The major reason for anxiety, panic attacks, phobias and depression are built up negative emotions, such as fear, anger, resentment and rage, over things, both, real or perceived that have been ongoing, have frightened the wits out of us or are overwhelming and/or unbearable.
At least 50% of all stress comes from a physical or environmental cause. The fact that emotions are physical molecules is exactly why they have such a huge impact on your nervous system and your immune system.
Emotions, especially negative emotions, change the energetic and chemical systems of the body. Your brain reacts, sometimes with uncomfortable symptoms, as a means of coping with your emotions. This can be frightening when it isn’t understood.
When It’s Time to See Your Doctor
If you have you gone for weeks, months, or even years, thinking there is something really, really wrong with you mentally or physically, but you just aren’t sure, call your doctor’s office immediately for a check-up to rule out any possible underlying medical conditions that might actually be causing your anxiety or other symptoms. Why? Because but until you will continue to believe something just might be really, really wrong with you. And, not knowing is part of the anxiety.
Before your appointment, write down a list of your symptoms and concerns to share with your doctor during your appointment. It can be easy to forget these things. Making a list will save you from worrying “What if?” later on. But, "What if?" you discover something really wrong with you? At least you will finally know what you are dealing with, stop 'what-iffing' and be on track to doing something about it.
Even if you have no health insurance, there are places you can be tested for certain conditions and deficiencies, such as food sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies, or parasites. See Links & Resources for HSPs.
Maybe you’ve already scheduled a trip to your doctor and discovered you have an illness and are now on medication. The Captains Lady can still help you to relieve anxiety, panic, phobias and depression. Just be sure you talk with your doctor about any natural remedies you are considering trying, such as herbs, supplements, homeopathy or diet, to be sure they do not interfere with any medications or treatments you are receiving.
If your check up reveals your symptoms have any real origin or that you are suffering from stress, that you need to get more rest, or that you are depressed, it's all in your head or need anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication it may be time to accept you could be built just a little differently than others, that maybe you are a Highly Sensitive Person and have a sensitive inner fish (amygdalae) or have just gone way beyond your personal stress threshold, or both.
Oh. And, just so you know, just because you experience symptoms without a cause, it doesn’t mean you are crazy or that you ever will be. Crazy people don’t know they are crazy. They think everyone else is crazy. Seriously.
By definition, anxiety is a state of worry or uneasiness about what may happen or an eagerness to do well in some area, which causes stress. For emotional and mental (cognitive), physical and behavioral signs of stress, see Signs & Symptoms of Stress.
Stress, when ongoing, can lead to overwhelm. Overwhelm is a state of dis-ease (of being uncomfortable). It is a condition where you feel you no longer have the ability to cope with feelings or circumstances, much less come up with clear answers or solutions to your problems. Overwhelm may lead to panic attacks and agoraphobia in some individuals, especially in those with sensitive amygdalae.
Anyone, highly sensitive or not, can develop an anxiety disorder or develop overlapping anxiety disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental health, at least 40 million Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder.
If you are experiencing anxiety, panic, phobias or depression, it’s important you have a basic understanding of the different types of anxiety disorders, so you can better understand what you might be dealing with on a personal level.
Anxiety Sensitivity (The New Kid on the Block)
A small percentage of the world’s population struggling with anxiety sensitivity where symptoms of anxiety are associated with potential health problems. For example, they may fear heart palpitations are a sign of an impending heart attack or that feeling tightness in the chest represents a lung problem. Although the two are close, anxiety sensitivity is not the same as hypochondria where one fears having a serious disease and is sure they must. It's more of an issue of not wanting to feel anxious in the first place.
GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
If you have GAD, you’ve been anxious for quite a while. Your anxiety is chronic, but non-specific. Meaning, there’s nothing you can really think of that is making you anxious. You just are.
Panic disorder is often considered a psychiatric disorder whenever you have super intense panic attacks out of the blue that are unrelated to external events. In other words, there’s nothing to be afraid of and, yet, you are reacting as if you are about to drown or drop out of the sky. When this disorder becomes situational it can quickly blossom into avoidance patterns and agoraphobia. A genetically appropriate diet and lifestyle changes can usually reverse panic disorder.
