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Anger, depression, and panic.

Posted Sep 22 2008 11:07am

I've been thinking quite a lot about anger and aggression lately, and how they might relate to panic disorder. Even before I started having panic attacks, anger was a significant part of the way I interacted with the world. I'd learned it at home, of course; in my family, angry confrontations were not unusual, whether triggered by teasing or coming from out of the blue. Our love was and is deep and frequently expressed, but still we fought, whether because we'd been pushed to the brink by "loving" jibes or because we were just plain in a foul mood.

Anger has played a significant role in most of the romantic relationships I've been involved in -- from high school into my 40s. I'm just now ready to admit that. Mainly because I'm paying attention more these days, with the woman I love and live with now, and I realize I'm letting slights -- real and (way more often) imagined -- throw me into a cycle of anger and aggression way more often than I'm comfortable with. The last thing in the world I want is to be "the angry husband," and there's no way that Allyson deserves to be with that guy.

...So, recently, I came across this, about the relationship between depression and anger. (Bottom line: You'll be worse off if you're angry, whether you're depressed or not.) It made me wonder about the connection between anger and panic. It makes sense to me that there's some connection between them -- that a person who is so concerned with managing his environment that he gets angry when somebody upsets it is somehow more likely to be a person who becomes so afraid of losing control that mere thoughts can make him panic.

And so I came upon this, an About.com article called "Could Your Panic Be Anger?" From Fava & Rosenbaum, authors of a study cited in the article, as quoted in the article:
Anger attacks are sudden intense spells of anger that resemble panic attacks but lack the predominant affects of fear and anxiety associated with panic attacks. They typically occur in situations in which an individual feels emotionally trapped and experiences outbursts of anger that are later described by the patient as being uncharacteristic and inappropriate to the situation at hand.


It's pretty clear to me that I've been having anger attacks way longer than panic attacks. It seems likely to me that they're somehow linked. Seemingly I'm not the only one who thinks so; this article (a "report on 3 individuals who describe aggressive thoughts and behaviors that frequently occurred in association with panic symptoms") posits that "the seemingly paradoxical emotions of fear and aggression may...share a similar etiology"
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