AskDefine | Define nervousness

Dictionary Definition



1 the anxious feeling you have when you have the jitters [syn: jitteriness, jumpiness, restiveness]
2 an uneasy psychological state; "he suffered an attack of nerves" [syn: nerves]
3 a sensitive or highly strung temperament

User Contributed Dictionary



nervous + -ness


  1. The state or quality of being nervous.



Extensive Definition

This article is about state anxiety. For information on susceptibility to anxiety, see trait anxiety.
Anxiety is a physiological state characterized by cognitive, somatic, emotional, and behavioral components. These components combine to create the feelings that we typically recognize as anger and known as fear, apprehension, or worry. Anxiety is often accompanied by physical sensations such as heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, stomach aches, or headache. The cognitive component entails expectation of a diffuse and certain danger. Somatically the body prepares the organism to deal with threat (known as an emergency reaction): blood pressure and heart rate are increased, sweating is increased, bloodflow to the major muscle groups is increased, and immune and digestive system functions are inhibited (the 'fight or flight' response). Externally, somatic signs of anxiety may include pale skin, sweating, trembling, and pupillary dilation. Emotionally, anxiety causes a sense of dread or panic and physically causes nausea, diarrhoea, and chills. Behaviorally, both voluntary and involuntary behaviors may arise directed at escaping or avoiding the source of anxiety and often maladaptive, being most extreme in anxiety disorders. However, anxiety is not always pathological or maladaptive: it is a common emotion along with fear, anger, sadness, and happiness, and it has a very important function in relation to survival.
Neural circuitry involving the amygdala and hippocampus is thought to underlie anxiety. When confronted with unpleasant and potentially harmful stimuli such as foul odors or tastes, PET-scans show increased bloodflow in the amygdala. In these studies, the participants also reported moderate anxiety. This might indicate that anxiety is a protective mechanism designed to prevent the organism from engaging in potentially harmful behaviors.


Although anxiety attacks are not experienced by every anxiety sufferer, they are a common symptom. Anxiety attacks usually come without warning, and although the fear is generally irrational, the perceived danger is very real. A person experiencing an anxiety attack will often feel as if they are about to die or pass out.
Emotional symptoms of anxiety include a fear (such as a fear of an illness), they may feel the need to avoid certain stressful situations or social situations due to fear of embarrassment. There may be considerable confusion and irritability when the anxiety is taking place. Physical symptoms include hot flushes, chest pain, sudden tiredness, headaches, shortness of breath, problems digesting and nausea.


Two factor theory of anxiety

Sigmund Freud recognized anxiety as a "signal of danger" and a cause of "defensive behavior". He believed we acquire anxious feelings through classical conditioning and traumatic experiences.
People maintain anxiety through operant conditioning; when people see or encounter something associated with a previous traumatic experience, anxious feelings resurface. People feel temporarily relieved when we avoid/remove ourselves from situations which make us anxious/fearful, known as negative-reinforcement, but this only increases anxious feelings the next time we are in the same position, and we will want to escape the situation again and therefore will not make any progress against the anxiety, only intensifying the emotions or fear. Phobias can be developed this way, as well as cured using the opposite positive-reinforcement whereby instead of removal from the anxiety causing situation (which acts as a 'reward' (negative-reinforcement)) something positive can be added to the situation instead to act as a reward, like actually facing the fear and coming away from it safely. This is known as positive reinforcement of a negative situation.

Types of anxiety

Existential anxiety

See more under existential crisis.
Theologians like Paul Tillich and psychologists like Sigmund Freud have characterized anxiety as the reaction to what Tillich called, "The trauma of nonbeing." That is, the human comes to realize that there is a point at which he or she might cease to be (die), and their encounter with reality becomes characterized by anxiety. Religion, according to both Tillich and Freud, then becomes a carefully crafted coping mechanism in response to this anxiety since they redefine death as the end of only the corporal part of human personal existence, assuming an immortal soul. What then becomes of this soul and through what criteria is the cardinal difference of various religious faiths.
Philosophical ruminations are a part of this condition, and this is part of obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are typically about sex and religion or death. However, truly rational philosophical thinking is usually driven by a desire for a rational understanding of reality, rather than a desire to avoid death.
According to Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning, when faced with extreme mortal dangers the very basic of all human wishes is to find a meaning of life to combat this "trauma of nonbeing" as death is near and to succumb to it (even by suicide) seems like a way out.
The "father" of existentialism, Søren Kierkegaard, regarded all humans to be born into despair by default (in The Sickness Unto Death). Such despair was created by having a false conception of the self. He regarded the mortal self which can exist relatively, and therefore be born or die, as the false self. The true self was the relationship of self to God, rather than to any relative object.

