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What is Stage Fright?

By Jadey Chen

Highlights

  • Stage Fright is the anxiety behind public speaking and performing in front of an audience.

  • There are many reasons why one might have stage fright, most commonly being the fear of getting embarrassed.

  • Treatments normally include therapy or a change of mindset, there is no medication that can immediately take stage fright away.

What is Stage Fright?


Have you ever experienced anxiety right before a performance or even simply thinking about talking in front of other people? Chances are: you have stage fright. Stage fright is one of the most common fears in the world, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 73% of the population are affected by it. Stage fright is the fear people get when they have to perform in front of an audience. It can take form in numerous events such as presentations, sports games, competitions, talking to a stranger, and more. Most of the time, it’s due to the human nature of not wanting to face rejection and the desire to attain perfection.


Causes


There are many theories about what causes people to develop stage fright, and the truth is– there’s no direct reason for why someone gets scared before performing in front of others. People have different reasons for why they feel anxious before a performance, even people who are gifted at performing can feel nervous prior to it for unknown reasons. It varies from person to person, but most commonly, the reason for stage fright is from the fear of failure and embarrassment. The reason why stage fright is so common is because many people hold high expectations of themselves and are afraid of being unable to reach them. Oftentimes, people overestimate a situation and assume the worst, and that develops into a fear of failing and getting judged by others for not performing well enough.


Fight or Flight Reaction:


Stage fright causes the same reaction as if a person was being attacked and that’s because the human body’s fight or flight response kicks in when placed into a high stress situation. The adrenal glands pump adrenaline into the bloodstream causing the body to grow tense. People with stage fright hold a deep anxiety about performing, identifying it as a form of danger, which causes the response to kick in. Normally, the response is good because it means we are ready to fight or run away in the face of danger but since stage fright doesn’t have anything to fight against, it ends up having a negative effect.


Symptoms


Symptoms of stage fright include but are not limited to: dry mouth, tightness in the throat, nausea, quickened heartbeat, stomach pains, paranoia, stuttering, sweating, headaches, chills, sweaty and/or cold hands, trouble breathing, excessive worry about the performance, etc.. These are all very common symptoms of stage fright. People can have these symptoms up to days before the event but typically, symptoms become more obvious as the day approaches.


Treatment

S

tage fright is a neurological condition so there is no physical medicine that can be taken to relieve it. A form of treatment for stage fright is through going to therapy. Medical professionals are able to help patients identify their thoughts and feelings that cause the fear and work to help lighten the fear. Another form of treatment is through exposure therapy, where people present in many different settings to adjust to performing and gain control over their feelings.


Mindset Change


Most commonly, people work to get rid of stage fright by changing their mindset. There is no foolproof way to get rid of stage fright, but most times, people are able to recover either through seeking professional help or working through changing their mindset by themselves. There are ways to make a person with stage fright feel more comfortable about performing. First off, practicing is always a great way for someone to feel confident about themselves and there is less anxiety revolving around how well they can do. Another great method people use is to think positively, it seems very simple but for a person with stage fright, it’s extremely difficult to get over the negative thoughts already implanted in their mind. Before performing, try to visualize the audience loving the performance, everything going as planned, no one is judging. Many times, people get hindered by fear of judgment, so it’s crucial to remember that everyone is simply listening to the performance and they aren’t going to despise the performance. Mistakes happen to everyone, it doesn’t have to be perfect, all that matters is if you tried your best.


Conclusion


Stage fright is one of the most common phobias in the world because of how easy it is to feel anxious before a performance. It’s hard to get over the fear of rejection, especially since it’s in the brain and there is no way to take it out. It’s never easy to confront your fears, but in this case, it’s crucial to keep a positive outlook on things. More than half of the world suffers from stage fright, everyone is simply looking out for themselves. No one will judge you if the performance isn’t the most spectacular thing in the world; perform to the best of your ability and leave no regrets. Have confidence in your abilities, seek medical attention, it’s hard but not impossible to beat stage fright.


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