Can I Cure Performance Anxiety By Myself?
By: Mason Komay
Updated February 15, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Prudence Hatchett, LPC, NCC, BC-TMH
Have you ever been so scared to do something that you inevitably froze or performed even worse than you anticipated? If so, you are not alone—many people experience performance anxiety. It has become such a prevalent issue, in fact, that it is often portrayed in popular culture via movies and television shows. If you are experiencing symptoms, the question you may ask yourself is, "Can I cure performance anxiety by myself?"
What is Performance Anxiety?
Performance anxiety is essentially when a person worries about certain actions to the point where it begins to affect them physically. There are two common types of performance anxiety: stage fright and sexual performance.
In this article, we will take a closer look at these two common forms of performance anxiety, and discuss tips for how to combat them.
Stage fright performance anxiety refers to the anxiety that stems from performing or speaking in a public setting. This is common, as many people feel some form of anxiety when they have to perform in front of a large group of people.
Sexual performance anxiety is the anxiety and fear associated with a person performing for his or her partner sexually. This is more common amongst men than women, especially men of older age, who tend to have a higher risk of developing other sexual complications. Related complications include erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, which directly contribute to performance anxiety. Most men want to be thought of by their partner(s) as virile and eager to please; therefore, when a man's body doesn't seem to cooperate, he can feel great anxiety, which can continue to negatively affect his sex life.
Causes and Symptoms of Performance Anxiety
Stage fright and sexual anxiety both stem from similar causes; they are both brought about from a "fear of self”—the idea of confronting one's vulnerability, and accepting one's flaws and limitations.
A person may suffer performance anxiety if they have low self-esteem, or inexperience in performing in front of others. While some people may only experience brief and tentative bouts of anxiety, others will experience chronic and recurring anxiety. Major anxiety can prevent a person from living a “normal” life. Anxiety can rob a person of their joy, potentially causing physical, mental, and emotional distress as a result.
Causes of sexual performance anxiety may include poor body image (thinking you're not attractive or you need to hide your flaws), problems in the relationship, and physical problems with erectile dysfunction, which can also be caused by certain heart conditions. Eventually, those who experience sexual performance anxiety can lose sexual stamina, or even become impotent, if they don't explore treatment.
The main problem is that the more anxious you become, the more likely your body's "fight-or-flight" mechanism will react. This is the same extreme reaction that occurs when a person is attacked. In addition to negative feelings, physical symptoms may include a racing pulse and rapid breathing, a tight throat and difficulty breathing, trembling hands or legs, cold or sweaty hands, vision problems, nausea, and diarrhea, among other issues.
Even if sexual performance anxiety does not bring about the fight-or-flight response, the consequences can still be significant. Some people might become so anxious about their sexual performance that they're no longer able to enjoy the experience.
The Problem with Performance Anxiety
Keep in mind that even mild anxiety, which may stem from sexual anxiety or stage fright, can eventually escalate into major anxiety. This can go far beyond regular bouts of anxiety, depression, and isolation. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can last for months and involve symptoms like muscle tension, irritability, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating.
The real problem with performance anxiety is that, if left untreated, anxiety caused by public performance or sexual performance can escalate into panic disorder. A Panic disorder is marked by periods of intense fear that can involve heart palpitations or pounding, trembling, choking, and/or an overwhelming feeling of impending doom. If you continually react to stress with fight-or-flight chemical reactions, major episodes of anxiety may start to affect you regularly throughout the day or even the entire week. Sometimes these episodes are triggered by small and seemingly insignificant occurrences; other times they seem to occur for no reason at all.
Furthermore, performance anxiety could lead to a social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder involves a phobia of socializing or public performance. People with social anxiety disorder may feel embarrassed, judged, or rejected, and may fear being publicly humiliated.
Sexual problems are nothing to ignore. While performance anxiety is sometimes self-treatable, more serious problems like erectile dysfunction may be directly related to serious health risks, like heart disease, diabetes, or even Parkinson's disease. It might be necessary to see a doctor to avoid serious injury or potentially life-threatening issues.
Remember that disregarding anxiety, rather than seeking help for it, can also cause a host of physical problems. The fight-or-flight response generates extra "fuel" in the body, and when it's not used for a purpose it can cause serious disorders related to digestion or immune system function. In some cases, it can even cause a heart attack or premature artery disease.
If you’re experiencing serious symptoms of anxiety, curing the issues on your own might not be the best option for treatment. It could be time to seek professional counseling and/or visit a doctor. Seeing a doctor will help to rule out possible health concerns, such as low blood sugar or overactive thyroid, which are known to cause problems with depression and anxiety.
Is There a Cure for Performance Anxiety?
