What is Stage Fright?

By: Chris Anderson Psy.D.

Fear of public speaking is often referred to as stage fright. The reality is the majority of people have some degree of performance anxiety, even professionals and actors who do it for a living. For many, their anxiety is fueled by the need to have a good performance or that the presentation could have implications for a sale or job promotion. For others, their stage fright comes from the fear of messing up or freezing and being socially embarrassed or judged negatively by others. Although the fear of public speaking can end up being devastating personally or, for one’s career, stage fright in not considered a phobia or mental illness. In extreme cases, stage fright can be a sub-type of social phobia.

What are the Symptoms of Stage Fright?

In most cases, the fear and anxiety of stage fright activate and arouses the autonomic nervous system which triggers the fight or flight reaction. People can experience a wide range of symptoms with varying degrees of intensity. Symptoms could be any of the following: racing heart, tightness or pain in the chest, nausea, dry mouth, stammering or stuttering, shakes, sweats, chills, muscle tension, lightheadedness, or your mind going blank.

How Do You Overcome Fear of Public Speaking?

Probably the best antidote for stage fright is having a firm grasp of your material. Whether it’s memorizing lines for a play or studying your material and content, rehearsing your speech for presentation several times leads to an increased confidence level. The more you practice, the more confident people feel. Practicing in front of a friend, family, or even a mirror can help. When doing presentations, it is good to prepare for questions and have some responses ready. It can also be helpful to control your inner dialogue and make sure self-talk is staying positive. Having notes or index cards can be helpful prompts or cues if you are getting off track or blanking out. Breathing, relaxation, and stretching prior to a performance can help some people ground themselves. Visualization also helps many people and has been shown to enhance performance. It can also be important to realize that often the stakes are not that high and nothing bad will happen if you make a mistake. Lastly, it is helpful to recognize that the majority of your audience doesn’t know whether you are nervous or not, so just keep going.

Maple Grove Psychiatrists

If you are looking for help with public speaking and performance anxiety, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an individual consultation with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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