Describe it: Anxiety / Nervousness


Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
Nervousness: agitated or alarmed; tending to be anxious; highly strung.

Synonym Strength


These are just some of the words that can be used to describe anxiety or nervousness. For more, go to the page for Anxiety / Nervousness.


ANXIETY DISORDERS: Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in western culture, with 40 million people (18% of the population) suffering and only 1/3 of them receiving treatment for it*. A disorder is often diagnosed when the anxiety is prevalent in the day-to-day life of a person and negatively impacts their quality of life, including causing issues with making and maintaining relationships, impacting their ability to work, etc. Anxiety disorders include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Disorders, and more. You can learn more about anxiety disorders and how they impact people’s lives on the Canadian Mental Health Associations website here:
* according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (US)



Related looks: stare, gawk, case, flash, glance, study, fix, blink,

Blinked excessively Eyes haunted by some inner anxiety Unable to make eye contact
Eyes take on a haunted look Eyes in wide circles Glancing around, not focusing on anything
Eyes take on a hunted Eyes burgeoning with tears A momentary look of discomfort crossed their face


Nervously, they moistened their dry lips Lips twitched Smile spastically, a forced expression
Their smile was forced as they attempted to hide their concern Their smile was too large and did not reach their eyes Soft, close-lipped smile suggesting they were humouring a conversation they didn’t wish to have
Chewed on their bottom lip, lost in thoughts of dire consequence to them Licks dry lips They gave an uncertain smile
Lips grew thin and firm

Jaw / Neck

Jaw tense as they ground their teeth They ground their teeth in anxious worry


Spasm crosses one’s face Face grows pensive Face pales
Lines of stress form on their forehead Furrowed brow Face grows haggard with worry
Face tight / pinched Blow their cheeks out with a heavy breath meant to steady them Brows tipped up


Fists clenched Dig nails into palm Bite nails
Wringing hands Hands grabbed onto the arm of the chair Fingers seeking out anything they could hold onto
Scratching at their forehead as if they could pull off the lines of worry Ran their fingers through their hair with shaking hands Fingers tapping in a furious beat
Drum fingers Flipped the pencil through their fingers in dizzying spins to distract themselves  Fingers struck the table in a series of staccato taps
Set to scraping the underside of their nails as though they could scrape the worry away  Jangling the change in their pockets  Fingers tapping against their bottom lip in a steady beat

Body Language / Behaviour

Swallows dryly, unable to wet their parched throat Swallows a lump in their throat Muscles stiffened, ready to run
Body grew tense to the point of shaking Breath growing thin and ragged Arms crossed tightly across the chest
Rubbing the back of the neck Their expression was tight with strain Bite nails
Wringing hands They stiffened at the question Gripped the hair at the back of their head with both hands
A hard, quick pulse in their throat Gulping Clears throat excessively
Fidget in their seat  Shift incessantly in their seat  Toes curl in shoes
Making a great business of inspecting an item Sweat trickling from forehead or armpits Struggle to control quavering
Blushing Kept their features deceptively composed

Internal Reactions

 Feeling trapped  Sudden stab of anxiety in the gut  Heart stumbling over its own rhythm
 A flush of colour warmed their cheeks  Stomach knots / clenches / shrivels / flutters /aches  Wave of acid wells up from their belly
 Stomach contracts into tight ball Unable to speak through the lump in their throat Head aching with the tension
 Unable to sleep for the thoughts tormenting them Skin feels itchy like their being pricked by needles Heart racing or aching
 Chest growing so tight it becomes hard to breathe Mind spirally out of control, stuck on thoughts about … Holding onto the fleeting illusion of security

Impact On Mind

Feeling overwhelmed, like they are losing control  Cannot relax  Paranoia
 Unable to concentrate  Sleeplessness Troubled by nightmares
Having troubles making decisions, as though distracted Stifling their nervousness with the help of a cigarette / alcohol / drugs Suddenly, they were unwilling to do something they’d always enjoyed before
 Jumping in to take control of a situation they feel is getting out of hand Need to exert control over others


Relevant forms of walking: Slink, pace, drift, skulk, cower,

Pacing the hall / room Foot tapping in a quick rhythm against the floor Wandering restlessly around the room
 They paced the room for the remaining time They worked off their anxiety by pacing the room


Relevant ways of speaking: stutter, stammer, quaver, restricted, wooden, frightened, distant

Voice cracking and tight Spoke too quickly to be understood They asked, rephrasing the question as though it were a surprise
They blurted out Spoke in a suffocated whisper Spoke in a tone that was clearly managed
Grows shrill Edged with tension Rising an octave
Responding by repeating the question Half in anticipation half in dread Thick and unsteady

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