Nervous Wreck

She's always like this.

There are some characters who can keep a cool head no matter what. Then at the other end of the scale, there's this person. They'll be the first to panic under pressure, and Heroic BSODs are a common thing for them. Pessimistic by nature, they'll automatically assume the worst and worry even when everything's going right. And when the worst really does happen, they might even reduce to spouting incoherent gibberish.

Often, this character is revealed to have a painful past that left them like this. As such, this is sometimes a trait of a Shrinking Violet or a more emotional Broken Bird. Some versions of this will hide their anxiety (or at least try to) behind a cheerful facade.

Contrast The Stoic, Nerves of Steel.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Strips 
  • One character in Dilbert named Ted (not to be confused with Ted the generic guy) with an appropriate nickname.
  • TNT the cowardly talking dog from Rip Haywire.
  • Wade Duck from U.S. Acres.

    Fan Works 
  • In Dragon Ball Abridged, this happens to Krillin. He cannot shut up when he's scared.
  • In A Fanciful Dream Bella experiences this. Granted, she thought she was being stalked.
  • In Graduate Meeting Of Mutual Killing, Hoshio Saitou really doesn't take well the perspective of being left in a shelter to starve to death. He even considers barricading himself in his bedroom, out of panic.

    Films — Animation 
  • Rex in Toy Story is very easy to set off, from either external or internal factors.
  • Panic in Hercules. The series also introduced Neurosis, whom even Panic considers a mess.
  • The second princess in Son of the White Horse is one. She did get married to a dragon who seems to represent the horrors of industrial warfare.
  • Max in Mary and Max is one generally, with panic attacks striking whenever his life is "disrupted" — say, by a letter from a curious 8-year-old girl.
  • Fear from Inside Out always looks on the verge of a panic attack. Word of God describes him as acting as if he fears losing his job... except that he is his job.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Woody Allen is famous for playing this kind of character.
  • Many, many of the lead roles from French comic actor Louis de Funès are this, a good part of his humor consisting on watching how his protagonists are cracking up under pressure. Although De Funès had to tone it down after his heart attack in 1974.
  • Ken the stutterer in A Fish Called Wanda.
  • In the Star Wars Universe, Nute Gunray (the Trade Federation Viceroy) nearly embodies this trope. Although beings from his species, Neimodians, are usually pessimistics and prone to great stress by nature, Gunray's overly-nervous personality is well beyond even Neimoidian standards.
  • Leo Bloom in all adaptations of The Producers.
  • Felix in the film version of The Odd Couple.
  • Mr. Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, after being put upon by his notoriously demanding daughter. And his sanity is not at all helped by what he witnesses in the Wonka factory...
  • In Pixels, Q*Bert is terrified of everything, from Matty's brutal computer game through the invasion of Earth up to Ludlow's broken heart.

  • In Dragon Bones, Oreg constantly watches Ward, and carefully steps away if Ward shows signs of being angry. Justified in that Oreg has been a slave to all of Ward's ancestors (he's the "child" in the Powered by a Forsaken Child castle of the family) and some of them were ... rather nasty.
  • Nettie in Needful Things is always tense and jumpy due to the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband. Keeton also gradually becomes this as paranoia sets in.
  • The Bursar from the Discworld books. He starts off fine in Eric and becomes only slightly twitchy in Moving Pictures. However the events of that book, and the following one Reaper Man leave him a paranoid, twitching, nervous mess, who has to be medicated into hallucinating he is sane (attempts to cure of his nervous state proved impossible).
  • In The Dresden Files, Molly Carpenter becomes this in Ghost Story, following Harry's apparent death in the previous book and her own attempt to fill in his shoes as the magic defender of Chicago.
  • Piglet, from Winnie-the-Pooh, is a classic example: meek, timid, stuttering, always fretting over something, and in the Disney version is usually seen visibly trembling.
  • The White Rabbit, in almost all adaptations of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, is a Nervous Wreck due to being "late for a very important date," even going so far as twitching a lot.
  • Lori reacts to motherhood this way in Aunt Dimity Digs In. In an exaggerated bid to childproof the cottage, she fastens the kitchen cabinet doors so securely that no one can open them, padlocks the medicine cabinet and misplaces the key, and covers the edges of the coffee and end tables with miles of cotton batting. Ultimately, Bill finds her trying to wrestle their mattress out of its frame and onto the floor so the boys cannot crawl under it, although their little knees have yet to touch the carpet. Though she does calm down with time (and the services of a couple of nannies), Lori is still apt to react badly to the idea that her sons could get hurt, and the start of their schooling at Morningside in nearby Upper Deeping sets off another crisis in Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter.
  • Shrewtooth from Warrior Cats...until he Took a Level in Badass.
  • Matt in Peter Pays Tribute panics about things like giving an oral presentation to the class.
  • It's not uncommon for characters in the Cthulhu Mythos to become this, usually the result of surviving an indescribable horror. Danforth in At the Mountains of Madness would be a good example.
  • Pharamond in Dragon Age: Asunder as a result of curing his Tranquil condition — i.e. having been severed from his emotions for years if not decades, which all come back to him at the same time.
  • Nora, from Hush, Hush seems to constantly fret about things. Granted she does have things worth worrying about, but she also seems hung up on the idea that Patch will leave her for better women (despite him repeatedly proving he won't), that something's going to go wrong with whatever she's doing, that Marcie Miller will do something horrible to her, etc. One notable instance is when she's serving Marcie and several other of her classmates at a restaurant. They demand that she sing "Happy Birthday" to them without offering any proof that it's actually her birthday... and this causes Nora to go to pieces and think that refusing will be grounds to get her fired on the first day of work.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doug ("Nervous Guy") Murphy from Scrubs, nervous about... everything.
  • These show up a LOT in Canada's Worst Driver. They're as scary as road ragers and ditzes.
  • Rebecca from Cheers.
  • Miles from Murphy Brown.
  • Lydia from Breaking Bad is a business executive who's secretly running a drug empire despite the fact that she's high-strung to the point of being completely nuts.

