Trouble Speaking/Reading in Class - Social Anxiety Forum
 
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-12-2009, 02:25 PM Thread Starter
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Trouble Speaking/Reading in Class

Hey, I was wondering if anybody has experience dealing with really intense stage fright, or physical trouble speaking and reading in public. I am going to be taking several workshopping classes for my undergraduate degree, and the more I read my work aloud, the worse my physical symptoms get. I really really can't go on this way.

First my heart races like mad before I even start. I worry, not about what people will think, but about what my body will do. Ever since high school I remember shaking in front of class, but it's only gotten worse every time I've done public speaking. As soon as I figured out all the possible physical symptoms, I felt them all even more! My major problem, besides my mind going to totally blank is the control over voice and over breathing. I simply don't have the control.

My voice is the worst thing to hit this side of the country in all of history, I assure you. Like, can it possibly shake any more than it does? I seriously sound like I'm really upset and about to cry. I practice quietly in my room the night before, and I visualize myself reading poetry with ease and rhythm, and everyone is really impressed. But then the moment comes and it's like I just swallowed razor blades. Not to mention I shake for the rest of class. I wish I could read the way I want to/say the things I want to! But my stupid body is all like "aaaaagh you're going to die!"

What what what can I possibly do to stop this? I am looking into beta blockers. Does anybody have any advice though? I would love you so much! It is such an opportunity killer for my degree too. I will never be able to teach, and I will never even be a writer because they have to do public readings all the time! I won't ever be able to get a MA because you have to speak in conferences or something. Heck, I won't even be able to finish my remaining years in workshops and seminars! I might as well be dead! Ugh. Help!
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-12-2009, 02:29 PM
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I could speak in class if I didn't have physical symptoms -- that's where 99.9% of my embarrassment comes from. I would say if you can get some Klonopin or Xanax, do it. I don't see how anyone can talk themselves out of having physical symptoms of anxiety. I've tried it time and time again and it never works.

I gave a presentation once while on I think either 1 or .5 ml Xanax and it really helped reduce anxiety symptoms. I remember reading my evaluations from several classmates and some said I looked like a pro and others said that I looked nervous

But, to ease physical symptoms, definitely take an anxiety reducer. I've tried Klonopin and Xanax, but I don't really know whether any others work as well.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-13-2009, 03:50 AM Thread Starter
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Are either or both of those SSRIs?
I should mention, I have an absolute hate on for all SSRIs, and will not touch them with a ten foot pole.
Not that I don't think they do good for people. I just won't use them myself.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-13-2009, 04:19 AM
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Originally Posted by caithiggs View Post
Hey, I was wondering if anybody has experience dealing with really intense stage fright, or physical trouble speaking and reading in public. I am going to be taking several workshopping classes for my undergraduate degree, and the more I read my work aloud, the worse my physical symptoms get. I really really can't go on this way.

First my heart races like mad before I even start. I worry, not about what people will think, but about what my body will do. Ever since high school I remember shaking in front of class, but it's only gotten worse every time I've done public speaking. As soon as I figured out all the possible physical symptoms, I felt them all even more! My major problem, besides my mind going to totally blank is the control over voice and over breathing. I simply don't have the control.

My voice is the worst thing to hit this side of the country in all of history, I assure you. Like, can it possibly shake any more than it does? I seriously sound like I'm really upset and about to cry. I practice quietly in my room the night before, and I visualize myself reading poetry with ease and rhythm, and everyone is really impressed. But then the moment comes and it's like I just swallowed razor blades. Not to mention I shake for the rest of class. I wish I could read the way I want to/say the things I want to! But my stupid body is all like "aaaaagh you're going to die!"

What what what can I possibly do to stop this? I am looking into beta blockers. Does anybody have any advice though? I would love you so much! It is such an opportunity killer for my degree too. I will never be able to teach, and I will never even be a writer because they have to do public readings all the time! I won't ever be able to get a MA because you have to speak in conferences or something. Heck, I won't even be able to finish my remaining years in workshops and seminars! I might as well be dead! Ugh. Help!
Can I ask, is there anything you are self conscious about when it comes to public speaking - i.e. self conscious being looked at or self conscious of your voice. Something is clearly triggering strong anxiety and then once this anxiety has kicked in the symptoms you describe are clearly symptoms from being anxious and fearing being anxious - i.e. you wouldn't suffer such syptoms talking to a room full of plastic dummies would you?

