Your question: Why do I feel sad and scared for no reason?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. Your emotions are complex because they escape all rationality. This means that they do not need conscious reasons to appear. For this reason, you express emotions such as happiness, displeasure, anger, fear and sadness sometimes unconsciously, without understanding why you are feeling that particular emotion.

This can be frustrating, especially when the emotion is unpleasant. This is the case with sadness and fear. These are natural emotions that you all experience several times in your lives. In itself, sadness and fear are not negative, they are rather necessary because they indicate to your body that something is happening in your lives that generates anguish or concern. However, when fear and sadness become recurrent and intense, in addition to occurring suddenly for no apparent reason, you begin to worry and imagine that something is wrong with you.

I want to start by reassuring you. All emotions have an origin, although at certain times it is difficult to identify them, then your sadness and fear have an explanation that when you find it, you can work on them to reduce the degree of discomfort they generate.

What is the origin of your fear and sadness?

Fear and sadness affect you all differently. My experience as a psychologist has shown me that the manifestations of emotions are unique to each human being. For you, feeling sadness and fear may not be the same as it is for your mother or a close friend. This is because your brains encode emotional reactions in unique ways.

Fear and sadness have in common that they are controlled by the amygdala(1), a part of the brain responsible for decision making and emotion regulation. The amygdala sends signals to your body to express fear and sadness at specific times.

If you hear a loud noise while you are alone at home, the amygdala is what makes you feel tension and worry, and eventually, manifest physical symptoms such as tachycardia and muscle tension. If you get bad news, such as doing poorly on an exam, the amygdala is what sends signals to make you feel the urge to cry, anguish and worry related to sadness.

Therefore, there is always an origin for fear and sadness, although you cannot perceive it consciously, there is some stimulus that is generating this annoying emotional reaction that you perceive as intrusive and “without reason”.

Where does your fear and sadness come from?

You may not be able to identify the source of your fear and sadness because you feel distracted, have many responsibilities in your life at the moment, or have recently experienced stressful or traumatic experiences. The causes for fear and sadness that you do not associate with a specific event may be several, among them(2):

Hormonal changes

Alterations in hormonal processes occur regardless of gender. Your body goes through specific hormonal cycles that can be altered by natural causes. In the case of women, the menstrual period tends to generate emotional sensitivity. Generally, hormonal processes resume their normal course after a short period of time, but if you feel that your emotions are not regulated at the end of these cycles, it is advisable to see an endocrinologist.

Lack of sleep

Sleep is essential for your brain rest and emotional regulation. When you experience insomnia, you are likely to feel sadder, more fearful and irritable than usual, since your brain activity is more accelerated and reactive, manifesting itself in situations that otherwise would not generate that emotion.

Adaptation period

If you have recently experienced severe changes, this is most likely the cause of your sudden fear and sadness. We have all experienced changes that disrupt your lives and demand a period of adaptation: a breakup, a move, a new job. This is normal, and each person at his or her own pace resumes his or her usual emotions once he or she has adapted to the changes.


Anxiety is associated with a complex picture of psychological and emotional symptoms. It is characterized mainly by unpleasant emotions that appear for no apparent reason, and that have their origin in automatic and dysfunctional thoughts. A person with anxiety can be calm in a period of rest, and then imagine a catastrophic scenario about his family that puts him in a state of fear and deep sadness, although that scenario is unrealistic or directly false.

What can you do?

If you feel that your fear and sudden sadness are causing you deep discomfort, such as crying several times a day, feeling paranoid that something or someone will hurt you, or trembling with nervousness and worry, it is time to make changes that will improve your current situation.

Track your emotions

A useful strategy is to make a journal (3) in which you record emotions and thoughts associated with sudden sadness and fear. This consists of keeping a record of every time you experience sudden fear in your daily life. In this diary you will write down the events related to the fear sensation, specifying where you were when it occurred, what activity you were doing, and with whom you were surrounded. This will serve to express your feelings in a physical way, and to find common patterns that show you what aspects of your life are the major causes of fear and sadness.

Supervise your thoughts

You have intrusive thoughts that pop up out of nowhere, but you must learn to monitor and dismiss them. Every time the fear-generating thought pops into your mind, you should ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10, how real is this thought? If the answer is less than a 5, the worry is probably illogical and unnecessary. You can accompany this with slow breathing exercises, inhaling and exhaling every 3 seconds when the fear crosses your mind and generates discomfort.


Physical activity helps you to have more control over your body and mind. Exercising or practicing a sport helps concentration and allows you a different space for recreation and socialization, separated from the stress of your daily life.

Control your sleep

It is important to learn to regulate sleep schedules, establishing specific times to go to bed and get up. Reducing the use of electronic devices and caffeine, as well as exercising, is effective in treating insomnia, although if your sleep problems persist, it is advisable to see a doctor.

In my experience…

Feeling fear and sadness without explanation is common, and you are not a strange or sick person because of it. Simply, it is certain that at this moment in your life you are dealing with many external pressures that you do not know how to manage correctly, and your body and mind are talking to you through fear to ask you to dedicate yourself and your mental health. 

It is also important to see a professional to help you find a more specific treatment for you if these strategies are not working for you. Cognitive behavioral therapy is very effective in treating different forms of anxiety and will give you more accurate tools to manage your emotions.

Remember that you have the ability to improve your psychological state, even if during moments of anxiety or depression we feel that we are hopeless. You can always make small changes that will pay off in the long run. The fact that you are contacting me to seek professional attention in psychological counseling is already a step, and I recognize and applaud you for that. You are already doing something and wanting to change always leads you in the right direction.

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