[NOTE: The following selection comes from "Living Nightmares - Case
Studies in Anxiety" by David McMillin. Copyright © 1992 by David
McMillin. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
"Living Nightmares" is currently available from the A.R.E. Bookstore in
Virginia Beach, Virginia.]
THE SENSITIVE THYROID
It started almost a year ago; it seems to be
nerves, but I have a terrible fear of trains and going out by myself; as
my job necessitates train travel to ..., I live each day in constant fear
that I shall have to go. When one of these attacks comes on I feel
as though I were going to leave my body and the fear is terrible.
They come on even when I am going to a familiar place, now, whereas before
they only seemed to occur when I went to a new place. ...It is ruining
health and my opportunities and I do not seem to be able to fight it.
I have tried everything I know. I have forced myself to do things
but it doesn't help. Now this feeling comes more frequently and without
much apparent cause. I'm afraid I am not being very clear about this
thing, but I do ask you please to find out what I can do to cure myself.
I cannot stand this panic much longer and feel that I am in for some kind
of break-down. Nancy tells me that I can ask questions, but all I
want to know is how to stop this fear...
This excerpt from a letter written by Ms. 
graphically portrays the daily nightmares produced by chronic
anxiety. This thirty year old artist was on the verge of a nervous
breakdown when she sought the aid of Edgar Cayce.
The overwhelming sense of futility and desperation conveyed in her
plea is common in these cases. She had marshalled all
of her inner resources to fight the monstrous fears which dominated
her consciousness - she had tried everything that
she could think of and had come up short in her efforts to find peace
She was not alone in her desperation - anxiety
disorders were, and still are, among the most common psychiatric
disorders. The frequency with which these horrifying illnesses
afflict persons living in the twentieth century has
led some observers to call our time the "age of anxiety."
No doubt, if this woman were living today she
would eventually make her way to a mental health professional for
treatment. The first step in the therapeutic process would be
to diagnose her problem. From a psychiatric standpoint,
her letter suggests at least three forms of anxiety: a fear of trains
(a simple phobia), a fear of going places (agoraphobia), and unexpected
periods of intense fear (panic attacks). Simple phobias are
quite specific since the persistent fear is associated with specific objects
or situations (in her case trains). Agoraphobia is the fear
of being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or
embarrassing), or help might not be forthcoming in the event of anxious
symptoms. Panic attacks are unexpected, discrete periods of
intense fear or discomfort. Since persons who experience frequent
panic attacks tend to suffer from agoraphobia, some researchers postulate
that these two entities are actually different aspects of the same disorder.
This does make sense; if a person is prone to experience unexpected attacks
of fear, they might avoid public places or situations where these attacks
might be disabling and even humiliating.
It is unclear in this case just what the sequence
of symptoms were - that is, whether the attacks preceded her
fear of going out. The relation of the train phobia to these
other forms of anxiety is also unclear. As we shall see in a
moment, while these diagnostic categories and psychiatric labels are
helpful for describing her problems, they are
relatively unimportant from the perspective of the reading given by
Note that she had "tried everything I know"
and wanted to know what she could "do to cure myself." This quality
secrecy is common in anxiety disorders and consequently many cases
are undiagnosed and untreated.
Edgar Cayce gave one reading for this woman
on February 24, 1940. Edgar's wife, Gertrude, directed the reading
provided the hypnotic suggestion to the entranced psychic.
In presenting the reading, I will break it
down into several portions and provide some commentary about relevant
points in each section. The first point to note is that while
the suggestion from Mrs. Cayce was for a "Mental and
Spiritual Reading," Edgar Cayce responded that the "entity as a whole"
must be taken into consideration:
GC: You will have before you the body and
enquiring mind of , born May 18, 1909, in Johannesburg, Africa, who
is now at ..., New York City. This entity seeks information, advice
and guidance in a Mental and Spiritual Reading, as to the cause of her
terrible fear of trains and going out by herself, and what she may do to
EC: Yes, we have the body, the enquiring
mind; the mental reactions, the spiritual attributes and developments of
In giving mental and spiritual advice or counsel,
it is well to consider the entity as a whole. While the entity finds
itself made up, as it were, of body, mind and soul, each of these may function
in a consciousness without the awareness of the other.
