruptive behavior disorders since they occur in both male and female, from childhood and adolescence and can last a lifetime, although symptoms vary in children and young adults.

Coping mechanisms can also influence disruptive behaviors as sometimes what appears to be coping skills are most detrimental to our individual wellbeing and attitude.

They can also be induced by underlying medical conditions, genetics, and your environment. Anxiety and disruptive behaviors can be controlled and conquered through cognitive-behavioral therapy and medications, medications may not erase symptoms but can ease them, are required only in severe cases and prescribed by your doctor.

Was this article helpful?

Most popular

Most discussed