Phobias are typically fearful reactions to largely non-dangerous stimuli, such as when you are afraid of spiders, which is arachnophobia. If you are afraid of spiders you may have an overreaction to seeing one even from across a room.
According to Dr. Harold N. Levinson, author of Phobia Free, there are three types of phobias. The first 5% of all phobias are caused by a neurotic condition of some sort, which respond fairly well to conventional psychotherapy. The second 5% of all phobias are caused by severe traumas, such as plane crashes, dog attacks or war. And, 90% of phobias, according to the good doctor, are caused by the cerebellar-vestibular system, more commonly called the” inner ear”, which, he says, can be treated with Dramamine, Scopolamine or Benadryl. Let me just say, while I agree with those as being likely causes of phobias, I am inclined not to agree with those percentages, especially when it comes to agoraphobia.
Individuals are either born sensitive or develop sensitivities and anyone can develop an anxiety disorder. Often, sensitivities and anxiety disorders overlap.
For example, you could be a sensitive person with a phobia, but never have a panic attack. Or, you could be someone who was not born sensitive, but have General Anxiety Disorder. Or, you could be a Highly Sensitive Person (someone born sensitive) with a panic disorder, but no phobia or GAD.
Your Ancient Nervous System – How it Works
Your nervous system is as old as time and still works and reacts the same way as if you had been born thousands of years ago. Your nervous (autonomic) system is divided into two parts, your voluntary nerves and involuntary nerves.
Your voluntary system controls your movements, your brain and spinal cord. These are things you don’t have to much think about in doing, such as moving your legs to walk or turning your head to get better view. Without thinking, you do have the power to move or not move. The choice is yours.
Your involuntary nerves act as messengers from a center in your brain (your Limbic system, where your amygdalae reside) and these nerves are connected to your spine through a network of tiny, branch-like fibers. They are controlled by your endocrine glands, which regulate your reactions to stress and respond to your emotions and your moods. Other than changing your mood involuntary nerves are beyond your direct control.
Your involuntary nerves consist of two parts, the sympathetic and parasympathetic. Of these two parts, it is your sympathetic nervous system that sympathizes more with your moods. It helps to gear you up and strengthen you when you are faced with any kind of danger. It will prepare you to freeze (hide, don’t move, stop), fight (prepare for battle) or take flight (run like hell).
Whenever you feel threatened, fearful or excited your breathing changes, your heart speeds up, your hands sweat, your stomach tenses up and your mouth may get dry. You may even feel sick to your stomach. This is all due to your sympathetic nervous system doing its job. These symptoms have been caused by the release of a hormones, including adrenaline, which enhances the actions of your sympathetic nervous system. You become more sharply tuned and aware. It’s absolutely normal.
Tension can also create these same symptoms. When you are constantly tense your nerves are alerted to react in an exaggerated fashion, which causes your sympathetic nervous system to dominate. When your sympathetic nervous system dominates it will have you convinced there is something to be afraid of because of the way you feel. And, when you are afraid all of the time (of the way you feel) your sympathetic nervous system keeps dominating. Thankfully, your body does provide a back up of sorts.
Most of the time, your parasympathetic nerves hold your sympathetic nerves back. Otherwise, you would always feel your body responding sympathetically to just about everything. But, when you are stressed, it allows the sympathetic nerves to do their job. How often are you stressed? If your answer is "Often." or "All the time." your sympathetic nervous system is in charge.
What You Don't Have to Do to Feel Better
Believe it or not, no matter what your diagnosis, it is not all that important to know why you are anxious, panicky, fearful or sad. What is important to know is why your body is responding the way it is, which by now you should have a fairly good understanding of.
You don’t have to be re-traumatized in front of a therapist to get better.
You don't have to relive what happened to you as a child, or how you lost that close friend or relative you loved so much, or journal every feeling or even talk about it.
You don’t have to rehash every last negative emotional experience you have ever had or run a 12 step program in order to heal, unless you want to.