This preliminary section introduces
an important concept which runs strongly through all the readings on mental
illness: consider the whole person - body, mind and soul. This
message speaks to us even today when we are prone to
think of mental symptoms as indicative of mental or spiritual problems.
So even though this woman was suffering from
mental symptoms of anxiety and the hypnotic suggestion was given for
a Mental and Spiritual Reading, Mr. Cayce insisted
that the physical dimension was also important and must be addressed.
The last sentence of this excerpt indicates, in a
general way, the source of this woman's anxiety. Her body, mind
and soul were out of synch with each other. As the
reading notes, "each of these may function in a consciousness without
the awareness of the other." The cause of this
incoordination was pinpointed a little further on in the reading.
The reading continues with a classic explanation
of the concept of holism. Edgar Cayce is widely recognized as the
"father of modern holistic medicine." In this respect, the readings
are distinctive for two reasons: 1) they insist upon
a triune model of the human being and 2) they explicitly describe how
the triune aspects of the self connect or
interface together. Mind manifests through the nervous systems
while spirit is active through the glands of the
It is important to note that the reading is
not equating or reducing the mental and spiritual aspects of the self (or
"entity") to physiological processes as modern science tends to do.
Be aware that the brain and nervous system are "not
the mental consciousness" or mental body. The mental body merely
uses these anatomical structures to express itself.
This caution also applies to spirit's manifestation through the glands
of the body.
Hence we find, in the experience of this entity,
there are physical or material, as well as mental and spiritual attributes,
that oft attempt to function in their individual sphere of activity through
the experiences of the other. Thus the disturbances which arise.
For, the effects in the physical consciousness
appear as fears, inhibitions, or doubts.
Hence we may say that there are pathological
and psychological reactions in the body. There are centers in a physical
body through which all phases of the entity's being coordinate with one
another; as in the physical functioning there are the pulsations, the heart
beat, the lungs, the liver, and all the organs of the body. They
each have a function to perform. They each are dependent upon the
other, yet they function according to those directions of the mental self
- or the nervous systems.
Yet, while the brain and the cords through which
the nerves function are the channels, these are not the mental consciousness;
though it is through the nerve plasm that the nervous systems carry impulses
to the various forces of the system.
There are the spiritual attributes, desire, hope,
will, - that function through the organs of reproduction, as well as becoming
the import or motivative force in expression even in a material manner
through the senses of the body; the eye, the ear, the taste, the feeling.
All of these, then, through the lack of coordination,
are at times drawn into confusion through those reactions that reflect
themselves as inhibitions and fears in the body.
This not only causes a great deal of disturbance,
but the lack of the ability to concentrate, or to rest at times.
These naturally, in their various phases, find
centers in some portions of the physical or anatomical system through which
greater expression is given than in others.
In this instance we find that the glands of the
body form the greater portion of such associations or activities.
And, as we have indicated heretofore, one of the more sensitive glands
to such is the thyroid, and the activities of same in their entirety.
Thus we find in this particular body, ,
some deficiency in the activities there. Hence at periods when, through
association of ideas or conditions or circumstances, the body becomes
overexcited and active, there are periods of fear, trembling, and conditions
in which the body will find the reactions as to the lack of a circulation
at all scarcely to the superficial, or even to the extremities.
Thus, the reading traces this woman's
phobias and panic attacks to a deficiency in the functioning of the thyroid
gland. Readers familiar with the Cayce material will not find
this connection particularly surprising. Several prominent readings
were given on the spiritual centers in the body and the thyroid was cited
as a key component in this physio/spiritual network.
In light of modern psychiatric research, one
can theorize that the sense of panic was produced by the thyroid
deficiency and the phobias were a learned or conditioned behavior linked
to these episodes. For example, she may have
experienced her first (a particularly severe) attack while on a train.
