Public speaking is one of the most common fears/phobias in the entire world. Millions upon millions of people struggle speaking in public, whether it's a presentation or even with a large group of friends. In some people, this can lead to panic attacks - or what some people call panic attacks.
In this article, we'll explore some of the causes and solutions to panic attacks when speaking in public, and explore what it takes to be more confident a speaker.
Public Speaking Panic?
The best way to cure your panic attacks and anxiety while public speaking is to learn how to comprehensively prevent anxiety from affecting you. Find out how by starting with my free 7 minute anxiety test now.
Types of Panic While Public Speaking
Public speaking panic unfortunately can be a confusing term. That's because the term "panic attacks" means something very different casually than it does as an anxiety disorder. The best way to really understand what type of anxiety you experience is with my free 7 minute anxiety test.
Generally those with public speaking panic are talking about two very different problems:
- Panicking In some cases you may be referring to simply panicking as a result of fear of public speaking. In this case, panicking simply means "extreme anxiety," and that you're simply too nervous to speak well in public.
- Panic Attacks Panic attacks, on the other hand, are a term that medically refers to intense physical sensations that mimic a heart attack, that happen to be caused by anxiety. There are those that experience this type of panic when public speaking, but the person isn't so much mentally panicking about their speaking so much as their speaking triggers a panic attack.
It's important to clarify that these are often used interchangeably, especially by those in the media. Many celebrities that claim they have "panic attacks" before shows are actually just experiencing severe nervousness, not a panic attack, and are simply misrepresenting their claims because of a lack of knowledge about the terminology.
Still, both are anxiety, and that means that they can benefit from some similar treatments.
Methods of Reducing the Anxiety of Public Speaking
In order to reduce panic while public speaking, you need to find ways to decrease your fears that you have going into the event. Here are a few strategies that can work for you:
Systematically Targeting Specific Fears
The first strategy involves systematically targeting some of the specific fears that are standing in your way when it comes to panic and anxiety. First, identify what goes through your mind when you get that anxiety. Are you worried about being embarrassed? Worried about making mistakes? Worried about getting attention? It can be hard to figure out what the worries are, but try to explore them.
Then, subject yourself to those specific concerns or experiences. Drive out of your way to a place that doesn't know you, and purposefully create those same sensations that cause you anxiety. For example:
- Embarrassed Dress up as a clown and stand in the middle of a public park for hours on end.
- Making Mistakes Purposefully replace a common word, like "the" with a word like "apples" in conversations with people throughout the day.
- Getting Attention Stand in the middle of a busy street and sing songs or play an instrument.
If you commit to these things one at a time, and do them for hours upon hours until they stop causing you anxiety, you'll eventually find that your fear of these feelings goes away. You do need to commit - if you quit because you're nervous, the fears are likely to come back - but as long as you commit you can start to see a big difference.
Another useful strategy is to actually make it harder for yourself to experience anxiety before you speak. Consider going to a jog before any event that you have to do a lot of speaking. Jogging is actually a very powerful anxiety reduction tool. It releases neurotransmitters in your brain that are known to relax the mind and body and improve mood, as well as tires out muscles to reduce the severity of many anxiety symptoms.
By jogging beforehand, your ability to experience profound anxiety decreases, which makes it harder for you to start to panic. It won't prevent all anxiety, but it can give you that extra relaxation that you need to not find speaking as difficult.
Get a Best Friend
Another strategy that sounds silly but is actually extremely valuable is to try to get closer friends. If you're someone that's been more of a loner most of your life, try to break out of that shell and find friends that really support you. If you're someone that has friends but they're not that supportive, find new friends.
There have been many studies that have shown that those that have very close friends have much more confidence in public, presumably because they know that they're still loved and supported even if they mess up. Those without those close friends end up feeling too alone if they make mistakes, which hurt a person's ability to speak in the future.
So try to get as close to your most supportive, loving friends as possible. You'll often find that your confidence levels increase dramatically when you know they will always care about you.
Fight Your Anxiety
Finally, the more you reduce your anxiety in all areas of your life, the less likely you are to be affected by something like public speaking. Often public speaking simply exacerbates anxiety, since anxiety is cumulative and the type of condition that can be worse when other things are making you anxious.
That's why you should strongly consider completing my free 7 minute anxiety test now. This test is a valuable tool for looking at your anxiety on a micro-level and recommending valuable tools for decreasing it.
If you haven't yet, start the test here.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.