What does Nerve-Wracking mean? (+how to deal with anxiety)

In this brief guide, we will look at what Nerve Wracking means, as well as how to cope with nerve wracking situations.

What does Nerve Wracking mean?

Nerve Wracking means something that makes you feel extremely anxious or worried and makes it hard for you to do things that are making you feel this way.

Nerve wracking is a phrase people may use when they want to express how worried they are about a situation and it is usually used to describe particular situations.

When someone uses the phrase nerve wracking all the time, or in specific situations, it can often mean that they have anxiety related issues or that they may be suffering from a lowered performance because their nervous system is quite literally under stress.

Nerve Wracking is a phrase that comes from nerves racking, and the origins of racking are based on the medival torture device that was used to take people apart, literally, and it started being used as a means to imply that the person is falling to pieces because of whatever is happening to them.

Another common usage of wracked you may have heard is wracked with guilt, which implies that the person is just falling apart due to guilt over something, and again, it implies that the person’s insides are getting torn out because of their mental state.

Needless to say, if you are actually experiencing a condition that makes you use the phrase nerve wracking in all seriousness, you may need some intervention or at the very least you may need to get away from the nerve wracking situation.

Anxiety is a problem that may make every situation feel nerve wracking even when it actually isn’t, because the physical manifestations of anxiety can feel like serious medical probems in extreme cases.

Furthermore, if you find specific aspects of life, like social situations nerve wracking, you may be experiencing social anxiety and it is a serious condition that can make doing social things very hard.

People who are experiencing social anxiety can find situations like giving a speech or talking to a room full of people very nerve wracking and many people can even feel like they will pass out or throw up when they are put in such situations.

Nerve Wracking Anxiety

Anxiety can take many forms, and almost all of them include a nerve wracking fear that threatens to paralyse you, which is why it is so important to recgonise the signs and symptoms of anxiety and get help for it.

Some common signs and symptoms of anxiety:

  • Apprehension
  • Sweating
  • Tachycardia or tachypnoea
  • Epigastric discomfort
  • Worries about possible future misfortunes
  • Feeling “on edge”
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Motor tension
  • Restless fidgeting. You can get a fidget ring or a spinner ring to control your anxiety.
  • Tension headaches
  • Trembling
  • Inability to relax
  • Autonomic overactivity
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth

In general language, one might describe feeling like things are nerve wracking, and they may feel a praalysing fear of just about any random thing.

The term “anxiety” comes from the Latin word “anxius”, and its usage dates back as early as 1525. The Latin term was defined as a condition of agitation and distress, which is why nerve wracking feelings that make the person unable to accomplish things are so commonly found in anxiety. 

The stem of “anxius”—anx—comes from another Latin word “angere”, which means “to choke” or “to strangle”. The word anxious probably referred to the choking sensation frequently experienced by anxious individuals, and this is another reason why nerve wracking is a phrase often associated with anxiety, because nerves are completely fraught in the experience of anxiety.

Anxiety is defined as a “tense emotional state”. It is an unpleasant feeling arising without any objective source of danger. It is a painful uneasiness of mind, a state of hightened tension accompanied by an inexpressible dread a feeling of apprehensive expectation.

However nerve wracking things may be, however, the truth is that some amount of nerve wracking fear is actually good sometimes too, let’s see why.

Why is Fear Important?

Fear is a vital evolutionary legacy that leads an organism to avoid threat, and has obvious survival value because it makes you aware of present or impending danger and is normal in appropriate situations.

For instance, nerve wracking fear when you are driving too fast or when you are alone in the night and hear sounds is totally normal and should in fact be terrifying.

Without fear few would survive long under natural conditions. Even nerve wracking fear can allow us to spring to rapid action in the face of danger and that lets us perform well under stress.

Fear may cause many reactions in the body, including visible behavioural expression as well as an inner feeling and accompanying physiological changes. 

In humans as well as in animals two obvious behavioural expressions of fear present a striking contrast. One is the tendency to freeze and become mute, which reaches its extreme form in the tendency to feign death, and the opposite response is the startle response.

When someone experiences sudden nerve wracking fear they may have the tendency to scream and run away from the source of danger, and this is whata true startle, or “flight” response is.

Another significant pattern of response to nerve wracking fear is when a frightened person first freezes and then suddenly scurries for shelter. 

With nerve wracking fear there are unpleasant feeling of terror, and urge to run and hide, to cry or even a pounding heart or tense muscles.

The person may also experience the typical signs of anxiety like trembling, liability to startle, dryness of the throat and mouth, a sinking feeling in the stomach, nausea, perspiration, an urge to urinate and defecate, irritability, anger, difficulty in breathing, tingling of hands and feet, weakness or even paralysis of the limbs.

Many people with a particularly strong anxious response may feel a sense of faintness or falling and a sense of unreality or of being distant from the event. 

The worst part about prolonged fear is that it may prove quite literally nerve wracking, in that it stresses the nervous system so much that it can lead to tiredness or difficulty in sleeping and bad dreams, restlessness or being easily startled. 