That’s not to say these things can’t be helpful, but you don’t need them to erase anxiety, unless of course you are suffering from PTSD. If your symptoms are completely emotionally based and stemming from ‘fear of fear’ you could make your symptoms worse by rehashing when your issue is simply worrying too much about sensations and “What if?” all of the time.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
I just want to impress upon you that when you are suffering from the anxiety disorder known as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy should be included in your treatment plan, which works very well to heal the mind and soul when it comes to issues of abuse, neglect, and trauma.
"If left unchecked, emotional memory can lead to chronic fear, forming the basis of anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Normally, the prefrontal cortex dampens the amygdala's response and calms the fear. But for most PTSD sufferers, their prefrontal cortex does not send this message. About 25 percent of Americans have a diagnosable anxiety disorder at some point in their lives…"
PTSD is not a focus on The Captains Lady. However, many of the natural remedies and wellness suggestions offered on site for anxiety, panic, phobias and depression can be of help for anyone suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Just be sure to consult with your doctor or therapist before trying any new natural remedies or sense-based activities to make sure they do not interfere with your treatment plan.
Depression is its own special demon. It is a cruel infliction. Its causes can stem from the same origins as anxiety, panic and phobias, and your inner fish (your amygdalae) are definitely involved.
On November 20, 2013 researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine released a study showing “…that the size and connectivity of the amygdale can predict the degree of anxiety a young child is experiencing in daily life…a larger amygdala can equate to higher anxiety in childhood…prolonged stress and anxiety during childhood increase the risk of someone developing anxiety disorders and depression later in life.”
By definition to depress is to sadden, to make less active, to lower in value. Depression is defined as a hollow or low place, a low spirit and less activity (not as busy). It is considered a mood disorder.
Depression is considered to be caused by neurotransmitter (chemical) imbalances in the brain. While there are scans that can be performed with equipment to view how your brain is operating there are no actual tests to check for chemical imbalances in the brain. However, medical doctors often treat depression with antidepressants in hopes that they can return neurotransmitters (natural chemicals) in the brain back to a normal range. What this means is that they really can't prove you need these drugs, at all, based on a brain scan and are simply basing their surmise on your symptoms. That's not to say prescription drugs cannot be beneficial in some instances and even necessary, especially when there is a physical cause for depression (see Types of Depression below).
Types of Depression
Atypical Depression ~ Atypical depression includes symptoms such as weight gain, sleeping too much, fatigue, weakness, and feeling anxious, sad and/or hopeless, with thoughts of suicide or death most days.
Dysthymia (Mild, Chronic Depression) ~ Symptoms are the same as for Atypical Depression, but being fatigued or rundown is noticed by others.
Postpartum Depression ~ Postpartum depression is typically caused by hormonal imbalance after giving birth or miscarriage, usually appearing at the 4th week after giving birth.
Bipolar Depression (Manic Depression) ~ Mood swings from the elated highs of mania to the major depression lows. Symptoms can include grandiose delusions and paranoid rage.
Seasonal Depression (SAD) ~ Getting depressed during certain times of the year when the sun is farthest from the earth. See Sleep Disorder.
Psychotic Depression ~ Psychosis, hallucinations, hearing voices. A break from reality.
Serotonin Syndrome ~ Too much serotonin in the brain. Usually a very dangerous result of taking prescribed anti-depressants.
Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms of depression vary according to the type of depression you are experiencing. Common symptoms that thread through all types of depression are as follows.
Lack of energy
Unexplained aches and pains that come and go
Changes in appetite (no appetite or eating too much)
Loss of sexual desire
Problems sleeping or sleeping too much
Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
Restless (not being able to feel calm, relaxed or peaceful)
Confusion and/or impaired memory
Difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions
Thinking others see you in a negative light
Thoughts of death (of suicide or of no longer existing)
Lack of interest in personal hygiene or appearance
Avoidance behaviors, such as isolating from others
Alcohol or drug use
Note: Not everyone will have experience all of these symptoms. Just feelings of sadness and loss of interest in things that were once found to be enjoyable can be enough to impact life negatively.
