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What’s Performance Anxiety?

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Last updated on November 29, 2019

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You might know performance anxiety by its more common name – stage fright.
Just in case you have never heard of either, and you’re wondering, “What’s performance anxiety?”, here’s a quick definition as found on

What’s Performance Anxiety?

Performance anxiety (usually uncountable, plural performance anxieties)

  1. Anxiety or fear about performing in front of an audience; stage fright. 
  2. A similar anxiety about the impressiveness of one’s sexual performance. 

This article will focus on the first definition: Anxiety or fear about performing in front of an audience.
You will discover what’s performance anxiety and ways to treat and cope with it.

If you’re suffering from performance anxiety, try not to worry – you are definitely not alone!
Millions of individuals all over the world suffer from this condition.

It is usually experienced by actors, public speakers, athletes, and musicians, but it can likewise affect the average Joe as well. 
Whether the performance anxiety has stopped the average Joe from becoming any of those professions or not, remains the question.

Performance anxiety is not a condition on its own, but rather forms part of either social anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder, or a combination thereof.
It is characterized by negative anxiety and stress.

Symptoms of Performance Anxiety

This condition can bring about a plethora of psychological and physical distress.

An upcoming event that will place you in the public eye, might induce agony and stress for weeks and even months before the event starts. A full-blown panic attack might also ensue at even just the thought of having to perform something in public.

These stresses usually only occur BEFORE the public event.
Once you have started with your performance, you can proceed with it easily and unconcerned by the performance anxiety.

Performance anxiety symptoms may include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • Intrusive thoughts – “People will judge or criticize me.”, “What if I fall or make a mistake?”, “What if I can’t remember anything?”, etc. 
  • Physical symptoms – Dry mouth, racing heart, profuse sweating, blushing, trembling, and nausea.

What Causes Performance Anxiety?

The fact that you’re constantly agonizing over the upcoming event, cause you a lot of stress and anxiety.
This stress and anxiety ultimately leads to performance anxiety.
The negative stress and anxiety is almost always brought on by a lack of self-esteem or self worth as well as external pressures from society to perform well.

Types of Performance Anxiety

There are 3 different types of performance anxiety that one may experience.

Cognitive Performance Anxiety
You experience Cognitive performance anxiety mostly in educational or work settings.
You may be afraid of failing an exam or task given to you. You may be afraid of receiving negative feedback or marks on something you had to study. You may be afraid of not being able to apply what you have studied in the workplace.
The examples are endless.

Motor Performance Anxiety
Motor performance anxiety is brought on by a fear of failing at a motor task.
You might be scared of being the only one messing up a move in a synchronized dance routine, or you may fear that you will not jump high enough to clear all the hurdles on the track.

Social Performance Anxiety
When you are scared of failing at social interaction, you have Social performance anxiety.
You may experience anxiety about fitting in with the right social group or be scared of being labeled as an outcast.
You also experience the fear of being judged by others.

Treatment for Performance Anxiety

There are many medications available on the market these days that will help with your performance anxiety.
The problem with these medications is that they will not permanently cure your condition.
They only work while you are taking it. Once you stop, the anxiety returns.

AnxietyPanda suggests taking the therapy route.
The most common therapy practice used to treat performance anxiety is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
A therapist will help you recognize any negative thoughts or patterns and teach you how to accept and defuse them.
If the thought of going out to see a therapist makes you anxious why not try Online therapy? It’s proven to be just as effective as face-to-face sessions.

Other forms of treatment you may consider includes:

Hypnotherapy – This may offer a quick solution in times of desperate need.
Say you have to perform a speech tomorrow in a large auditorium that will be stacked full of listeners. Here, a quick dose of hypnotherapy could go a very long way as the effects could last up to 2 days.
Several sessions of hypnotherapy will also bring on long-term effect on ridding your performance anxiety.
Some people are not susceptible to hypnosis, but if you are, then this solution will offer you many benefits.

EMDR Therapy – An efficient approach.
Your therapist will ask you to visualize situations in which you experience performance anxiety.
The therapist will also ask you to move your eyes rapidly back and forth while visualizing. This causes the anxiety to gradually fade away until none is left.

Rational Emotive Therapy – It is based on the same principles as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and brings about the same outcomes.
The therapist will help you identify irrational and negative thoughts and beliefs.
They will then challenge those thoughts and beliefs and help you to gain insight and recognize the irrational thought patterns. They will also show you how to deal with and respond properly during these anxiety attacks by replacing negative with positive beliefs.

How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

Here are some steps you can follow to help yourself overcome performance anxiety.

If you haven’t already, do yourself an enormous favor and pick up some breathing techniques! There are many available, find one that suits you. 
Here is a basic one: 
Sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed. 
Now, inhale through your nose and into your belly (Make sure you belly expands.). 
Hold for 3-5 seconds. 
Exhale through your mouth, relaxing your muscles and releasing all tension.
Repeat as many times as needed.

The caffeine and the sugar will lead to an energy spike, however it will stimulate your nerves and cause you to become jittery and have fluttery feelings in your tummy. 
You’re already anxious. You need not add to it. Just say no to coffee! 

Imagine what the worst possible outcomes of your situation might be. 
Now, think of ways to cope and deal with them. 
Going into your event prepared, will give you an extra boost of confidence and one less concern to worry about.

What’s Performance Anxiety in a Nutshell

Basically, performance anxiety is a form of anxiety that you experience only in or before certain events where you are expected to perform well.
Perhaps you have to deliver a speech, have a job interview, or an exam to attend. A stage performance? All these, and many more, can contribute to performance anxiety. 
There are many treatments and medications available to treat this condition.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a favorite and greatly approved method used to cope with it. 

Do you or someone you know suffer from performance anxiety or stage fright?

Please, share your experiences and advice with us in the comment section.

How do you cope when you experience performance anxiety?

Share this article with your friends and followers on social media to raise awareness and subscribe to our posts to never miss another one 😉 

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  1. Babsie Wagner Babsie Wagner

    I think we all suffer from anxiety in one form or another in our lives.  I don’t have a critical case of it, but it does flare up when it comes to certain aspects of my life.  I have never been for therapy, but I’ve really wanted to.  The thing is, I just don’t have the time during the day to go to a therapist.  I babysit my grandchildren during the day, and most therapists want daytime appointments.

    I can’t believe there is actually an online option for people like me.  This opens up my whole world to new possibilities to help myself take care of this issue.  I am super excited, and thank you so much for introducing me to this option.  I just wanted to pop in here and thank you.

  2. Diane Diane

    Hi – thanks for sharing this useful article. I have suffered from performance anxiety in the past, but didn’t realise that it was labelled as such. I used to be a training officer, and would have to stand in front of a class of up to 20 people. I couldn’t sleep the night before, worrying about what could go wrong. I found that meditation helped, taking myself to a quiet place beforehand to reflect. I never knew that coffee would make it worse! All the best, Diane  

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