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Stage fright or performance anxiety is the anxiety, fear, or persistent phobia which may be aroused in an individual by the requirement to perform in front of an audience, whether actually or potentially (for example, when performing before a camera). In the context of public speaking, this may precede or accompany participation in any activity involving public self-presentation. In some cases stage fright may be a part of a larger pattern of social phobia or social anxiety disorder, but many people experience stage fright without any wider problems. Quite often, stage fright arises in a mere anticipation of a performance, often a long time ahead. It has numerous manifestations: fluttering or pounding heart, tremor in the hands and legs, sweaty hands, facial nerve tics, dry mouth, and erectile dysfunction.
People and situations affected 
Stage fright may be observed in people of all experience and background, from those completely new to being in front of an audience to those who have done so for years. It's commonly known among everyday people, which may, for example, affect one's confidence in job interviews. It also affects actors, comedians, musicians, and politicians. Many people with no other problems can experience stage fright (also called 'performance anxiety'), but some people with chronic stage fright also have social anxiety or social phobia which are chronic feelings of high anxiety in any social situation. Stage fright can also be seen in school situations, like stand up projects and class speeches.
Effects of stage fright 
When someone starts to feel the sensation of being scared or nervous they start to experience anxiety. According to a Harvard Mental Health Letter, "Anxiety usually has physical symptoms that may include a racing heart, a dry mouth, a shaky voice, blushing, trembling, sweating, and nausea" . It triggers the body to activate its sympathetic nervous system. This process takes place when the body releases adrenaline into the blood stream causing a chain of reactions to occur. This bodily response is known as the "fight or flight" syndrome, a naturally occurring process in the body done to protect itself from harm. “...The neck muscles contract, bringing the head down and shoulders up, while the back muscles draw the spine into a concave curve. This, in turn, pushes the pelvis forward and pulls the genitals up, slumping the body into a classic fetal position" .
In trying to resist this position, the body will begin to shake in places such as the legs and hands. Several other things happen besides this. Muscles in the body contract causing them to be tense and ready to attack. Second, "blood vessels in the extremities constrict" . This can leave a person with the feeling of cold fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Constricted blood vessels also gives the body extra blood flow to the vital organs.
In addition, those experiencing stage fright will have an increase in blood pressure, which supplies the body with more nutrients and oxygen in response to the "fight or flight" instincts. This, in return, causes the body to overheat and sweat. Breathing will increase so that the body can obtain the desired amount of oxygen for the muscles and organs. Pupils will dilate giving someone the inability to view any notes they have in close proximity, however, long range vision is improved making the speaker more aware of their audience's facial expressions and non verbal cues in response to the speaker's performance. Lastly, the digestive system shuts down to prepare for producing energy for an immediate emergency response. This can leave the body with the effects of dry mouth, nausea, or butterflies.
Ways to cope with stage fright 
Instead of looking at your anxiety as a problem look at it as an opportunity to improve yourself. Use this opportunity to grow and overcome your anxiety. An important component of this is to bridge the mind body gap by realizing that you have control over your actions. This can be accomplished by positive thinking and different breathing techniques. It is important to keep yourself grounded as well. This can prevent you from spiraling into negative thoughts. An important step in getting over you anxiety is to identify and dispute your demands on yourself and your performance. Many studies have been done that show REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) developed by Albert Ellis combined with determination and hard work can help almost anyone overcome their problems. REBT deals with the idea that in most circumstances we do not get anxious or fearful of things that truly merit fear, but we fear constructs that we have invented internally. By looking at how and why one develops these internal illusions of fearful things we can help delineate the occurrence of this behavior. The main goal is to change how you think about the situation. Once a change in thought occurs you can change your feelings and behaviors.
Famous people with stage fright 
Many famous people have had stage fright and were able to overcome their problem. Such stars as Jason Alexander, Mose Allison, Maya Angelou, David Brenner, Peter Coyote, Olympia Dukakis, Richard Lewis, and many more have dealt with performance anxiety.
Common errors 
Here are some common errors people have when preparing for an event.
- Using must in statements. I must do well etc.
- Coupling must with awful. I must do well, it will be awful if I don’t do a good job.
- Demanding acceptance with the audience. The audience must like me, if they don’t I’ll be a failure.
- Being anxious about being anxious
The problem with seeking help 
A large problem that is seldom talked about is the issue of people who have severe anxiety many times do not seek help because they are also fearful of dealing with the issues. This is a vicious cycle that can cause many deep rooted issues. Many times when help if finally sought there are issues that have grown from relatively small thing into an almost insurmountable task. This brings up the importance of seeking help as soon as something seems to be out of control. If caught early one can prevent a serious illness with minor countermeasures.
See also 
- Beyond Shyness 2003.
- Cyphert 2005.
- Ashley, Joyce (1996). Overcoming stage fright in everyday life. New York: Clarkson Potter. ISBN 051770465X.
- Berry, Mick (2009). Stage fright 40 stars tell you how they beat America's #1 fear. Tucson: See Sharp Press. ISBN 1884365469.
- Esposito, Janet (2009). Getting over stage fright a new approach to resolving your fear of public speaking and performing. St Peters, Mo: Love Your Life Pub. ISBN 1934509272.
- Marshall, John (1994). Social phobia : from shyness to stage fright. New York: BasicBooks. ISBN 0465078966.
- Butler, Gillian (2008). Overcoming social anxiety and shyness : a self-help guide using cognitive behavioral techniques. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0465005454.
- "Beyond shyness and stage fright: Social anxiety disorder". Harvard Mental Health Letter. 4 April 2010. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
- Dale, Cyphert (2005). "Managing Stage Fright". Retrieved 10 December 2012.
Further reading 
- Bryce, Suzanne (15 November 2005). "Beta Blockers as Treatment for Stage Fright". Health Psychology Home Page. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- Ma, Lybi (6 December 2005). "Fighting Stage Fright". Psychology Today (Sussex Publishers). Retrieved 11 December 2012.
- Neftel, Klaus A.; Rolf H. Adler; Louis Kappeli; Mario Rosi; Martin Dolder; Hans E. Käser; Heinz H. Bruggesser; and Helmut Vorkauf (November 1982). "Stage Fright in Musicians: A Model Illustrating the Effect of Beta Blockers". Psychosomatic Medicine 44 (5): 461–69. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
- Havas, Kató (1973). Stage Fright – Its Causes and Cures in Violin Playing. London: Bosworth & Co. Ltd. ISBN 9781849380751.