Performance Anxiety

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Performance anxiety is a condition when a person feels extreme fear and anxiety before or during a performance.  This condition is also known as stage fright.  Performance anxiety in its milder stages is normal.  

Performance AnxEveryone, especially people who are not used to being in the public eye, experiences performance anxiety.  This is normal and, usually, harmless.  However, in its extreme manifestation, performance anxiety has ruined careers.


Performance anxiety does not only affect actors and public speakers, but it also affects athletes.  A common form of performance anxiety among athletes exists when he is able to perform flawlessly in practice but during the game falls far short of expectation.


Public Speaking or Dying


When it comes to public speaking.  Most people have a great aversion to it.  It has often been said, "I'd rather die than get up in front of an audience."  This statement may actually sum up the feeling of most people.  In a recent survey more people in the U.S. said that they fear getting up in front of an audience and speaking more than they fear dying.


When adrenaline is flowing through the bloodstream, the body is apt to shake, hands will probably sweat and the voice may quiver.  It is fear that causes adrenaline to flow through the bloodstream.  The harder we try to stop the adrenaline flow, the more effort it takes and more adrenaline will flow.  This is why different people have different amounts of stage fright.  People who try to calm down often become obsessed with the nervousness they are feeling.  All these people are doing is pumping more adrenaline through their systems and, in turn, making their fear more intense.


Keep Your Eye on the Ball


People, who accept the fact they make shake and their voice may quiver once they start to speak, have little trouble.  Because they are not afraid or concerned with the physical manifestations brought about by the adrenaline flowing through their veins, they are able to perform, sometimes adequately, and sometimes brilliantly.


When we are able to concentrate on the task at hand and pay no attention to any outside stimulus whatsoever we will perform without anxiety.  It is only one we concentrate on other elements such as are shaking body or the number of people who are present in a room, that we are distracted and unable to perform well. In short, to perform well in the public, you have to keep your eye on the ball.


Anyone who is able to perform without paying too much attention to the outcome is liable to do well.  On the other hand, many people become concerned with what others will thank of them and/or their performance.  Once again, this is a distraction that will only serve to make a performer nervous.  The best performers, public speakers and athletes are those who are able to block out of their mind anything other than the job they have to do.


Treating Performance Anxiety


There are treatments for performance anxiety.  Among those are prescription medications and a type of psychotherapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy.   This therapy, which is also known as CBT, teaches that our thoughts control our emotions and ultimately our performance.  For instance, once we start to visualize a poor performance these thoughts will draw us into performing poorly.  


Sports psychology teaches positive self-talk to overcome letting negative thoughts lead us into poor execution.  CBT and sports psychology which are both relatively new fields have exploded in popularity in recent years because of the throng of people who seek to be successful in the fields of acting, public speaking and professional sports.  However, none of these people will find very much success if they are unable to overcome performance anxiety.