Performance Anxiety Symptoms Diagnosis and Treatment

In an era where hundreds of teenagers and young adults are auditioning for reality television performances, performance anxiety, more commonly known as stage fright, is becoming increasingly evident.

What are the symptoms of stage fright?

The article “Stage Fright (Performance Anxiety)” suggests that the symptoms of performance anxiety as it pertains to stage fright include the following: “racing pulse and rapid breathing, dry mouth and tight throat, trembling hands, knees, lips, and voice, sweaty and cold hands, nausea and an uneasy feeling in your stomach and vision changes.”

Among those who suffer from performance anxiety are “athletes, musicians, actors, and public speakers”. With television shows like “X Factor” and “American Idol” looking for gifted singers and offering substantial monetary incentive the competition is fierce, but many singers still panic when on stage.    

This does not suggest that others do not get performance anxiety, as it can happen to anyone at anytime. It is typically a stress related response. Stage fright is common to children and older adults who have to perform for others, as well.   

Diagnosis of performance anxiety:

Because stage fright is the reaction of performers attempting to perform for others, an accurate diagnosis of performance anxiety is possible. Fear and negative thinking tend to magnify stress responses and increase stage fright or performance anxiety.

“Your body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ mechanism kicks in, which is why symptoms of stage fright are similar to symptoms that occur when you are in real danger.”

You might want to ask yourself where the danger lies. Is it real or imaginary?

Treatment of performance anxiety:

Treatment of performance anxiety is largely preventative in terms of stress reduction related to performing for an audience. Remember that some degree of anxiety is associated with any kind of performance, as there is an adrenal rush. Increased anxiety triggers extreme stress reactions that lead to severe stage fright or performance anxiety because of the release of excessive amounts of adrenalin.

Being aware of your own fear related to performing, places it in its proper perspective. Having to face fear is not necessarily easy, but it is possible to overcome fear.

For example, a family arranges for a child to sing a carol for his or her grandparents at their annual Christmas party. This child has had previous bouts of performance anxiety. With continual practice and praise from his or her parents, his or her confidence grows in leaps and bounds. The child is still afraid but performs effortlessly and without fear at their family Christmas celebration, much to the delight of his or her family.                 

Older children and teenagers, as well as adults, learn to overcome fear of performing by the repetition of performance, as well as increasing exposure to audiences of various sizes. Family audiences are a good starting point for someone who tends toward stage fright. Peers can give positive feedback reinforcing the confidence of a performer who has performance anxiety. Being mocked or ridiculed can increase fear and stage fright symptoms.  

There are many health-oriented measures, including diet, exercise and sleep management that can help reduce performance anxiety or stage fright. Relaxation techniques also prove effective.

Performance anxiety may, but may not decrease or disappear, as one gets older. In fact, age can be a contributing factor to performance anxiety in seniors. Seniors are not always able to perform as they did over the years, as there may be health related concerns, lack of confidence issues or even memory loss associated with stage fright.  

“Act natural and be yourself.”

Perhaps the real key to the treatment of performance anxiety has to do with being yourself, whether you are a child, a teen, an adult or a senior. Why do you want or need to perform? Taking it a step further, working at becoming more extroverted also can prove beneficial. 

How would you perform if you were alone or had an audience of just one person? Seeing your entire audience as one, appreciative person can reduce a lot of performance anxiety. Focusing on that person in a larger audience can help.

It may well be that your audience feels just as apprehensive as you do. You may begin to see that it is your task to put them at ease. Performing in that light, rather than allowing stress to turn to stage fright can work wonders for you as a performer.

Bask in the light knowing that you are in control as a positive, constructive, creative and proactive performer who has the undivided attention of your audience, even though you are ‘trembling in your boots’.

Smile a lot! Your audience loves you and they will smile back. If they do not, that does not really matter. Smile anyhow.