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Mental Health

This is a very brief excerpt from an article written and researched by Dr David Winter on performance anxiety for a counselling website.

This is what it must be like to give birth

Call it what you will – stage fright, the collywobbles, the yips, even “flop sweat” – most of us have experienced the physical sensations of performance anxiety at one time or another: that tightening of the chest and nameless dread in the pit of the stomach that threaten to overwhelm us when summoned to “deliver the goods” in front of an audience.

Often classified as a “social phobia”, performance anxiety is the fear of exposure, humiliation or embarrassment that precedes or accompanies performing a task in public. It is a promiscuous beast with the potential to strike before or during speaking engagements, examinations, sporting events, music recitals… or in the intimacy of the bedroom. It is indiscriminate, too, sparing neither the great nor the good: the actor Harrison Ford recalls being at the mercy of "a mixed bag of terror and anxiety" whilst Stephen Fry, one of Britain’s best-loved comedians, evokes a "sort of clammy horror".

Below we outline the miscellany of emotional and somatic responses that characterise performance anxiety before considering some of the potential reasons for such attacks. We then look at the positive steps that can be taken to manage and overcome these feelings of nervousness and panic.