  • "Basket Case" by Green Day is from the point of view of an extremely neurotic person.
  • Fall Out Boy also has a lyric which refers to being a nervous wreck. "West Coast Smoker".
  • "Just Another Nervous Wreck" by Supertramp is sung from the point of view of one.


    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Hanako of Katawa Shoujo has severe anxiety issues and regularly has panic attacks, and her teacher knows to simply let her run out of class if she needs to.
  • Touko Fukawa in Danganronpa and Kazuichi Souda in Super Danganronpa 2. Both are later revealed to have severe bullying issues, abusive parents and mass-murdering levels of misanthropy.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Edward Borman in The Mercury Men. Justified, given the situation he's in.
  • The Nostalgia Critic is very prone to panic and stressing out over nothing.
  • Dino Attack RPG
    • Kate Bishop. The fact that she was an 18-year-old stuck in the middle of a war certainly doesn't help.
    • Sam Race also becomes a Nervous Wreck when he starts showing early signs of PTSD.
  • This Not Always Right post has a woman who fits the description. Her first response to a woman handing her a balloon is to assume she's trying to kill her baby, that the balloon's going to strangle the baby, and tell the manager on her.

    Western Animation 
  • Tweek from South Park.
  • The Earl of Lemongrab from Adventure Time. Whether his character and situation are hilarious, or terribly depressing, is debatable.
  • In the episode "The Truth Hurts" from The Replacements, the head of the school newspaper who is replaced is a Nervous Wreck who is constantly jittery and gets extremely nervous about the idea of anything being published in the school newspaper that would make things like fruit on the bottom yogurt as opposed to being like plain yogurt, as he likes it.
  • Shaggy and Scooby-Doo are usually this.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • Fluttershy, frequently.
    • Rainbow Dash normally presents the exact opposite of this. However, in a few cases it's shown that her cocky façade is just that, and when she is no longer able to put up that façade she collapses into a ball of nerves.
    • Twilight Sparkle in "Lesson Zero" and "It's About Time".
    • Rarity in "Suited for Success" and the Bad Future of "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils".
  • Jitters A. Dog from Raw Toonage and Bonkers.
  • Mr. Nervous from The Mr. Men Show. He frequently lapses into daydreams, sort of blown-out-of-proportion scenarios involving whatever is going on around him at the time. Whether it be a short two-minute ride outside a store or a spider crawling out of his musical instrument. He will then usually flee for his life, screaming and shouting "Oh no no no!" or "This is the end!"
  • Skywarp of Transformers Animated exaggerates this. Here, the Seekers are clones of Starscream, each with one aspect of his personality, and Skywarp has his Dirty Cowardice. Thus, the only emotional and mental state he can process is utter fear. No wonder fans see him as The Woobie.
  • Munchy Beaver from PB&J Otter. Oh man, Munchy Beaver. In one episode, he's just getting over getting the measles. Peanut, Baby Butter and Jelly find a frog that looks like it has measles, decide to call it Measles and try to give it to him, but he incorrectly thinks that they want to give him the measles. In another episode, when two of his friends are arguing, he declares out loud, "I hate conflict." When he gets very nervous or worried, he tends to eat large amounts of wood.
    Munchy: I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I have to go munch some wood.
  • PJ on Goof Troop. He's very uptight, panicky, pessimistic, fearful, and will often be shown trembling or freezing with anxiety. Considering that his father thinks the proper way to raise him is to insult and belittle him and to dominate him through intimidation and power, this is understandable. He gets significantly better by the end of the second movie.
  • Hey Arnold!: What Olga Pataki actually is. Underneath her "perfect girl" façade there's a Fragile Flower who has next to no self-worth and is severely stifled under her parents's super-high expectations of her, and who breaks down in tears at the mere thought of failing at something.
  • The animated version of Dilbert's Loud Howard, borrowing a trait from Nervous Ted to make him at least a tad more rounded.
  • Mr. Deetz on Beetlejuice, due to some flanderization from the movie.
    Howard: Dogs make me nervous. Crowds make me nervous. Being nervous makes me nervous!

    Real Life 
  • Anxiety disorders:
    • Generalized anxiety disorder and it's various sub types/variations.
    • Some people with PTSD are this to some measure. Because of their trauma, they are constantly "on guard" and wary of something bad happening to them. Additionally, they may be easily startled and have a Hair-Trigger Temper.
      • Most PTSD aren't like this all the time, which is why it's so jarring to observers when an external stimulus causes the sufferer to re-experience the trauma. Lack of understanding of this condition is why Vietnam veterans had such trouble reintegrating into civilian life — even their own families feared the unpredictable and extreme reactions. Due to combat training, veterans' defense mechanisms under this duress can be more dangerous than civilians'.
    • Abused children have the same issues/responses as veterans.