Can I Cure Performance Anxiety?
Have you ever been so scared to do something that you froze or feel that you may have compromised your performance experience? If so, you are not alone — many people experience performance anxiety.
If you are experiencing symptoms, questions you may ask yourself may be: "Can I cure performance anxiety by myself?" “Is performance anxiety curable at all?”
While there generally isn’t an official diagnostic cure for performance anxiety, there are several steps you can take that may mitigate your risks of a symptomatic experience and that may enhance your quality of life.
Below, we’re exploring what performance anxiety is, possible contributing factors and symptoms, as well as how this condition is related to other forms of anxiety disorders. We’ll also be discussing supplementary care methods that may support a higher overall quality of life or performance experience for your next debut.
What Is Performance Anxiety?
Performance anxiety can manifest in many different ways across different people’s experiences, but there are various strategies and techniques that can help individuals overcome stage fright and manage their anxiety. Someone with performance anxiety may worry about the perceptions of others or their performance doing any sort of activity involving other people — such as performance, displays of talent, public speaking or intimate encounters.
Those living with symptoms of performance anxiety may experience psychological or physical symptom manifestation that extends across public-facing performances (i.e., stage fright) or sexual performance — known as sexual performance anxiety (SPA).
We do want to note that those who identify as male, female or nonbinary folk may experience SPA or stage fright.
Stage fright performance anxiety generally refers to anxiety stemming from performing or speaking in a public setting. Stage fright affects approximately 73% of the population according to the National Social Anxiety Disorder.
Sexual performance anxiety is the anxiety and fear associated with a person performing for their partner sexually. SPA can extend across all forms of gender and identity, and may or may not be accompanied by physical symptoms (such as premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction).
Contributing Factors And Symptoms Of Performance Anxiety
Stage fright and sexual anxiety can both stem from similar causes; such as a fear of failure or public perception. They may or may not be related to a clinical anxiety disorder diagnosis, such as generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder.
Contributing factors to instances of sexual performance anxiety may include poor body image, instability in relationship, a lack of physical attraction and physical problems that may manifest physically, such as erectile dysfunction.
We want to note that physical attraction may vary and that any variation is completely normal over a relationship. However, if you experience prolonged or severe instances of loss of attraction with a romantic partner, you might consider speaking to them directly or with a licensed medical professional for supportive strategies and options to help you enjoy a higher quality of life.
No matter the cause, dealing with performance anxiety (be it sexually related or otherwise) can limit one’s quality of life. Understanding the symptoms of performance anxiety may result in a greater quality of life for many and can validate experiences with related symptoms (whether they manifest physically or psychologically).
Possible symptoms related to performance anxiety may include:
Activation of the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism
Negative or nervous feelings leading up to or during events
Trembling, heart acceleration, gastrointestinal and visual disturbances
Disinterest or avoidant behaviors
Symptoms of performance anxiety can vary by individual experience and relevant contributing factors.
Is Performance Anxiety Related To Other Anxiety Disorders?
Nervousness which may stem from sexual performance anxiety or stage fright can eventually escalate or point to clinical anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or social anxiety disorder.
If you’re experiencing serious symptoms of anxiety, you may benefit from seeking professional counseling and support from your physician. Seeing a doctor can help to rule out possible health concerns, such as low blood sugar or overactive thyroid, which could result in symptoms similar to those that would be experienced in depression and anxiety disorder manifestations.
Is There A Cure For Performance Anxiety?
While there is no universal cure identified for performance anxiety of either type, there are several mitigation strategies you may try which could enhance your experience.
These may include gaining more experience in public speaking, practicing resiliency, practicing eye contact and reframing.
You may also practice exercises and tools that guide you to a place of self-acceptance. To get the most out of this experience, you may choose to engage in counseling with a licensed therapist.
Additional strategies you can try include:
1. Making Sure You're Getting Enough Sleep
If you're not getting enough sleep at night, your body may feel an overall decrease in energy and motivation. This can lead to frustration and anxiety, which could increase your risk of experiencing performance anxiety-related symptoms.
To combat this, you may try getting an extra hour or two of sleep in your schedule, and determine if this is a helpful strategy for you.
2. Exploring Yoga Or Meditation
Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation can help you reduce symptoms performance anxiety. You may consider a brief 20-minute session to start your day off, or prior to an event.
3. Talking To Your Partner And Preparing For The Bedroom
If you feel that sexual performance anxiety is occurring more regularly between you and your partner, you may choose to communicate with each other before your next encounter. This can improve your confidence and validate your experience, which may result in a better overall experience.
Can Online Therapy Help With Performance Anxiety?
A person who is living with anxiety disorder may experience more intense manifestations if they feel ashamed or pre-judged when going to get the help they need. Online therapy can be a helpful alternative support for those experiencing anxiety disorders, offering them the option to seek support from a familiar place and in their own way. Being physically away from the therapist may also offer them a higher degree of comfort, feeling as if there is sufficient virtual distance to be honest about their lived experiences truly.
Is Online Therapy Effective?
While online therapy has been helpful to many during the pandemic, some may be wondering if it is a comparable treatment method to in-person therapeutic intervention. Studies have been done to analyze patients who engage with online therapy vs. in-person therapeutic treatment — and outcomes have been favorable. Scientific literature currently suggests that virtual therapy sessions showed similar results as in-person therapy sessions, most recently displayed in a study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders.
Performance anxiety can feel immersive and overwhelming to those who live with it. However, there are several different scientifically supported methods of symptom mitigation and support. Speaking with a clinician or a licensed therapist can be a first step to take as you begin addressing symptoms of performance anxiety, and other underlying diagnoses of anxiety disorders that may or may not be present. Online therapy can be a helpful and effective tool as you go through this process. BetterHelp is here to connect you with licensed therapists who can be a support to you during this time.
"Natasha has been a truly amazing counselor! I now feel that I have the confidence to face challenges as they come. Natasha helped me to reflect on why I might be feeling a certain way, while providing me with some tools to cope with my anxiety as needed. She was incredibly understanding and helped me set realistic goals for myself and others. Not only can I tell that our counseling sessions helped, but also others have commented on the positive changes I have made. She's awesome!"
"When I first started seeing Vanessa, I was very nervous, scared to death even. Yet in such a short time, I learned I could impart my feelings and thoughts without doubting myself or others. I'll forever be grateful for Venessa and her empathy, and words of wisdom. I look forward now to the next chapter in my life and I have her to thank for it."
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