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Stage Fright Social Anxiety Disorder

Updated on November 28, 2012
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Introduction

It's your freshman year of high school. For the first time you are allowed to choose your creative arts electives. You fill out a form ranking classes from one to five (one being the journalism class you want to take and five being the drama class you would dread taking). Somehow you wind up with drama class. You show up to class, getting A's on all of the written exams because it's not knowing the fundamentals of acting that scare you, or even memorizing lines, it's actually getting on stage and preforming in front of the entire class!

A few weeks into class you stand nervously backstage, waiting until it's your turn to deliver your perfectly prepared monologue. You take deep breaths, trying to calm yourself down but you just keep getting more and more anxious. Finally the teacher calls your name. You walk out onto the stage, heart pounding. The room starts spinning and the floor seems to be moving under your feet. You get five words out before collapsing on the stage floor.

You Can Overcome

If this sounds like you (and I know it sounds exactly like me), then you are not alone. Stage fright is one of the most common phobias throughout the country. Even those who don't have social anxiety disorder or stage fright would probably still wouldn't go as far as saying they enjoy the experience of speaking in front of an audience. Sometimes, however, we must do things that cause us anxiety in order to move forward with our lives.

Most college (and sometimes high school) curriculum require that you take a public speaking course in order to graduate. Sometimes this can be avoided by visiting a mental health professional and being officially diagnosed with social anxiety disorder or something similar. My psychologist offered to sign me out of my college public speaking course, but I declined and decided to face my fear.

I am currently halfway through taking the course and am happy with my decision for the following reasons:

  • I have gotten to know everyone in my class pretty well and by the time I got to my third speech, I wasn't nearly as nervous speaking in front of them
  • I may need the skills learned in public speaking in order to succeed in other aspects of my life
  • I feel good facing my fear and have actually found I enjoy public speaking now that I've gotten used to it
  • My instructor is very supportive and is very good at bringing out the best in people
  • In writing my speeches I have learned a lot about topics I probably wouldn't have researched otherwise

Conclusion

If you really feel that your anxiety is so great that you will never be even remotely comfortable on a stage, there is no shame in it. Stage fright and social anxiety are hard things to overcome but even if you don't overcome your fear, you should at least seek counseling to learn how to control it to a certain degree. Before I started going to therapy, I couldn't even go to the grocery store by myself without having a panic attack. Now I'm ok with crowds as long as I'm not in front of them, and I've even overcome most of that anxiety. All fears and anxieties are a mental state and can be treated like any other disease or disorder.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I had a fairly bad case of this when I was in college...interestingly enough, I ended up being a teacher and that took care of my phobia. :) Good job!

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Really well written and good tips too. I was in Toastmasters for a year, as mandated by the company I worked for, and later did some acting in local theater. I also hav done some local tv commercials.

      I always suffered from stage fright and would still in the plays, but the camera part did not bother me as much.

    • visionandfocus profile image

      visionandfocus 4 years ago from North York, Canada

      I shook so much at my first violin recital my bow nearly whipped into the crowd and took someone's eye out. Sadly, I'm not kidding. But since I started practising energy therapy (in particular EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as MTT or meridian tapping therapy), I've been able to do a presentation in front of a group of people without freaking out. There's progress for you.

      But it's absolutely true that more people would rather be in the coffin than deliver an eulogy. It's a pervasive issue and causes unnecessary suffering, so it's always good to read about people overcoming it.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • ARUN KANTI profile image

      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 4 years ago from KOLKATA

      Thanks for sharing an issue plaguing many persons. I have come to know from Homoeopathic books that there are good remedies for stage fright.

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 4 years ago from Cape Cod

      This is a great read Dawn and thanks for posting it. I have had the panic attacks for as long as I can remember. And yet I always had jobs where I was in the public eye. As a radio broadcaster in the 1960s, I worked in local radio but had a few chances to do spots on a nationwide radio network. The panic attacks were almost crippling but I always fought through it. Even today, just short of 70 years old, I still do Food Demonstrations in supermarkets before hundreds of people. I still fight the panic attacks, but I have never let them stop me. I saw Tony Bennett recently and he said he still gets stage fright; after more than sixty years in show business.

      Btw, I had the opportunity to spend some time in your great city (Indy) in the 1990s. I lived at the Residence Inn on the canal and I loved the town. Dinners at the Buca Di Beppo were spectacular. I was working for a Massachusetts firm that was bought out by your Brylane, and was sent along with many others from my company, to see how the Indiana team ran its operation. Thousands of Bay State residents found out how great the city is, when it hosted the Super Bowl. How bout writing some pieces on your city. In sports alone, you have much to brag about.

      Thanks again, Billrrrrr

    • ARUN KANTI profile image

      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 4 years ago from KOLKATA

      I am reminded of a school friend who always avoided public speeches whenever his teachers would invite the students to give extempore speeches to help them grasp the power of public speech without getting tongue tied and overcoming stage fright. He avoided on different pretexts and the result is that although endowed with many talents and degrees he has failed miserably in interviews and is not successful in life. So begin from childhood and it will stand you in good stead in becoming successful in life. Thanks.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 4 years ago

      I had stage fright when I was young but thought I was over it. I rediscovered the fear when I went back to school in my mid forties. My remedy is to intentionally take speech and acting classes to make myself get passed the hump. Well, my heart still race 1 million miles per hour.

      Thank you for the great research you have done here and the wonderful info. Voted up for useful

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