If you can stop the original anxiety from triggering then the symptoms you describe will not occur, because you become anxious about being anxious, but if you're not anxious you don't become anxious about it.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-13-2009, 03:59 PM
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If you can stop the original anxiety from triggering then the symptoms you describe will not occur, because you become anxious about being anxious, but if you're not anxious you don't become anxious about it.
The problem is it's fear of being anxious in such situations so that's all that is needed to trigger the anxiety. It's a classic Social Phobia trap. It's mentioned in the DSM

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A. A marked and persistent fear of one or more social and performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be humiliating or embarrassing.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-13-2009, 05:06 PM
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I have a lot of problems with presenting/reading in class as well. Having physical symptoms is really frustrating because even when you know what you want to say the shaking or quivering voice makes it come out all wrong! I'm finishing up my degree and have had to do a lot of presentations here towards the end. I was prescribed propranolol, a beta-blocker that slows down your heartbeat causing your body relax. I take 1 pill about 30 minutes before presenting and it works great! I've really learned a lot about giving good presentations and would eventually like to become a good speaker without the aid of medication. I would suggest going to your doctor and explain your symptoms. Good luck!

B
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2009, 06:42 PM
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I attend a law school that uses that Socratic method. Basically, the professor calls on you without any warning and then proceeds to question you about your answer and then ask more questions. It was a living he'll when I first began, but now I am perfecting a method. First, and most importantly, over-prepare. If you know what information you will be discussing ahead of time, learn it very well- writing about it will help. If you are confident that you know the material, it follows that you will be less nervous. Similarly, respect your own abilities/opinions. I'm sure that privately you are confident that you know the material as well as others, so keep this in mind before class. Third, when you begin to speak, picture youself as having a conversation with the professor, or fellow student. This will help to focus your attention on their reaction and away the others in the room. Lastly, think of it as a learning experience. After all, speaking in class is meant to better your understanding and deepen the clasroom conversation. Hope this helps. I know it's tough to overcome the physical problems, but the more you immerse yourself into the substance of the discussion, the easier this will be. I myself am still very nervous at the start of every class, but by concentrating on the substance of the discussion, this slowly fades.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2009, 08:11 PM
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Yea I have problems speaking in class, which is one reason why I've avoided taking workshop classes even though I think they'd help my writing.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2009, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Want2Bconfident View Post
Can I ask, is there anything you are self conscious about when it comes to public speaking - i.e. self conscious being looked at or self conscious of your voice. Something is clearly triggering strong anxiety and then once this anxiety has kicked in the symptoms you describe are clearly symptoms from being anxious and fearing being anxious - i.e. you wouldn't suffer such syptoms talking to a room full of plastic dummies would you?

If you can stop the original anxiety from triggering then the symptoms you describe will not occur, because you become anxious about being anxious, but if you're not anxious you don't become anxious about it.
I know this is intended to be helpful, but it is...um...not. So your advice is for this person to "stop the original anxiety". Do you have a proposal for how to do this? Also, your assumption in the first paragraph is that there is some rational root cause of the anxiety, something specific that triggers the anxiety. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Once your body becomes accustomed to reacting a certain way to certain situations, it's no longer about rational processes and specific fears. It's just an anxiety response.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2009, 09:06 PM
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[QUOTE=Peregrinus;805699]I attend a law school that uses that Socratic method. Basically, the professor calls on you without any warning and then proceeds to question you about your answer and then ask more questions. It was a living he'll when I first began, but now I am perfecting a method.

Just the opposite for me. I would love this type of environment. When I get called on I often am OK. It's the anticipation that triggers the anxiety for me. That minute or so between raising my hand and waiting to be called on, when my heart starts pounding, breath quickens, etc. Or worse yet: when you have to take turns going around introducing yourself. I always volunteer to go first if I can, because I just can't handle the anticipation, the anticipatory anxiety I should say. I cannot focus on anything anyone else says, no matter how hard I try, because my body is already going crazy. God I hate it.
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2009, 09:13 PM
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Peregrinus gave really good advice. Overpreparation for a text you have to read or topic you have to speak on is an excellent plan.