Thereafter, her nervous system was "programmed"
with a fear response associated with trains. A similar explanation
could also apply to the more generalized fear
manifested as agoraphobia.
While the episodes of panic may have been the
source of the phobias, the cause of the panic itself apparently ran
deeper than psychological conditioning or dysfunctional glands.
It was the incoordination of body, mind and soul
that was emphasized in the reading.
This incoordination is explicitly described in the
letter from Ms.  at the beginning of this chapter. She
stated: "When one of these attacks comes on I feel as though I were
going to leave my body and the fear is terrible."
This type of dissociative experience would
likely be viewed as depersonalization by an attending psychiatrist.
Depersonalization is a feeling of strangeness or unreality regarding
one's self, particularly one's identity and/or
body perceptions. The depersonalization experienced by 
was probably produced at a physical level by an
incoordination between the deep and superficial circulation of the
blood. As the reading states: "... there are periods
of fear, trembling, and conditions in which the body will find the
reactions as to the lack of a circulation at all
scarcely to the superficial, or even to the extremities." This
form of incoordination was occasionally described in the
readings as a breakdown between the deep circulation (as governed by
the central nervous system) and the superficial
circulation as governed by the sympathetic nervous system). The
incoordination takes on further significance when one
realizes that the readings associated the central (cerebrospinal) nervous
system with the conscious mind and the sympathetic nervous system with
the unconscious mind (which is the mind of the soul). Thus the incoordination
was experienced as a dissociation of the self.
Mr.  was a young man (twenty-three years
old) who was having similar episodes of depersonalization which the
readings linked to an incoordination in the nervous and circulatory
systems. The brief excerpt which follows helps
to clarify the physiology of this dissociative experience by emphasizing
the importance of a balanced flow of blood
between the deep circulation (within the body cavity) and superficial
circulation (the "outer portion of the system").
Throat, bronchi, lungs, larynx, show the effect
of the poor circulation, or the conditions that have been described of
there being a deep circulation well cared for but the lymph and the superficial
circulation in the outer portion of the system being slow. Hence
the conditions that arise often for there to be a tendency of portions
of the body in the extremities to appear or have the feeling of being SEPARATED
from the rest of the body. And also those influences that make for
the periods when vision or dream or experiences are as if the body were
SEPARATING itself from its physical being while the mental activities VISION
that going on. These are very well if controlled, for it shows the
activity of the PSYCHIC forces and psychic influences in the body being
able to operate either with or separate from the physical being.
Yet, as a unit, as a whole, in the physical being, should the body be able
to FUNCTION the better. (440-2)
The level of dissociation in these
cases could almost be described as a form of "out of body" experience.
the case of Mr. , the experience was apparently not as unpleasant
or frightening as it for Ms.  since the degree of incoordination
was not as extreme.
This theme of incoordination between body,
mind and spirit is extremely common in the hundreds of readings given for
persons suffering from major mental illness. As was the case in reading
2114-1, the physical dimension was strongly emphasized. The direct
linkage of the incoordination with a "deficiency in the activities" of
the thyroid is an excellent example of this theme. Interestingly
enough, thyroid dysfunction is widely recognized by the medical profession
as an organic cause of various forms of anxiety including panic attacks.
Medical science does not know just how thyroid
dysfunction can lead to panic. The Cayce readings may shed some light
on this process for they link glandular functioning to the nervous system:
"All portions of the nervous system of the physical body, of the physical
functioning, are affected by those activities of secretions through glandular
forces of the body." (566-7) "For the glands are that through which
the relationships are kept established as it were between the spiritual
body and the
mental body." (1158-13) Thus, glandular dysfunction can lead
to an incoordination between the body's systems through which
body, mind and spirit interface.
More specifically, the glandular influence
on nervous functioning may affect the cardiovascular system resulting in
the symptoms of panic. Consider, for example, this excerpt from reading
(Q) What is peculiar feeling of contraction in throat at times?
(used to have it years ago, before my lung trouble started)
(A) It is the need for the activity with the GLANDULAR system,
or the thyroids specifically, as related to the GENERAL circulation.
