Nervousness vs. Anxiety

I see a lot of things that are like “how to deal with anxiety” that are really “how to deal with being nervous”. So I am here to tell you that anxiety and nervousness are Decidedly Not the same thing. (As literally anyone with actual anxiety could tell you.)

Nervousness is how you feel before giving a speech, taking a test, going to a job interview, or coming out to someone, among many other scenarios. Nervousness is fleeting. It doesn’t last very long. It is situation-specific.

Anxiety is long-lasting. It is not tied to any particular situation. It is the voice in your head that says, “I can’t think of anything to worry about, but there has to be something to worry about, so until I can think of something, I’m going to worry about the fact that I’m not worried.” It is the shaking hands and nausea every time you think about even thinking about looking for a job. It is the jump from “I’m not sure I can do this” to “I cannot do this” to “I cannot do anything” to “I am a failure.” It is being unable to fall asleep at night because you feel so ill about everything that you have to do tomorrow because you couldn’t do it today because the thought of starting made you feel sicker than any virus ever has. It is every muscle of your body aching from the tension of keeping your fears from bursting away from you.

Anxiety is debilitating. Nervousness is not.



(Anxiety is a clinical condition. It is diagnosable and treatable, and there are excellent therapies and therapists for it. Please get help if you have anxiety.)


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