The only thing that has helped me feel comfortable speaking in class might not be applicable advice now, but maybe in the future. My main anxiety with speaking in class is that it used to be something that happened so rarely, I'd get way more attention than anyone else when it actually happened since it was so abnormal. When the hugely quiet person is called on, people notice, since you hardly ever hear them speak. I remedied that by talking my butt off on the first few days of class, when the material was easy and it was simpler to contribute. People classified me as a talker/contributer, and I at least feel like I can coast through the rest of the class. It doesn't really work if you don't start off talking, and I don't even think I'm explaining it properly. I just avoided the label of "quiet girl that everyone stares at when she actually is forced to speak" and somehow that lessened my anxiety.

Good luck!

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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2009, 09:16 PM
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Just wanted to say that I feel your pain. I had to introduce myself to an auditorium of people today and, as usual, my voice shook, I blushed, and I didn't say what I wanted to say how I wanted to say it. I made a bad impression. I noticed that many people who had seemed sympathetic to me before avoided eye contact after this embaressing spectacle. I've never tried the drugs the people on this site recommend. I've thought about it, but then I'll go through a phase where it is bearable and I just do not want to take medication. Also, is it perverse of me to suggest that we need to go through this. We need to have our voices shake, to blush and sweat and say stupid things, for as long as it takes before we just say **** it and start not giving a **** what anyone thinks. On the other hand, the cumulative effects of humiliation might kill us before we ever get to that point. Sorry, this wasn't too uplifting. Hang in there though. I doubt you sound worse than me! (Oh, and you sure as hell can be a writer. Some of the best of the 20th century would only have been able to do a reading after a bottle of scotch!)
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-15-2009, 02:00 PM
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In front of a group, i feel like i'm having an out of body experience. I blush, shake, and my voice sounds like i'm about to cry. Gawd help me when i have to speak at my upcoming conferences. Think i will look into medication as well, i will make a fool out of myself.
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-15-2009, 04:21 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sonic cat View Post
I take 1 pill about 30 minutes before presenting and it works great! I've really learned a lot about giving good presentations and would eventually like to become a good speaker without the aid of medication. I would suggest going to your doctor and explain your symptoms.
Thank you, that is comforting. Yeah, I went to the dr. I am going to pick up the same prescription tomorrow myself. We shall see what it does. What I am hoping, since I don't like drugs anyway, is that after I experience what it does feel like to speak without my heart racing and pounding out of my chest a few times, I will get "used" to it so that I can try it without the drugs.

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Basically, the professor calls on you without any warning and then proceeds to question you about your answer and then ask more questions. It was a living he'll when I first began, but now I am perfecting a method.
I feel slightly more at ease when a prof asks me a question directly if he/she has called on me it's easier (though I still have trouble bringing to mind something to say). It's not a great feeling, but it's a bamillion times better than having to read from a text (especially my own) or the thought of actually raising my hand!

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First, and most importantly, over-prepare. If you know what information you will be discussing ahead of time, learn it very well- writing about it will help. If you are confident that you know the material, it follows that you will be less nervous. Similarly, respect your own abilities/opinions.
I have to work on self confidence for my own thoughts sooner or later. Bringing my thoughts to words is difficult enough it its own right. For me, most of my classes won't really have anything you can prepare for. And as for my workshopping classes, we are reading new material we've written, and then commenting on that of others'. It's the direct reading that's really bothering me right now. And often, depending on the prof, I will have a harder time invoking the confidence I need to make a peep about somebody's writing. Aside from the physical inability to read out loud from a written text, my next main issue is confidence in my own ability to speak articulately, and have something worth sharing. I am a very critical thinker, but I can't think on the spot, and if I am thinking on the spot it is so fleeting I can't muster the nerve to say it before the thought leaves.

