What Are the Symptoms of an Overactive Nervous System?

Medically Reviewed on 12/1/2022
What Are the Symptoms of an Overactive Nervous System
Learn about common signs of an overactive nervous system and what you can do to manage your symptoms

Symptoms of an overactive nervous system include a wide range of physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional problems.

Symptoms will vary from person to person depending on your stress threshold. Talk to your doctor if your symptoms are persistent.

How do you know if something is wrong with your nervous system?

Physical symptoms

Behavioral symptoms

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Relying on alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nail biting or other nervous habits
  • Isolating yourself from others

Cognitive symptoms

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Increased negativity
  • Anxious or racing thoughts

Emotional symptoms

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability
  • Short temper
  • Agitation
  • Inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness

What causes an overactive nervous system?

Your sympathetic nervous system helps your body activate its “fight-or-flight” response when you are stressed or in danger. However, when there is a persistent stimulus, it can lead to complications of an overactive nervous system.

Chronic stress and anxiety are the most common causes of an overactive nervous system. Other causes may include:

  • Unresolved stress responses from the past
  • Psycho-spiritual, lifestyle, behavioral, and biochemical factors

How do you fix an overactive nervous system?

Ways to deal with an overactive nervous system include the following:

  • Meditation and breathing exercises: Studies have reported that yoga and deep breathing can help reduce stress levels and bring the body out of a stress response.
  • Cold showers: Cold showers, especially in the evening, can stimulate the immune system and activate the vagus nerve, which reduces the stress response.
  • Maintaining a sleep cycle: Maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm is critical to healing and strengthening your immune system. Sleep deprivation has been linked to high levels of stress hormones and poor cognitive health. Most people require 8-9 hours of sleep at night.
  • Adaptogens: Adaptogens can be extremely beneficial to the adrenal and nervous systems. These include holy basil, Rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha, and ginseng, and can be used to modulate your stress response. Clinical studies suggest that within 21 days of use, adaptogen use can reduce cortisol (the main stress hormone) levels and may be as effective as anti-anxiety medications.
  • Diet: A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can benefit the nervous system. While this transition can take some time, usually a few weeks to months, it can be extremely beneficial to the body.
  • Exercise: Walking, Pilates, or other forms of mild exercise can be very encouraging to a nervous system stuck in fight-or-flight mode. However, vigorous exercise can stimulate rather than calm down an overactive nervous system, so exercise caution.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture has been used to treat many nervous system diseases. It stimulates the central nervous system, causing chemicals to be released that promote a parasympathetic response throughout the body. This activates the body's natural healing mechanisms.
  • Massage: Getting bodywork, such as massage or reflexology, can turn off your stress hormones, allowing your body to relax and release tension. 


The abbreviated term ADHD denotes the condition commonly known as: See Answer
Medically Reviewed on 12/1/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Central Sympathetic Overactivity: Maladies and Mechanisms. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2679852/

How to Calm an Overactive Nervous System. https://www.rtor.org/2022/05/23/how-to-calm-an-overactive-nervous-system/