Do you break out into a sweat at the mere thought of giving a talk or presentation in front of a group?
Does the pressure of being tested, either academically or say for a driving licence, fill you with horror?
Are you experiencing a setback in performing well in a sport or hobby which you used to excel in previously?
You are not alone. Even professional sports people, actors and musicians have periods of anxiety around their performance. The actor Lawrence Olivier was reported to being so nervous he would vomit before going on stage and the pianist Vladimir Horowitz found his anxiety around performance to be so disturbing that he didn’t perform for 12 years. In a 2001 poll in the USA, 40% of adults said they dreaded speaking in front of an audience.
Whilst a mild apprehension can be helpful in delivering just about the right amount of stress hormone to keep us alert and focused for a performance or test, many people can suffer from an intense fear of humiliation, embarrassment or scrutiny from others. This leads to the body’s “fight or flight” response - triggering symptoms such as heavy sweating, heart palpitations, dry mouth, gastrointestinal distress, trembling or hyperventilation.
Self-medication with alcohol and/or drugs is often the route people take to reduce their symptoms but unfortunately this does not solve the problem and can lead to addiction or ill health.
So how does performance anxiety develop?
At some point, or various points, in the life of a sufferer, there would have been events, which currently may or may not be consciously recalled, that were perceived by the subconscious emotional mind as a perceived threat. We may have been teased or embarrassed by others in the past and our emotional stability would have been compromised.
We all have a primal human need to feel safe and secure and also the need to feel we are accepted by our family and friends. If this sense of security and acceptance is shattered, our emotional mind registers a threat which we will then want to avoid. Even though we now may consciously and rationally sense that standing up in front of an audience is not a danger to our survival, our learnt subconscious reaction tells us otherwise through our intense feelings and physiological responses.
Hypnotherapy for Performance Anxiety
Many performance anxiety related issues have been shown to be effectively helped with the use of hypnotherapy. Research has indicated that exam anxiety was reduced and scholastic performance was improved in school children and undergraduate students (1), public speaking anxiety was seen to be treated effectively (2) and music performance anxiety was reduced by both hypnotherapy and EMDR (3).
Hypnotherapy aims to help a sufferer regain a sense of composure and balance around their performance anxiety by processing past trauma and/or updating subconscious responses to the performance. When the subconscious has once again recognised that a threat to safety is not an issue, a more realistic and relaxed approach can be experienced.
If you would like to feel more confident and reduce anxiety in performing, public speaking or a test situation, please get in touch.
1. Mathur, S., Khan, W. (2011) Impact of Hypnotherapy on Examination Anxiety and Scholastic Performance among School Children Delhi Psychiatry Journal 14 (2): 337-342
Baker, J. et al. (2009) A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomised controlled trials evaluating the effect of hypnosis on exam anxiety Effective Education 1 (1): 27-41
2. Schoenberger, Nancy E., et al. (1998) Hypnotic enhancement of a cognitive behavioral treatment for public speaking anxiety Behavior Therapy 28 (1): 127-140.
3. Brooker, M.E. (2015) Music performance anxiety: an investigation into the efficacy of cognitive hypnotherapy and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing when applied to grade 8 pianists. Diss. University of Leeds