Skip to main content

What happens when you are nervous?

When you experience nerves, anxiety or stress about an event, certain physical reactions happen automatically. If you recall a time when you were interviewed or made a presentation you may have noticed that you reacted in some of the following ways:

  • your voice trembled;
  • you had sweaty palms;
  • you experienced shortness of breath;
  • your heartbeat accelerated;
  • you had butterflies or an upset stomach;
  • you experienced a generalised feeling of fear.

These reactions are driven by the production of hormones and equip us to fight or escape from situations that are dangerous or threatening. This is known as the fight or flight response; your body is alert, ready for action and is preparing itself to cope with the situation. Once the threatening event is over, your body will gradually return to normal. Although this process is designed to assist you during potentially threatening situations, it can cause difficulties, particularly if your level of anxiety is too great and/or it occurs for a long time period.