Public speaking panic attacks are much more than feeling a little
anxious; the kind of unease that normally disappears once your
presentation begins. This you can safely control and channel with
careful preparation and practice.
However for a person with a history of debilitating anxiety the mere
thought of speaking in front of an audience can be enough to trigger a
full blown public speaking panic attack.
These do not go away quite so readily. They need to be firmly helped out the door.
If that's your predicament and you no longer want to live your life
fearing the next attack, or go on avoiding
situations that might expose your public speaking fears, for instance a
promotion requiring you to give presentations to staff or the public,
read this article below by Barry Joe McDonagh, the man behind Panic Away, the successful anxiety disorder treatment.
He offers some great counter-intuitive tips and, if you want to take it further, you can investigate his solution for public speaking panic attacks Panic Away to fine tune and apply them.
You'll also find a video - Barry interviewing Dr. Harry Barry who he says understands panic and anxiety better than any doctor he has met.
The bottom line?
There is nothing to lose. Put aside any 'been there, done that and nothing works' thinking and read, watch and listen. When you've done with that, investigate. What you'll find is a comprehensive multi-media program endorsed by leading mental health professionals and many more grateful users.
It is often observed that many people’s top ranking fear is not death
but having to speak in public. The joke is that these people would
rather be lying in the casket at the funeral than giving the eulogy.
Public speaking for people who suffer from panic attacks or general
anxiety often becomes a major source of worry weeks or even months
before the speaking event is to occur.
These speaking engagements do not necessarily have to be the traditional “on a podium”
events but can be as simple as an office meeting where the individual
is expected to express an opinion or give verbal feedback. The fear of
public speaking and panic attacks in this case centers on having an
attack while speaking. The individual fears being incapacitated by the
anxiety and hence unable to complete what he or she is saying. The
person imagines fleeing the spotlight and having to make all kinds of
excuses later for their undignified departure out the office window …
This differs slightly from the majority of people who fear public
speaking because their fear tends to revolve around going blank while
speaking or feeling uncomfortable under the spotlight of their peers.
The jitters or nerves of speaking in public are of course a problem for
this group as well, but they are unfamiliar with that debilitating
threat which is the panic attack, as they most likely have not
experienced one before.
Stage one is accepting that all these bizarre and quite frankly unnerving sensations are not going to go away overnight.
In fact, you are not even going to concern yourself with getting rid of
them for your next talk. When they arrive during a speech/meeting, you
are going to approach them in a new manner.
What we need to do is build your confidence back to where it used to be
before any of these sensations ever occurred. This time you will
approach it in a unique, empowering manner, allowing you to feel your
It is said that most of the top speakers are riddled with anxiety before
speaking, but they somehow use this nervousness to enhance their
speech. I am going to show you exactly how to do this, although I know
that right now if you suffer from public speaking panic attacks you may
find it difficult to believe you can ever overcome it.
My first point is this and it is important. The average healthy person
can experience an extreme array of anxiety and very uncomfortable
sensations while giving a speech and is in no danger of ever losing
control, or even appearing slightly anxious to the audience. No matter
how tough it gets, you will always finish your piece, even if at the
outset it feels very uncomfortable to go on. You will not become
incapacitated in any way.
The real breakthrough if you suffer from public speaking panic attacks
happens when you fully believe that you are not in danger and that the
sensations will pass.
“I realize you (the anxiety) hold no threat over me.”
keeps a public speaking panic attack coming again and again is the fear
of the fear — the fear that the next one will really knock your socks
off and you feel you were lucky to have made it past the last one
unscathed. As they were so unnerving and scary, it is your confidence
that has been damaged by previous anxiety episodes. Once you fully
understand you are not under any threat, then you can have a new
response to the anxiety as it arises while speaking.
There is always a turning point when a person moves from general
anxiety into a panic attack, and that happens with public speaking when
you think to yourself:
“I won’t be able to handle this in front of these people.”
That split second of self-doubt leads to a rush of adrenaline, and the extreme anxiety arrives in a wave like format.
If, however, when you feel the initial anxiety and you react with
confidence that this is not a threat to you, you will move out of the
anxiety rapidly. Using this new approach is a powerful ally because it
means it is okay to feel scared and feel the anxiety when speaking –
that is fine; you are going to feel it and move with and through the
sensations in your body and out the other side. Because he or she is
feeling very anxious, often before the talk has begun, that person may
feel they have already let themselves down. Now, you can relax on that
point. It is perfectly natural to feel the anxiety. Take for example the
worst of the sensations you have ever experienced in this situation —
be it general unease to loss of breath. You will have an initial
automatic reaction that says:
“Danger – I’m going to have an episode of anxiety here and I really can’t afford that to happen.”
At this point most people react to that idea and confirm it must be true because of all of the unusual feelings they are experiencing. This is where your thinking can lead you down a train of thought that creates a cycle of anxiety that produces a negative impact on your overall presenting skills.
So let that initial “oh dear, not now” thought pass by, and follow it up immediately with the attitude of:
you are – I’ve been wondering when you would arrive. I’ve been
expecting you to show up — by the way, I am not in the least threatened
by any of the strange sensations you are creating — I am completely safe
The key to controlling your fear of public speaking panic attacks is
that instead of pushing the emotional energy and excitement down into
your stomach, you are moving out through it.
Your body is in a slightly excited state, exactly as it should be while
giving a speech, so release that energy in your self-expression. Push it
out through your presentation not down into your stomach. You push it
out by expressing yourself more forcefully. In this way you turn the
anxiety to your advantage by using it to deliver a speech where you come
across more alive, energetic and in the present moment.
When you notice the anxiety drop as it does when you willingly move into
it. Fire a quick thought off when you get a momentary break (as I am
sure you have between pieces), asking it for “more.” You want more of
its intense feelings as you are interested in them and are absolutely
not threatened by them.
It seems like a lot of things to be thinking about while talking to a
group of people, but it is not really. You’d be amazed how many
different non-related thoughts you can have while speaking. This
approach is about adopting a new attitude of confidence to what you
might have deemed a serious threat up until now. This tactic will truly
help you with public speaking panic attacks and the fear you have
associated with them.
If your predominant fear of the speaking engagement is driven by a
feeling of being trapped, then I would suggest factoring in some mental
releases that can be prepared before the event. For example, some
meetings/speeches allow for you to turn the attention back to the room
to get feedback etc. from the group.
If possible, you might want to prepare such opportunities in your own
mind before the engagements. This is not to say you have to ever use
them, but people in this situation often remark that just having small
opportunities where attention can be diverted for the briefest of
moments can make the task seem less daunting. It may even be something
as simple as having people introduce themselves or opening the floor to
I realize these diversions are not always possible and depend on the
situation, but anything you can factor in that makes you feel less
trapped or under the spotlight is worth the effort and can help
alleviate fear of public speaking panic attacks.
You'll find you are not alone.
There is hope and a potential solution to your public speaking panic attacks.