“Nervousness” is probably the most misused term in medicine. The adjective nervous, properly defined, means “pertaining to or composed of, nerves; having weak nerves; easily agitated; vigorous in style.” Through common usage both physicians and laymen have by habit employed this word to denote a multitude of poorly defined and poorly differentiated subjective and objective situations. In obtaining psychiatric histories “nervousness” is used to connote anything from extremely mild degrees of restlessness to the most severe psychoses.
“Nervousness” far outnumbers any other presenting symptom encountered in a neuropsychiatric practice. If a statistical study were made of presenting or dominant symptoms in all fields of medicine, “nervousness” would be near the top of the list, if not far ahead of all others.
“Nervousness” is actually a symptom which is a response to physical disease or signifies an aberrant reaction to a situation or a combination of circumstances to which the person may be or has been subjected. Constitutional inclinations are often responsible for the reaction patterns that may be developed. The most benign types of responses to critical situations are only rarely encountered in medical practice, since most persons so affected achieve a satisfactory solution to their problems with a resultant abatement of symptoms in a minimum of time. However, similar circumstances imposed upon a person having different constitutional tendencies might create a clinical picture severe enough to warrant medical attention.
It should be remembered that “nervousness” is frequently a genuine part or concomitant of physical diseases. The anxiety, apprehension, tension,. . .