The experience of thought-disordered individuals preceding an aggressive incident
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to increase the understanding of the experiences of individuals with thought disorders, which precede incidents of aggression. Twelve individuals, from two hospitals, who had a nursing diagnosis of thought disorder and a history of aggression were interviewed, between one and four times, to collect baseline information and information about particular aggressive incidents. The participants described in their own words their thoughts, feelings and experiences preceding the aggressive incidents. Three themes emerged. First, participants perceived themselves to be strongly affected by the external environment; their responses to aspects of the environment were influential in precipitating the aggressive incident. Second, participants perceived themselves, paradoxically, to be both powerful and powerless; the act of aggression becomes an incident of brief self-empowerment. Third, the aggressive incident occurred in spite of the participants' acknowledgement and previous use of anger-controlling strategies; the participants' perceptions of themselves as powerless in an oppressive environment may have mitigated against the success of these strategies. Nurses need to know what triggers aggressiveness in psychiatric patients, in order to intervene effectively. Mental health professionals must also reexamine the psychiatric hospital environment, to make sure they are not needlessly exacerbating their patients' powerlessness with policies that are unjustifiably controlling.
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