What is stage fright?
Stage fright, or performance anxiety, is state of anxiety or fear which occurs when an individual is faced with the requirement of performing in front of an audience (either directly or through a screen, e.g in front of a camera). It affects all kinds of people who have to appear in front of an audience, even when they are not necessarily speaking. For example, it can affect musicians, dancers, politicians or athletes.
What are the symptoms of stage fright?
Symptoms can occur at different levels:
- Physiological: sweating, altered heart rate, headache, upset stomach, chills, nausea.
- Cognitive: congestion and mental confusion, fear of failure and ridicule.
- Behavioural: urge to escape from the situation, stuttering, frequent or long silences.
What are the causes of stage fright?
Often, stage fright is associated with social phobia, which is characterised by the following cognitive errors:
- Unrealistic assessment of what is expected of you
- Underestimation of your capabilities
- Overestimation of the opinion of others
- Unrealistic expectations of others' responses to anxiety
- Overestimation of the idea of rejection
Can stage fright be prevented?
There are several tips to follow to avoid stage fright:
- Always keep in mind the present, not the past or the future
- Try not to obsess about being perfect
- Look at the end of the stage or who is smiling and forget the criticism of the public
- Try not to dramatise mistakes
- Try imagine what it would be like if nobody was watching
What is the treatment for stage fright?
Psychotherapy can be useful in overcoming stage fright, with different techniques applied:
- Techniques at the cognitive level: based on psychoeducation, aiming to make the patient see that anxiety is caused by their own negative thoughts.
- Relaxation techniques: aim to achieve effects similar to medication taken to reduce anxiety, but permanently, not for a few hours.
- Behavioral techniques: social skills are practised.