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Originally Posted by Dashman28 View Post
I know this is intended to be helpful, but it is...um...not. So your advice is for this person to "stop the original anxiety". Do you have a proposal for how to do this? Also, your assumption in the first paragraph is that there is some rational root cause of the anxiety, something specific that triggers the anxiety. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Once your body becomes accustomed to reacting a certain way to certain situations, it's no longer about rational processes and specific fears. It's just an anxiety response.
Yeah, I was kind of thinking the same thing. I don't think it was a poor attempt at being helpful. But, yes, Dashman has a clear understanding of the problem here, and that is the fear of the PHYSICAL symptoms of anxiety. I was born with social anxiety, and generalized anxiety, EVERYTHING causes me to be anxious. Lol. It's not specific things in this case which can truly be isolated in a practical matter. Yes, a lot of it is the confidence in front of a group of people whose thoughts I am unsure about, and whose judgments I will second guess. But it works as much more of an INSTINCTUAL reaction, than an effect from some more ... fixable cause on a psychological level. Our nervous systems are quite complex, and to say that we can have full control over it with a flick of our wrist is an extreme oversight. You cannot say that just by changing thought patterns your nervous system will function perfectly. A lot of my anxiety is actually biologically genetically inherited, although a lot is also acquired (from the day I was born).

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Originally Posted by Dashman28 View Post
It's the anticipation that triggers the anxiety for me.
I feel you there. I don't raise my hand just because of how extreme the physical symptoms are. I have to focus so much energy just calming my body down, and it doesn't pass until the moment has passed and I can no longer raise my hand on that point. I wish I could be more like you, and volunteer myself first. I suspect I will try so in the future however. But I know, if you are among the first to go, it's like bliss listening to the rest of your peers speak, knowing the worst is over!

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My main anxiety with speaking in class is that it used to be something that happened so rarely, I'd get way more attention than anyone else when it actually happened since it was so abnormal.
Yep, that's something I'm afraid of. I really have to start working on that in other classes. I find sitting near the front helps a little too, but I rarely do. Another thing that is hard to do, is raise your hand knowing that other people want to speak and you know they have better points, lol.

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Also, is it perverse of me to suggest that we need to go through this. We need to have our voices shake, to blush and sweat and say stupid things, for as long as it takes before we just say **** it and start not giving a **** what anyone thinks.
I think you bring up a great point. I often ask myself "when am I finally going to reach rock bottom and just give up my concern for how the world perceives me?" I feel it won't be for many many years if it ever is able to happen. But sometimes I just want to tear off my skin, you know? Just be fully exposed entirely and make as many mistakes as amazing feats. It's sick to be so repressed and completely hide the "outer person" deep under our skin, terrified of that person, afraid it's not "who we are", when really everybody is the same. But I do think the ability to reflect on yourself when you have extreme social anxiety is beneficial in the end. But I couldn't tell you exactly how yet.

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(Oh, and you sure as hell can be a writer. Some of the best of the 20th century would only have been able to do a reading after a bottle of scotch!)
Thanks! That's a great comfort actually. Damn! I wish I could have a bottle of scotch before class! Unfortunately I'd be afraid of acting out if I were buzzed or intoxicated, as I tend to show my personality too much wish alcohol, and that's quite frightening, the thought of saying anything "inappropriate". Damn, I envy people who lack inhibitions.

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Originally Posted by _Mouse_ View Post
In front of a group, i feel like i'm having an out of body experience. I blush, shake, and my voice sounds like i'm about to cry. Gawd help me when i have to speak at my upcoming conferences. Think i will look into medication as well, i will make a fool out of myself.
Do you get that feeling where you're almost numb to your body, and you feel out of alignment from it, or like you're in some kind of peculiar bubble or something? Your head feels odd. I used to get that all the time as a kid. But I haven't in many many years.

Yeah, I was reading out loud and I sounded emotional, but I wasn't! That was soooo embarrassing. I sounded like I was like in a frantic emotional state or something. lol. Ah well. There is no use thinking about how you sounded in the past huh?

Good luck at your conferences though! Do look into beta blockers. I will post back when I start using them to see how they are working for me.

Thank you everybody so much for the replies! It's good to know I'm not the only one. I just wish they had some kind of special help for people with social anxiety in a university setting. I've tried the school counselor, but I did not belong there, talking to them. I was not in tune with their methodology. I wish there was some other support. But at least there is the internet! It helps more than nothing.
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