Have you ever been anxious about failing an assigned task? Was there a time that your fear of humiliation or rejection transcended your desire to perform well, despite hours of practice? If any of these happened to you, you might have performance anxiety or what we normally hear as “stage fright”. When a person experiences performance anxiety, this is entirely because of anxiety and not because one lacks the skill or expertise.

What is Performance Anxiety?

In our daily lives we tend to be anxious about almost everything – work, family, personal matters, and even in our sex lives. We fear that we might be judged based on our performance. Though we know that anxiety is common and often tagged as a healthy emotion, however, once a person regularly experiences uncontrolled episodes of or worsening anxiety, it might be a symptom of a bigger problem that one must not neglect. As with all cases of anxiety disorders, performance anxiety chooses no one. People, whether famous or not, may experience stage fright- athletes, actors, musicians or even public speakers. Performance anxiety may affect you.

singer with performance anxiety

The Causes and The Symptoms To Look Out For

Most people suffering from performance anxiety manifest symptoms before any public activity. Being the center of attention and having all eyes focus on you can be stressful. It is likewise possible that you fear being compared with other performers, afraid that you might disappoint the audience after seeing a great show, or that committing a small mistake will damage your career or reputation. Increasing levels of stress activates the body’s fight- or- flight response. When this happens, the body perceives that life is in danger. Anxiety symptoms to look out for may include: 

• Vision changes or blurred eyesight

• Mouth and/ or throat dryness

• Cold sweats especially on palms

• Shaking of knees, hands and voice

• Rapid pulse and breathing

• Vomiting

Performing in public can make you feel defenseless and exposed. Knowing these symptoms may help you sort out your feelings before being on stage. While the physical manifestations of performance anxiety can be manageable, there are a few psychological symptoms like memory slips, incapable to perform or worst, a full-blown panic attack that can really affect your life. You may ask, “Is performance anxiety a medical disorder? Should I get help or medical advice to overcome it?”

Should I be worried? 

Stage fright is not a mental disorder. It is rather a dysfunctional reaction to a stressful event or situation which can be corrected. However, those who experience severe levels of anxiety may feel that such overwhelming feelings completely interfere with their health and ability to perform altogether. In which case, proper treatment becomes necessary.

Overcoming that obstacle

If somehow you are experiencing sexual performance anxiety, you can talk to your partner on how to improve both of your sex experiences or better yet engage in sex therapy. But the best thing that one can do to triumph over performance anxiety is to believe in YOURSELF! Do not compare yourself with other people, accept who you are and what you can do. To completely conquer such fears and vulnerabilities, it will start in your mind. Succumbing to negative thoughts, thinking in advance about possible outcomes and predicting failure in public performance will do more damage than good. Embrace your imperfections while giving your best. Here are some ways which may help you be well- prepared:

• Practice, practice and more practice. Hone your craft.

• Be yourself and act natural.

• Reduce thoughts of self-doubt.

• Visualize success! Never focus on what could go wrong, instead, focus on what you could offer the audience.

• Don’t be distracted with the crowd. Some might be busy but there are people wanting to listen to you.

• Limit caffeine and eat healthy food. This can decrease your risk of experiencing stage fright.

• Make yourself look good. Once you look good, you will feel more confident.

• Shake it off and break a leg.

Related: Can Online Counseling Help My Anxiety?

One final tip 

As the saying goes, “To err is human, to forgive, divine”. Committing mistakes is essential in our daily lives. After all, we learn from our mistakes. Stop those negative thoughts that may lead to more stress in your life, confront your fears and empower yourself through positive thoughts. But if you still need help in overcoming this, then don’t be afraid to seek help.

There are trained therapists or counselors that you can talk to, to overcome performance anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy or medical treatments involving beta-blockers, which helps in lowering the heart rate and blocking the effects of adrenaline, are only a few examples of what these professionals can advise you.

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