Hence it is well that at TIMES the Calcios be
increased; not every time, but once a week or oftener, increased just a
little; to aid in stimulating glandular activity.
Also it is well to increase in the diet especially
the quantity of fish or shell fish that would be taken - to add iodine
to the system.
The feeling of contraction of the
throat (choking) is one of the physical sensations that is commonly experienced
during a panic attack. The medication and dietary recommendations
for Mr.  (Calcios and iodine) were similar to the suggestions provided
for Ms. , whose treatment plan we shall now examine.
A holistic therapeutic approach was advised
for Ms. 's anxiety. She was encouraged to analyze her mental
and spiritual ideals and apply them in her physical experience.
She was told to find that upon which she could "rely for SPIRITUAL enlightenment,
spiritual affiliation and associations." Specific selections from the Bible
were recommended (the 30th chapter of Deuteronomy and the 14th, 15th, 16th,
17th chapters of St. John. The readings frequently suggested
these chapters for persons suffering from mental and emotional problems
such as anxiety and depression.
The treatment plan went on to specify physical
treatments which addressed the thyroid dysfunction and sought to restore
balance to the glandular and nervous systems. Three medications were
prescribed: Atomidine, Calcios and a
gold and soda solution.
Thus, the recommendations for Ms.  covered
all three aspects of the self: the mental ("mind is the builder ... through
that which the entity as a whole holds as its ideal); the spiritual ("find
that upon which it [the entity] may rely for SPIRITUAL enlightenment, spiritual
affiliation and associations") and physical (the Atomidine, Calcios and
gold and soda solutions).
Since the medications mentioned in this reading
are not widely known and will be cited in other cases in the chapters
which follow, I will briefly discuss them here. Atomidine was
frequently recommended in the readings as a stimulant for
the glandular system. It is a form of "atomic iodine" which is
relatively nontoxic. Its apparent function in this case was to stimulate
the thyroid and coordinate its activity with the other endocrine glands.
Calcios was a commercially available formula made from pulverized chicken
bones. In addition to being high in calcium and protein, it was also
a source of iodine. It was recommended to improve assimilations and
glandular balance which would ultimately "strengthen the vital forces which
flow through the nerve impulses themselves." The gold and soda solutions
were recommended in many cases of mental illness to "produce stamina in
the tissue of the nerve cords in the cerebrospinal, in the association
[coordination] of the cerebrospinal and sympathetic in varied plexus and
the muscular forces ..." (271-1).
The recommendation for the calcium supplement
is interesting in view of recent research linking low levels of calcium
(hypocalcemia) to certain symptoms of panic such as paresthesias (abnormal
sensation without objective cause), myalgias (tenderness or pain in the
muscles) and a sense of fatigue. Perhaps reading 2114-1 anticipated
this research finding and prescribed an accessible remedy.
From a theoretical perspective, one can see
how these physical treatments were aimed at coordinating body, mind and
spirit. The various medications were directed at balancing glandular
functioning (through which the spiritual forces manifest) and improving
nervous system functioning (through which the mental forces act).
Since this is not a treatment manual, I will
not go into the details of therapy at this time. I have discussed
these treatments at length in previous books and readers seeking an in-depth
discussion can refer to these works (The Treatment of Depression
is particularly relevant since anxious persons are also frequently depressed).
There are several other important resources available including circulating
files on the application of ideals and the use of Atomidine. The
list of resources in the Appendix may also prove helpful in this regard.
There is no follow-up report in this file to
give us information on treatment outcome. A letter from Ms. 
dated February 27, 1940 states: "I am most glad to get it [the reading]
- I am faithfully going to follow the instructions. If hope that
this is the answer has anything to do with it, I can assure you that it
The importance of the physical aspect of mental
illnesses such as anxiety disorders will be strongly emphasized in the
case studies which follow. The uniqueness of this case is its biochemical
emphasis. More often, the readings cited structural dysfunctions
such as spinal lesions. Our next case, Mrs.  is an excellent
example of this pattern of pathology.