People who undergo constant stress and anxiety can also experience a significant loss of appetite, aggression and avoidance of further novel of tension – producing even more nerve wracking situations.

The lack of appetite can pose a problem at the nutritional level since it is possible that after a long time, there is a lack of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for the body. If you think this could be happening to you, check out which are the best minerals for anxiety.

Check our extensive list of 10 Vitamins for Anxiety.

What to do about Nerve Wracking situations?

Here are some basic things you can start with to deal with nerve wracking situations:

  • Make deep breathing a part of your life.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get better sleep
  • Try meditation. Check the list of helpful meditation apps that have reduced anxiety in people.
  • Learn how to talk yourself down
  • Learn to focus inward rather than outward
  • Talk your fears out with someone
  • Talk to people in your life 
  • Ask for help

If you need help with this, you should take a look at Hemi-Sync Complete Review. You can use these to meditate, relax, or concentrate.

In most cases where someone is expereincng nerve wracking fear across various situations in their life, therapists may use supportive psychotherapy.

The object in supportive psychotherapy is to bring the patient to an emotional equilibrium as rapidly as possible with amelioration of symptoms, so that he can function as normal as possible. 

An effort is made to strengthen existing defenses as well as to elaborate better “mechanism of control”. Simultaneously one attempts to remove or to reduce detrimental external factors that act as sources of stress. 

Another possible type of therapy which may be used for more serious situations may be reconstructive therapy, a type that includes therapies such as psychoanalysis and other long lasting types.

The ultimate goal of psychotherapy is to reduce the force of irrational impulses and striving and bring them under control, to increase the repertoire of defenses and make them more flexible, and to lessen the severity of the conscience, altering value systems so as to enable the patient to adapt himself to reality and his own inner needs. 

In reconstructive psychotherapy, efforts at insight are maximal and extensive but are focused on conscious problems. The objective is to bring the individual to an awareness of crucial unconscious conflicts, to restore to an effective life functioning through resolution of disabling symptoms and disturbed interpersonal relationships, and to promote maturation of emotional development. 

The last type of psychotherapy that may be used is re-educative psychotherapy, which involves teaching alternate ways of thinking and feeling, and includes subtypes like cognitive behavior therapy.

This is currently the most popular approach to the treatment of phobias, obsessions and compulsions (rituals) and it involves techniques based on learning theory. 

Learning can be defined as – “some modification in the behaviour of the individual as a result of experience (training), which is retained for at least a certain period of time by the individual”. 

According to learning theory obsessions, compulsions and phobias are conditioned responses to anxiety provoking stimuli. Compulsions and avoidance of phobic objects or situations are established when the patient discovers that the compulsive acts or avoidance reduces the anxiety. The reduction in anxiety reinforce the compulsive act or avoidance behaviour.

Specific phobia is a form of anxiety that is related to internal fears of specific things or objects. For example fear of airplanes. If you’re fear of airplanes, you might use sedatives for Airplane Anxiety. Also, check the Best Airlines for Anxiety and things to take for airplane anxiety,

BetterHelp: A Better Alternative

Those who are seeking therapy online may also be interested in BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers plenty of formats of therapy, ranging from live chats, live audio sessions and live video sessions. In addition, unlimited messaging through texting, audio messages and even video messages are available here.

BetterHelp also offers couples therapy and therapy for teenagers in its platform. Furthermore, group sessions can also be found in this platform, covering more than twenty different topics related to mental health and mental illness. The pricing of BetterHelp is also pretty cost-effective, especially considering the fact that the platform offers financial aid to most users.


In this brief guide, we looked at what Nerve Wracking means, as well as how to cope with nerve wracking situations.

Being in a nerve wracking situation can sometimes render you completely immobile, and you may not know how to get out, and you may not know how to accomplish what you are trying to but there are ways to stop feeling this way.

Finding situations nerve wracking can often be a sign of generalized or social anxiety, and like any anxiety provoking feelings this is also something that can be helped if you just try a little bit and seek the necessary guidance and help.

If you have any questions or comments about what you find nerve wracking, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Nerve Wracking 

Is it nerve wracking or nerve racking?

The original spelling and phrase is “Nerve-racking” and it refers to something that makes you extremely nervous, but the alternate spelling “Nerve-wracking” has become more widely-used and well-established and while most editors and usage dictionaries will be okay with it, purists and prescriptivists don’t like to use this variant.

Is it wracking or racking?

Wracking and racking are both correct, and in some cases, like in storm-wracked, and pain-wracked, one might use wracked, but in other cases ‘rack’ may be used , like “rack and ruin,”, “racking my brains,” and so on.

What’s another word for nerve wracking?

Another word for nerve wracking may be distressing, harrowing, or feeling on edge. Tense may also be used as an alternative for nerve wracking.

Is it wrack your brain or rack your brain?

One may use both wrack your brain and rack your brain, both may mean torture yourself to come up with something or to figure something out.

Most people may prefer wrack your brain over rack, though, given that the origins of the word rack are somewhat crude as it used to mean a torture device used to tear people’s limbs off.