According to Web MD, stage fright is ideally "cured" by gaining more experience in public speaking, learning to accept criticism, and letting go of the need to "prove" something to others. Accepting yourself and taking joy in your performance is essential in getting over your fear. This may require professional mentoring in order to learn techniques to help combat this anxiety.
Often, with sexual performance anxiety, the first step is seeing a sex therapist. However, many men and women can feel awkward about confessing their "secret flaws" to a stranger, choosing instead to avoid getting help altogether. Luckily, at BetterHelp, there is discreet and comfortable online therapy that will help you conquer any and all issues brought on by your anxiety. We will further discuss how access to BetterHelp’s network of licensed doctors and therapists can help treat performance anxiety later.
Can You Cure Anxiety by Yourself?
Naturally, many people would rather address these issues on their own, and not have to admit their anxieties to another person. There's a plethora of available knowledge online on how to decrease anxiety and gain back control of your life. Some solutions are meditative in nature, such as learning to redirect negative thoughts to more positive and realistic scenarios. Some involve improving one's self-esteem, as this is almost always considered a priority, even in clinical practice, when getting over performance anxiety.
In recent years, more emphasis has been placed on learning more productive and healthful ways of dealing with anxiety, rather than relying solely on medication. For example, people experiencing anxiety are told to limit alcohol and caffeine consumption. Controlled breathing, relaxation techniques, and exercise are also natural stress relievers.
Poor diet has been linked to both anxiety and sexual dysfunction, as have poor sleeping habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Creating and committing to goals that will help decrease stress could help a person to recover from sexual performance anxiety, and avoid the need to seek professional help.
An anxious person may experience even more anxiety if he or she feels ashamed when going to get the help they need. When getting help intensifies anxiety, some people prefer to solve performance anxiety problems on their own. The following are some things you can try on your own, to help you overcome your anxiety.
- Make Sure You're Getting Enough Sleep
If you're not getting enough sleep at night, your body is going to naturally feel an overall decrease in energy and motivation. This can lead to frustration and anxiety, which could ultimately cause performance anxiety. Try getting an extra hour or two of sleep in your schedule, and see how you feel afterwards.
- Yoga or Meditation
Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation can help you prevent performance anxiety by reducing stress and other related factors. Consider a brief 20-minute session to start your day off, and the results will speak for themselves.
- Talk to Your Partner
If your sexual performance anxiety is starting to cause problems in the bedroom between you and your partner, it might serve you both well to communicate with each other. This might prove difficult, as it can sometimes feel embarrassing or damaging to your pride; but, simply talking to one another might go a long way in relieving stress, frustration, and anxiety in bed.
If you suffer from anxiety, try some of these methods to see what works best for you. Even a professional would encourage you to start with conservative treatments, such as improving your lifestyle and daily routine.
Proper Care for Performance Anxiety
If you've reached the point where your fight-or-flight response is constantly going off and filling you with overwhelming adrenaline, it is extremely difficult to conquer performance anxiety or social anxiety by yourself. If anything in life has given you an extreme phobia—to the point where you cannot live a normal life without uncontrollable anxiety—then it's best to seek professional treatment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is guided, professional counseling that works with patients to take progressive steps in managing their anxiety. Over time, patients learn to manage and/or overcome their fear, whether it's public speaking, socializing with strangers, or even performing sexually.
Research points to internet-based therapy as an effective treatment option for those with anxiety disorders. A study published in Cyberpsychology Behavior and Social Networking, a peer-reviewed journal focused on the intersection of technology and behavior, found that text-based online therapy was as effective as—and often more helpful than—in-person counseling for anxiety. Clients reported feeling more calm and relaxed interacting in an online setting (utilizing private chat forums and email), as opposed to attending sessions in an office environment. Preventing excess anxiety while conducting sessions is crucial to the efficacy of treatment for performance anxiety. Online therapy reduces that added anxiety, providing a safe and discreet forum for clients to interact with licensed therapists.
As examined above, online therapy is an effective method of treating performance anxiety. Often those with performance anxiety are already less comfortable in face-to-face situations, and online therapy can be a more pleasant (and convenient) method of receiving treatment than in-person sessions. Many clients feel more at ease in an online environment, which they can access from the comfort of their own home, as opposed to an unfamiliar office space. With BetterHelp, you also have the option to chat with your therapist outside of sessions, providing you with a private and easily accessible space to continue treatment. Read below for reviews of licensed therapists from BetterHelp’s extensive network of professionals, who can work with you to manage and treat performance anxiety issues.
"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 to set realistic goals with 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 share 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."
You don't have to let anxiety control your life. Think of the person you could be—your true self—if you were able to learn how to get rid of fear, doubt, ruminating thoughts, and other obsessive worrying behaviors. You don't have to live your life in fear or constant dread. You deserve to be happy, so let us help. Take the first step today.
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