Most people experience some level of anxiety when giving a presentation at work, for instance, or a speech at a good friend’s wedding. In fact, this anxiety can be productive and help our performance – however, sometimes it’s not.
If we did not suffer any anxiety at all, we would not put our best efforts into what we are doing. For some people, however, this anxiety can reach a level where it has a detrimental effect on their performance, with a knock-on effect in other areas of their lives.
What is performance anxiety?
Performance anxiety is an acute fear of performing adequately in front of others, even if the audience consists only of one or two people. Known colloquially as “stage fright”, it can even seep into areas of life where there is no “stage”, such as in intimate situations with a lover or during an appraisal from your manager. It is not a “disorder” as such but can be a symptom of a range of other disorders such as anxiety disorders and personality disorders.
How do I know if I have performance anxiety?
Performance anxiety can develop at any time in your life. It can erode self-esteem, damage credibility and prevent you from leading a normal life.
If you suffer from some of the following symptoms prior to or during any kind of “performance”, you may have problems with performance anxiety:
- A racing heart
- Sweaty palms
- A dry mouth
- Either complete exhaustion or extreme alertness
You may also experience an inner voice telling you that you are not good enough to give this performance and that you are bound to mess it up. This voice can become so persistent that it causes you to ruin the performance or even avoid it altogether. Even if you are well prepared for what you are about to do, it is impossible to ignore this voice.
What can I do about performance anxiety?
Performance anxiety reacts well to talking therapies. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy are both popular methods of dealing with it. Counselling for performance anxiety involves teaching a patient to deal with their inner critic and cultivate a kinder attitude towards themselves. Therapy can also help uncover past situations and issues which might have caused an excessive level of anxiety surrounding performances, such as being mocked in a school play or discovering we have brought the wrong documents to a meeting.[ultimate_spacer height=”30″]