Anxiety Attacks Brought On By Public Speaking Fear

Have you had anxiety attacks or panic attacks you think were brought on by your fear of public speaking? Then this will help you understand what's going on, and what you can do about it.

What Is An Anxiety Attack?

Like most things we don't call it by the same name as does the medical profession. Its medical name is "Panic Disorder".

Here's how it's officially defined by the medical profession in their disorder 'bible', the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Version 4 (DSM IV), of the American Psychiatric Association.

Panic Disorder

Category: Anxiety Disorders

Etiology: Often the symptoms of this disorder come on rapidly and without an identifiable stressor.

The individual may have had periods of high anxiety in the past, or may have been involved in a recent stressful situation.

The underlying causes, however, are typically subtle.

Symptoms: Panic Disorder is characterized by sudden attacks of intense fear or anxiety, usually associated with numerous physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, rapid breathing or shortness of breath, blurred vision, dizziness, and racing thoughts.

Often these symptoms are thought to be a heart attack by the individual, and many cases are diagnosed in hospital emergency rooms.

Treatment: Although medication can be useful, psychotherapy (especially behavioral and cognitive/behavioral approaches have proved quite successful).

The key to treatment is accepting the panic attacks as psychological rather than physical (once these causes have been ruled out by a physician), practicing relaxation exercises, and working through the underlying issues.

Prognosis: Prognosis for this disorder is very good if the above conditions are met.

Left untreated, however, symptoms can worsen and Agoraphobia can develop. In these cases, the individual has developed such an intense fear that leaving the safety of home feels impossible.

How To Deal With It

It's encouraging to see the physicians suggesting 'accepting' the attack as 'psychological' - ie originated in the mind.

If, as they say, relaxation and thinking through the issues, can fix it - then it's probably not the end of the world is it? Even if it feels like it at the time!

The most important thing to understand as a public speaker is this.

Public speaking didn't cause your anxiety attack. Your mind did.

As with all fear, you simply made a mental mistake.

Remember what Alexander Pope, the greatest poet of his age, said more than 250 years ago "to err is human". Welcome to the human race!

So, if you have any sort of anxiety or panic attack associated with public speaking try this:

  1. Bring the physical symptoms under control by breathing deeply from the diaphragm, or whatever other relaxation techniques work for you.

  2. Accept it completely. It happened. No big deal.

  3. When you're ready, go looking for the errors in your thinking about public speaking. The best place to start is these articles on the fear of public speaking.

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