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Can Anxiety and Depression Be Forms of Emotional Baggage?

The answer to this question is yes. In fact anxiety and depression can be the biggest, in your face symptoms of baggage that you can experience.

But aren’t anxiety and depression medical conditions? That is the question I hear most often from clients who are confused about what they are experiencing.

Yes, they can be medical conditions in some instances but not all and in fact not that many. There are medical conditions such as hypo and hyperthyroidism, heart problems and hormonal imbalances that can create depression and anxiety. Those can be tested for and helped with medications. There are personality and temperament traits that can make you more susceptible to anxiety or depression and there are of course chronic mental illnesses that occur in a relatively small segment of the population.  But by and far the biggest culprit in keeping these negative emotions around is emotional baggage and the dysfunctional thinking patterns or cognitive distortions that you may have learned and aren’t even aware of.

Lets start with anxiety. Every thought that you have has a physiological response as described in this prior post. This physiological response can include feelings of panic, nervousness, exhaustion and even stomach upset. The problem is that if the thoughts that are upsetting are based in your baggage than you are suffering for nothing. You can alter that thought.

For example, if your baggage is based in abandonment issues, you may be on the lookout constantly in a relationship for signs that the other person is on their way out. You expect at some point for this to be the case. So if you are eating dinner and they are distracted or not attentive you perceive it as the first sign they are leaving you. That thought creates panic, fear, sadness, grief and most likely anger. You sit there in distress and are distressed all night after. You may pick a fight with them to hurry up and get the process over with. In reality they had a terrible day at work and may be losing their job. So your whole thought process and perception of what was going on is wrong and slanted due to your own baggage issues. You have suffered for nothing.

This is an example based on a specific event, the big picture is that if you are constantly on the lookout for something scary or you believe it to be inevitable, you are going to be chronically anxious. Your whole view of the world is that something bad is about to happen and you need to be prepared. Also, if you feel helpless to control your destiny and are stuck in a unhealthy situation where you can’t see your way out, you will be depressed. You may feel like just giving up.

Same goes if your emotional baggage revolves around not having self confidence. Not trusting yourself to make life decisions is scary and depressing. You may wonder how you will get by, who will take care of you or you may live by others decisions for you even if you don’t like the decisions. The feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that these situations invoke creates depression.

If you have made a poor choice of partner it is likely that that choice was baggage based. If you don’t trust yourself then a controlling person might seem appealing in the beginning as they can take care of everything. You may feel rescued. But then you feel smothered and trapped and might even find yourself  abused in some way as the person struggles to maintain control. The feelings of helplessness brought on in these situations also lead to depression and anxiety. Not knowing how to trust yourself is not a medical condition.

These are just a few examples of life situations brought about by emotional baggage that can lead to chronic anxiety and depression. Learning to overcome dysfunctional thought patterns and limiting beliefs is the answer to lessen the suffering. Exploring where these patterns come from and how to break their hold on you sets you free to design the life of your choosing.

Understanding how your anxiety and/or depression can be baggage based versus a medical condition puts you in the driver’s seat to move forward with your focus on eliminating these patterns for good. Feeling in control of yourself and your destiny provides you with hope and optimism for your future. Those uplifting thoughts bring about better feelings than the others and can override them.

There are of course many other forms of baggage and ways that it may manifest itself in your life.  The reason it is so important to address baggage is that it robs you of your own life and joy. You are not free to be who you are when you have this heavy load. It is tiring and no fun. It makes you waste time in relationships that are no good. It makes you make bad choices for yourself and remain stuck.

The good news is that baggage can be removed.  Therapists, coaches, online courses and even self-help books can get you going in the right direction. Don’t give up if one doesn’t work, everyone learns and responds to information differently. If you persist you will find the right solutions.  If you think that you are carrying around baggage that is impacting your life visit my site at the link below in my bio and take the quiz or download the free resources to help you get started.

Feel Good For Life!


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Can Anxiety and Depression Be Forms of Emotional Baggage?

Audrey Sherman, Ph.D.

Dr. Audrey Sherman is a licensed psychologist, coach and the author of the book Dysfunction Interrupted-How to Quickly Overcome Depression, Anxiety and Anger Starting Now. Her expertise is in defining, describing and transforming dysfunctional behavior and thought patterns learned in childhood or beyond that keep you anxious, depressed, angry, stuck in unhappy and unproductive relationships, jobs and more. Dr. Sherman developed the Dysfunctional Patterns Quiz and other free resources to help you determine the effects of these on your life. She works with individuals, conducts live and online workshops and trains others in her programs. To learn more about Dr. Sherman, you can visit her website.

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APA Reference
Sherman, A. (2020). Can Anxiety and Depression Be Forms of Emotional Baggage?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Jun 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.