What is Performance Anxiety / Stage Fright?

Stage fright or performance anxiety is fear and anxiety triggered by the requirement to appear in front of an audience. Sufferers of this condition may experience anticipatory anxiety for days and even weeks before their scheduled  presentation or appearance. Sufferers may find that their distress persists up to and during their performance, and adversely affects their functioning. Stage fright sufferers may find they are experiencing symptoms  such as: profuse sweating, shaking, dizziness, faintness, racing heartbeat, palpitations, nausea, dry mouth etc. Some peoples’ fear is so severe that they have a full blown panic attack when required to appear in front of an audience.

Performance anxiety affects: public speakers, job candidiates, actors, musicians, singers, sportspeople, actors, comedians, singers and men using public urinals.  Some men have shy bladder syndrome, that is they cannot urinate in front of other people as they have stage fright.

One famous American sufferer of this condition was Barbara Streisand. She forgot the words to songs during a concert in Central Park and from then on suffered so badly  from anxiety that she did not perform publicly for many years.

Fiona O’Loughlin, a well know Australian comedian, used to drink alcohol to calm herself before doing her stand up routines.

It is quite common for people to self medicate  with alcohol and this can become problematic.

You may overcome performance anxiety, as Barbara Streisand did, with appropriate treatment.

Performance Anxiety Treatment

Psychologists use cognitive behavioural therapy to assist people to overcome their fear of being negatively judged or evaluated.The treatment of performance anxiety will involve graded, repeated, prolonged, massed exposure to the feared  scenario. Sufferers may also be required to do attention training and learn relaxation techniques. Stage fright sufferers will also learn to identify  and challenge their self talk about performing  and to develop coping self statements.

Catherine Madigan, clinical psychologist has treated many people who suffer from debilitating stage fright. She has worked with  people who fear :public speaking, job interviews, using public urinals, as well as a  number of singers and musicians.

Performance anxiety may be considered a form of social phobia so Australian  sufferers may be eligible for a Medicare rebate on their psychological treatment.

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This article published on Dec 08, 2012. View related Articles

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