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How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

Micah Abraham, BSc
How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety is a fairly broad term. For some, it refers to the ability to perform well under pressure - like playing a sport, making a presentation, or excelling in public. For others, it refers to sexual performance, where those that have anxiety tend to worry about how they'll perform to such a degree that they either experience some type of sexual dysfunction or fail to enjoy their sexual experiences.

Both of these anxiety types are very different, which is why in this article, we'll explore the causes of both of them and what can be done to prevent them.

Anxiety and "Performance Anxiety"

Performance anxiety can be a serious problem. It can create other types of anxiety, including social anxiety, and in some cases, it can be a symptom of other anxiety disorders that bleed into your confidence in social situations. 

No matter what you will need to address your overall anxiety if you want to also reduce your performance anxiety. Anxiety disorders create negative, nervous thinking, and so even if you "cure" your performance anxiety, you are still likely to have disabling thoughts that may affect your performance in the future.

But performance anxiety itself can have a variety of additional causes. Let's look at the two main types of performance anxiety and see what may cause it, and then go into detail about what can be done to prevent it.

Performance Anxiety Type 1 - Speeches and Performance Under Pressure

Athletes, presenters, and anyone that does anything under the public's eye may find themselves with performance anxiety. The causes of this are fairly simple:

Anything in life can cause these emotions. Some people are born with a mild performance anxiety or grew up naturally shy, so the idea of talking in public is upsetting to them. Others are prone to distress over the idea of being judged, possibly because of experiences in the past, upbringing, or bullying.

As with all anxiety, it is difficult to know the exact cause, but performance anxiety is also self-sustaining because it creates a mindset that focuses only on mistakes and seeing "judgment" in others. One small mistake, even if no one notices, or one person in the audience that looks unhappy and all of your fears are reinforced, causing more performance anxiety to happen in the future.

Performance Anxiety Type 2: Sexual Performance

The origins of sexual performance anxiety are a bit more obvious. This is a society that puts considerable pressure on how people perform in the bedroom, the size of their genitals, the need to please the partner, and so on. Combine this with inexperience, a bad sexual experience, or perceived trouble at finding sexual partners, and it is no surprise that some people develop performance anxiety in sexual situations.

How the performance anxiety manifests may differ. The most common ways include:

No matter the effects of anxiety, there is no denying that anxiety itself can create more anxiety. The more you are worried about your performance, the more your performance suffers, and the more you worry about performance in the future.

Strategies to Reduce Public Performance Anxiety

Fighting performance anxiety in public situations - like a sporting event or speech - is something that primarily takes practice. The more and longer you practice the more these performances become instinctual. Athletes that struggle under pressure are more likely to perform the more they experience the pressure-filled situations. Those that are afraid of public speaking tend to improve when they have performed numerous speaking events.

However, a big part of how you address these issues comes from self-talk. Often the problem with this type of performance anxiety is that the brain tends to focus on the negative and tell itself worst case scenarios. You need to address the way you feel about your performance so that you are not sidelined by mistakes or stressed over the potential to make them. Consider the following:

These may not sound like the most effective strategies, but that's because performance anxiety is dependent on simply learning to think positively so that bad performances don't affect you and practicing to ensure that you are ready for any event.

Since so much performance anxiety comes from negative self-talk and psyching yourself out under pressure, the best thing you can do for yourself is:

Strategies to Reduce Sexual Performance Anxiety

Sexual performance anxiety tends to be a bit more complex because thinking about your sexual performance too much takes away from its enjoyment. Also, the body gets used to specific reactions. Men with premature ejaculation, for example, will not necessarily overcome the dysfunction immediately even if they overcome their performance anxiety because the body is trained to finish faster. It is a process, just as overcoming performance anxiety, in general, is a process.

Sex therapists can be a big help. But no matter what, consider the following:

These are just a few of the important steps for reducing performance anxiety.

Overall Cure For Performance Anxiety

No matter what type of performance anxiety you have, the truth is that performance anxiety is far more common in those that struggle with daily anxiety, because anxiety causes many of the negative thoughts and confidence issues that bleed into performance.

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