The Difference Between an Anger Attack & a Panic Attack

Anger attacks
Anger attacks share many similarities with panic attacks.. Photo © Microsoft

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 a 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 ones 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
  • 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 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. 


American Psychiatric Association. "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed.," 2000 Washington, DC: Author.

Fava M. and Rosenbaum, J.F. (1999). Anger attacks in patients with depression. J Clin Psychiatry, 60 (suppl 15): 21-24.

Fava, M., Anderson, K. and Rosembaum, J.F. (1990). “Anger attacks”: Possible variants of panic and major depressive disorders. Am J Psychiatry, 147:867-870.

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