Test anxiety

Test anxiety is the uneasiness, apprehension, or nervousness felt by students who have a fear of failing an exam. Students suffering from test anxiety may experience any of the following: the association of grades with personal worth, fear of embarrassment by a teacher, fear of alienation from parents or friends, time pressures, or feeling a loss of control. Emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and physical components can all be present in test anxiety. Sweating, dizziness, headaches, racing heartbeats, nausea, fidgeting, and drumming on a desk are all common. An optimal level of arousal is necessary to best complete a task such as an exam; however, when the anxiety or level of arousal exceeds that optimum, it results in a decline in performance. Because test anxiety hinges on fear of negative evaluation, debate exists as to whether test anxiety is itself a unique anxiety disorder or whether it is a specific type of social phobia. In 2006, approximately 49% of high school students were reportedly experiencing this condition.
While the term "test anxiety" refers specifically to students, many adults share the same experience with regard to their career or profession. The fear of failing a task and being negatively evaluated for it can have a similarly negative effect on the adult.

Stranger and social anxiety

Anxiety when meeting or interacting with unknown people is a common stage of development in young people.
So-called "stranger anxiety" in younger people is not a phobia in the classic sense; rather it is a developmentally appropriate fear by young children of those who do not share a loved-one, caretaker or parenting role. In adults, an excessive fear of other people is not a developmentally common stage; it is called social anxiety.

Anxiety in palliative care

Some research has strongly suggested that treating anxiety in cancer patients improves their quality of life. The treatment generally consists of counseling, relaxation techniques or pharmacologically with benzodiazepines.

Herbal treatments

Marijuana has been used to treat anxiety , although due to its prohibition many countries do not employ its use. Marijuana is also associated with causing anxiety. Kava root is also an effective natural treatment for short-term relief of mild anxiety. Due to recent findings regarding side effects of prolonged used of Kava-Kava, some individuals have turned to other natural herbs such as valerian (herb) root, Chamomile, orange peel and peppermint, for example.


nervousness in Bosnian: Anksioznost
nervousness in Bulgarian: Тревожност
nervousness in Catalan: Ansietat
nervousness in Czech: Úzkost
nervousness in Danish: Angst
nervousness in German: Angst
nervousness in Spanish: Ansiedad
nervousness in Persian: اضطراب
nervousness in French: Anxiété
nervousness in Croatian: Anksioznost
nervousness in Ido: Anxio
nervousness in Italian: Ansia
nervousness in Lithuanian: Nerimas
nervousness in Dutch: Faalangst
nervousness in Japanese: 不安
nervousness in Norwegian: Angst
nervousness in Polish: Lęk
nervousness in Portuguese: Ansiedade
nervousness in Russian: Тревога
nervousness in Albanian: Frika
nervousness in Sicilian: Ngustia
nervousness in Simple English: Anxiety
nervousness in Slovak: Úzkosť
nervousness in Serbian: Анксиозност
nervousness in Swedish: Ångest
nervousness in Turkish: Anksiyete

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

agitability, agitation, all-overs, allergy, anaphylaxis, angst, anxiety, anxiety hysteria, anxiety neurosis, anxious bench, anxious concern, anxious seat, anxiousness, apprehension, apprehensiveness, bite, bitingness, bluster, bobbery, boil, boiling, brouhaha, bustle, cankerworm of care, care, chills of fear, churn, cold creeps, cold shivers, cold sweat, combustibility, commotion, concern, concernment, considerateness, conturbation, creeps, cuttingness, delicacy, discomposure, disorder, disquiet, disquietude, distress, disturbance, dread, drive, ebullition, edginess, effectiveness, embroilment, emotional instability, emotionalism, empathy, eruptiveness, excitability, excitableness, excitement, explosiveness, exquisiteness, fear, fear and trembling, ferment, fermentation, fever, feverishness, fidgets, fineness, flap, flurry, fluster, flutteration, foment, force, forcefulness, foreboding, forebodingness, fume, fuss, goose bumps, gooseflesh, guts, heartquake, horripilation, hubbub, hurly-burly, hyperesthesia, hyperpathia, hypersensitivity, identification, impressiveness, incisiveness, inflammability, inquietude, irascibility, irritability, jimjams, jitters, jumpiness, latent violence, maelstrom, malaise, misgiving, moil, mordancy, nerviness, nervosity, nervous strain, nervous tension, overanxiety, oversensibility, oversensitiveness, overtenderness, palpitation, passibility, perceptiveness, perceptivity, perturbability, perturbation, photophobia, pins and needles, poignancy, power, prickliness, pucker, punch, quaking, quiver of terror, responsiveness, restlessness, roil, rout, row, seethe, seething, sensitiveness, sensitivity, sensitization, shivers, sinew, sinewiness, skittishness, solicitude, soreness, startlishness, stew, stir, strain, strength, strong language, supersensitivity, suspense, sweat, swirl, sympathy, tact, tactfulness, tempestuousness, tenderness, tension, tetchiness, thin skin, thrill of fear, ticklishness, to-do, touchiness, trenchancy, trepidation, trepidity, trouble, tumult, tumultuation, turbidity, turbulence, turmoil, twitter, unease, uneasiness, unquietness, unrest, upset, vexation, vigor, vigorousness, violence, vitality, zeal
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