Causes of Depression
Ongoing stress, worry, anxiety or hypersensitivity
Victimization, abuse, oppression, trauma (such as living with a narcissist or an abuser)
Anger/resentment (depression is often considered anger turned inward)
Long-term disability or illness or caring full-time for someone with a terminal illness
Adrenal Abnormalities (either very high or very low stress hormones)
A genetic predisposition toward depression
Side Effects of Drugs
Antianxiety and antidepressant medications
Antihistamines (over-the-counter and prescribed)
Anti-inflammatory agents (for injuries and arthritic conditions)
Antiseizure medicines (for epilepsy)
Birth control pills
Blood pressure medication (Antihypertensives)
Chemotherapeutic agents (for cancer treatment)
Corticosteroids (a synthetic version of adrenal stress hormone used for conditions, such as asthma, arthritis, and eczema)
Recreational drugs, such as nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines.
Withdrawal from alcohol or drugs
What Medical Doctors are Doing to Treat Depression
Typically, depression is treated with psychotherapy and medications. And, while medication will rarely, if ever, work to erase panic attacks and phobias, I do believe they may be helpful in alleviating certain types of depression, especially Manic Depression.
However, let me share something with you. Doctors don’t know how they work and there is no scientific proof that antidepressant drugs work at all. While it is hoped these drugs will bring some order and balance to your natural feel good chemicals, such as Serotonin, GABA and Dopamine, and be able to keep them hanging around longer in your brain. This approach doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, some people get worse by taking these medications and suffer terrible side-effects, such as increased anxiety, insomnia and thoughts of suicide. If you are taking prescribed medication and feel worse, be sure to tell your doctor.
The following is a list of medications, with brief descriptions, which doctors are currently prescribing for anxiety and depression:
Benzodiazepines - A sedative affect that relaxes muscles, creates drowsiness and lethargy.
Tricyclics (TCAs) – Act to increase serotonin-norepinephrine in the brain by keeping it around longer (basically acting as anti-depressants, which are SSRIs).
SSRIs – Antidepressants that keep serotonin and other ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain around longer.
MAOIs – When symptoms don’t respond to Benzodiazepines, Tricyclics (TCAs) or SSRIs, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, a type of antidepressant that prevents the breakdown of serotonin and noradrenaline is administered.
Over-the-counter medications, alcohol, nicotine, and recreational drugs, those things you may feel offer you a temporary ‘high’, may also be contributing to your depression.
Artwork: Ophelia (a detail) by John Everett Millais
Calming Your Inner Fish Erasing Anxiety, Panic, Phobias & Depression in Sensitive People
Hello. Mari here. I used to suffer from severe anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia, which lead me on a downhill emotional spiral that included a host of other physical symptoms as well, so believe me when I say there’s probably nothing you have experienced that I don’t understand personally.
It got to the point where I was afraid to make any plans because I always worried about “What if?” What if I had a panic attack? What if I passed out? What if people thought I was crazy? And, if they thought I was crazy, what if they took my children away from me? What if I ended up alone in life? What if I was never ever going to feel safe or happy again? Worrying about that next 'What If?' had become my way of life.
You may be thinking, "But, I don't have severe anxiety, panic attacks or phobias." I hope you don't. Maybe you are considering reading this book to find out how to help someone else. But, if you do worry about the next 'What If?' or have any of the symptoms listed here, it means stress is winning the battle and you deserve to be free of it.
Stress affects people many different ways. Sometimes, it can be erased therapy, especially if you have PTSD. But, usually natural remedies, lifestyle changes and changing the way you think is all that is needed.
In this e-book, I cover the causes and symptoms of stress, natural remedies for stress, coping and management techniques for erasing anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia, which is ‘fear of fear’, and depression once and for all.
Disclaimer: TheCaptainsLady.com is a website belonging to the legally registered business, The Captains Lady, The information provided by TheCaptainsLady.com is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It is not intended to replace any medical or behavioral care from a licensed health care practitioner, or in any way to practice medicine. Information provided is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional.
Affiliate Disclosure: The author of this site, Mari J. Dionne, is a trusted affiliate of some of, but not all, businesses she advertises and does receive monetary compensation for any sales of products as a result of any sales made directly through interactive product links on and throughout her website, social applications, programs, e-books, newsletters, emails and any other promotional materials. The author does not accept any responsibility regarding information, promises or guarantees her affiliate associates make with regards to information or the products or services they provide.