Have you ever stood up to give a work presentation, and then suddenly become overwhelmed with panic and fear? If you’re a regular marathon runner, have you ever suddenly found yourself taken over by stress on the morning of a race?
This is performance anxiety, and it can happen to anyone. Whether you’re an athlete, a musician, a public speaker, or a lover, your fight or flight system – there to help you survive – will kick in and take over. Regardless of whether you are faced with a lion, a tiger, a physical attack, a policeman giving you a ticket, or a fight with your spouse, your everyday stresses are read by your body in the same way.
Fight or flight
When you find yourself overcome with performance anxiety, what is actually happening is that your fight or flight system begins pumping cortisol – the stress hormone meant to save you from danger – throughout your body. Then, cortisol changes your brain architecture temporarily, and impulse control, so that you react quickly and instinctively. When you feel attacked, either physically or emotionally, you can’t stop to contemplate or use your executive function. Thus your body, in its wisdom, helps you act quickly to save you from danger. This is the same system that your primitive ancestors used.
The problem is that, today, most of your threats are emotional, and your fight or flight system can’t recognize the difference. Therefore, cortisol is called upon consistently, ultimately wearing down your body, like battery fluid, doing untold damage, both physically and emotionally.
Performance anxiety, and the emotional stress it creates, can become a roadblock to your overall well-being, presenting into other forms of anxiety, including sexual anxiety, relationship anxiety, social anxiety, test anxiety and so on. For example, someone who has the predisposition towards shyness may develop problems interacting socially and finding themselves stressed over the simplest social activities. Even a coffee date can cause panic.
Whether you’re a male or a female, sexual anxiety can promote dysfunction. If you’re uncomfortable with your body type, the size of your genitals or your ability to orgasm, may trigger performance anxiety to rear its ugly head
Sexual performance anxiety impacts both sexes. As a woman, you may experience vaginal dryness, sexual pain, or discomfort. On the other hand, if you’re a male, premature ejaculation, impotence, or orgasm-delay, can all be examples of performance anxiety.
Now the question is: what can you do about the inhibiting and crippling effects of performance anxiety? In my next blog post I’ll share some tips on how to self-manage your stress and help you decrease your performance anxiety.