Differences Between Panic and Anger Attacks
By Sheryl Ankrom
Updated August 28, 2018




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It’s not unusual for people who have panic disorder, agoraphobia, or another anxiety disorder to experience frustration because of their condition. You may blame yourself or others for your condition, further escalating your sense of anger and resentment. Sometimes this frustration can develop into anger—anger toward yourself, anger at your situation or anger toward others.

Researchers have conducted studies on what they term “anger attacks” in depressed and anxious individuals. They conclude that there are certain similarities between anger attacks and panic attacks. The following describes the symptoms of anger attacks and panic attacks, followed by an explanation of the differences between the two.

Symptoms of Anger Attacks

According to researchers, anger attacks are characterized by the occurrence of at least 4 of the following symptoms:

heart pounding or racing
chest pains, tightening, or discomfort
excessive sweating
shaking or trembling
shortness of breath
dizziness or lightheadedness
tingling or itching skin
fear of losing control
intense fear or anxiety
hot or cold flashes
feeling like attacking others
actually attacking others
throwing or destroying objects
Symptoms of Panic Attacks
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition is a handbook used by treatment providers in determining one's diagnosis. Shortened to the DSM 5, this manual contains valuable definitions of symptoms and disorders. According to the DSM 5, a panic attack is characterized by four or more of the following symptoms:

heart palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
excessive sweating
trembling or shaking
sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
the feeling of choking
chest pain or discomfort
nausea or abdominal distress
feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
feelings of unreality (derealization) or being detached from oneself (depersonalization)
fear of losing control or going crazy
fear of dying
numbness or tingling sensations (paresthesias)
chills or hot flushes

The Difference Between Anger Attacks and Panic Attacks

It’s clear to see the similarities between the symptoms of an anger attack and a panic attack. Researchers point out that both produce many of the same sudden and intense physical and emotional sensations. But, they also note some differences. These researchers propose that anger attacks typically occur in situations in which an individual feels emotionally trapped rather than as the result of fear and anxiety that is often associated with panic attacks. In addition, the criteria for anger attacks also include:

Irritable feelings in the past 6 months
Angry overreaction to small irritations
1 or more anger attacks experienced in past month
Inappropriate anger directed towards others
If you feel you are experiencing anger attacks, talk to your doctor or mental healthcare provider. In addition to developing an anger management plan, your doctor may prescribe medications to help reduces your symptoms. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can be used to effectively treat panic attacks also work for managing anger attacks. Attending ongoing therapy can is also another viable option. Through therapy, you can learn to better control your anger and cope with your panic attacks in a healthy way. By following through with treatment, you can expect to have both issues in check.

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