Sooner or later, nearly everyone has some personal experience with performance anxiety. Psychiatrist Lindsay Kiriakos M.D., who specializes in treating anxiety, says that the most robust approach to overcoming performance anxiety issues is cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT.
What Is Performance Anxiety?
People experiencing performance anxiety aren’t able to call on their skill sets to meet the demands of a situation for which they feel they are being judged. They may suffer a dry mouth and a tight throat at the exact moment they need to speak. Their hands could turn cold and sweaty when they meet a VIP for the first time, or they may experience racing pulse, rapid breathing, nausea, vision changes, or trembling knees, hands, lips, or voice.
The psychological effects of performance anxiety aren’t limited to the performance itself. People with performance anxiety issues often worry for weeks or months in advance of a performance. They may experience full-blown anxiety attacks at the mere thought of performing. As the time for the performance approaches, they may mentally travel to a different world, becoming dissociative, or they may suffer lapses of memory that make the desired performance impossible.
Performance anxiety becomes an issue when you are going on stage or speaking in front of a group. Many people find that, after successfully avoiding performance situations for years, they are suddenly pushed face-to-face with it after a promotion at work that requires them to speak in meetings. But it can also interfere with dating, dealing with authority figures, walking into a room late, talking on the phone in the presence of others, or just being the center of attention, intentionally or otherwise.
Why Dr. Lindsay Kiriakos Recommends CBT for Performance Anxiety
Many people who have performance anxiety issues self-medicate with alcohol or marijuana. Others turn to prescription medications for temporary relief. Neither approach, however, addresses the underlying problem.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, alters the thought patterns and behaviors that lead to performance anxiety. Therapists and doctors like Dr. Lindsay Kiriakos, help the patient identify and challenge the thoughts that go through their mind in the minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months leading up to the performance. The therapist and the patient also identify various ways to confront the anxiety head-on (known as “gradual exposures”) so as to reduce it permanently. Most importantly, the therapist creates a safe space where the client can feel secure enough to address their issues and make lasting progress.
Cognitive behavioral therapy does not mean that patients receive no pharmaceutical help at all to get through performance obligations while learning more about themselves. A psychiatrist can
prescribe medications that relieve the symptoms of anxiety so the patient can function well in the short-term while moving forward in treating the underlying issue in the long-term.
Because performance anxiety can be a symptom of other conditions, such as panic, social
or generalized anxiety, Dr. Lindsay Kiriakos recommends that anyone who experiences symptoms make an appointment with a specialist for a complete evaluation. Proper and
thorough diagnosis leads to the most complete and effective treatment
Currently, Dr. Kiriakos works as a psychiatrist in Los Angeles with a private practice. By 2022, Dr. Kiriakos will have been a licensed physician for more than a decade. He specializes in treating adults – particularly men – who suffer from a wide variety of anxiety disorders. He is passionate about the use and effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as a treatment for conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety. Aside from assertiveness training, he also helps patients enhance their effectiveness in their personal and professional relationships.