Nervousness vs. Anxiety: What’s The Difference?

Nervousness and anxiety are two very common stress responses that the majority of people will experience in their life. But is being nervous and anxious the same thing?

Anxiety is a persistent state of worry; it is disruptive to daily life and can arise anytime. Nervousness, on the other hand, is a more acute stress response that directly results from a real or imagined threat. In other words, feeling nervous can subside once the situation is over.  

When it comes to nervousness vs. anxiety, remember that anxiety is a more continuous state of worry with psychophysiological symptoms. Nervousness tends to be more short-lived, and symptoms tend to be milder. [i]

Although anxiety can be a challenging condition to live with, treatment can be very effective.

For over 40 years, the Drake Institute has used non-drug, non-invasive treatment protocols to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

To learn more about the technologies used at the Drake Institute, please call today at 1-800-700-4233 or fill our free contact form.



What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a common stress response that most people experience at some point in their life. It is characterized by extreme worry, fear, or misapprehension. While anxiety may be induced by a specific trigger, it may also be free-floating without any obvious cause that can evolve into a Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). [ii]

Anxiety should be treated if it is disrupting your social life, work, study, or family relationships.

Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a psychophysiological disorder. Sleeping problems, tight muscles, headaches, digestive discomfort, feeling easily threatened, and racing thoughts are some of the most common symptoms of anxiety.

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Digestive dysfunction
  • Easily fatigued
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tensions in the neck and shoulder
  • Somatic symptoms (sweating, nausea, diarrhea)
  • Frequent urination
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
  • Headaches
  • Cold or sweaty hands
  • Palpitations (heart pounding)
  • Tachycardia (elevated heart rate)
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Hyperventilating
  • Trembling

 Anxiety Symptoms in Adults

  • Disturbed sleep (falling or staying asleep)
  • Irritability
  • Feeling on edge
  • Emotional over-reactivity
  • Easily fatigued
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Debilitating fear
  • Excessive worrying
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Social avoidance
  • Low self-image
  • Unrelieved or chronic self-doubt
  • Inner restlessness
  • Phobias
  • Substance abuse (self-medicating symptoms)

 Anxiety Symptoms in Children

  • Stomachaches
  • Chronic indigestion
  • Clinging behavior
  • Fear of separation from parents
  • School avoidance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Temper tantrums
  • Fear and avoidance of social situations
  • Headaches
  • Fear of sleeping alone
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Nightmares

What Causes Anxiety?

If you’ve ever felt scared, then you’re probably familiar with the body’s stress response, also called the fight-or-flight response. This stress response is triggered when we feel threatened.

When the brain interprets potential danger it sends adrenaline throughout the body, signaling that it needs to prepare to fight or run away. Hands become cold with reduced blood flow to the extremities, blood pressure and heart rate increase, your immune system is suppressed, digestion is slowed, your liver starts releasing glucose into the bloodstream, and you’re likely to feel apprehensive and on edge.

As soon as you feel safe, these physical reactions dissipate, and you return to your normal state. But if these stress reactions occur frequently and/or chronically then your baseline state could evolve into chronic anxiety.

When Does Anxiety Become A Disorder?

Anxiety that is not overwhelming can be motivating and beneficial to performance.

However, anxiety becomes a disorder when it is consistent, disrupts daily life, and is out of proportion to the outside circumstance. According to the DSM-V, anxiety disorder “[includes] disorders that share features of excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioral disturbances.” Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common disorder of this type. [iii]

What Does It Mean To Be Nervous?

Nervousness is another typical stress response. Like anxiety, it is psychophysiological, meaning there are both physical and psychological/emotional symptoms.

Nervousness is temporary and disappears when the trigger is removed. It’s a common reaction to feeling outside of your comfort zone and is often caused by experiencing any unfamiliar or challenging situation.

Symptoms Of Nervousness

Nervousness shares many symptoms with anxiety, especially relating to heart rate, muscle tension, and digestion. In contrast, though, they don't last as long and may be milder in intensity.

Symptoms of nervousness will vary from person to person, but most people experience some combination of physical and mental symptoms, including the following: [iv]

  • Headaches
  • Numbness
  • Tingling or strange sensations
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Problems concentrating
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Body aches
  • Chest tightness or trouble breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Stomachache

Differences Between Being Anxious & Nervous

Because anxiety and nervousness share many of the same symptoms, how can you tell the difference between feeling nervous and anxious?

Primarily, symptoms of nervousness are less severe than those of anxiety. Feelings of nervousness usually appear because of a trigger, like an upcoming performance or problem that needs to be dealt with. Anxiety may also seem to occur for no reason at all. And when the situation is over, feelings of nervousness tend to resolve, while feelings of anxiety may persist.

In short, with nervous vs. anxious, remember that nervousness is more of a transient reaction to a specific situation, while anxiety is a more prolonged or sustained experience.

How The Drake Institute Treats Anxiety

We all experience anxiety from time to time, but it should be addressed when it becomes persistent and disruptive to daily life.

For the last forty years, the Drake Institute has helped patients reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders and other medical conditions, like PTSD, insomnia, panic disorders, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, depression, ADHD, autism, and more.

Treatment programs utilize advanced medical technologies like qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neurostimulation to improve symptoms and enable patients to gain better control of self-regulation.


We perform stress testing with Biofeedback instrumentation to measure any elevated levels of psychophysiological tension. Through Biofeedback treatment/training a patient can learn to reduce excessive levels of physiologic tension that helps alleviate symptoms. Our non-drug treatment process enables patients to achieve self-regulation for long-term improvement.

Brain Mapping

Treatment at the Drake Institute begins with qEEG brain mapping. During this evaluation, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp to monitor brainwave activity reflecting the underlying neurophysiology.

These sensors measure activity in regions or networks of the brain linked to symptoms. The results are then sent through an FDA-registered normative database of asymptomatic individuals. Comparing your results to the neurotypical data allows us to identify which areas or networks of the brain are dysregulated linked to symptoms. Once the dysregulation has been identified, we can create a customized treatment protocol.


Following biofeedback treatment, neurofeedback is the next step in treating nervousness and anxiety. In this process, the sensors are placed on the patient’s scalp to record brainwave activity that the patient is then made aware of through visual and auditory feedback which enables them to improve brainwave activity to reduce nervousness and anxiety through their own self-regulated control.

Just like brain mapping, neurofeedback is non-invasive and non-drug, making it safe for children and adults with any number of neurophysical disorders.


In some cases, we use neuromodulation in addition to neurofeedback. This technology allows us to gently guide the patient’s brain towards desired, more functionally healthier and more appropriate brainwave patterns to further reduce nervousness and anxiety. We have found this to be particularly effective in helping anxiety and panic disorders.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

Feelings of nervousness and anxiety are expected at some point in our lives. However, if the symptoms become persistent and disruptive in your day to day life then please reach out to us for help. To find out how the Drake Institute can help you reduce or resolve feelings of nervousness and anxiety, call 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form.






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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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