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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5838
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I was asked on the spot to do a presentation today in front

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I was asked on the spot to do a presentation today in front of 100 people and was overcome with anxiety. However normally I'm pretty good at presentations - but the trick is that I prepare them beforehand. How should I tackle this so that it doesn't happen again? Obviously practice is one way and go on a course doing spontaneous presentations to get used to it. Or should I tackle it through some sort of psychotherapy - for example could I use hypnosis to ensure that the nerves don't strike? Thanks!

Hello, I'd like to help you with your questions.

Because you were asked to do the presentation on the spot, it may have triggered your feelings of anxiety. Any time you are taken by surprise and asked to do something you do not feel prepared for, the chances of experiencing anxiety increase. So it is not unusual to experience anxiety as you did.

The issue here is that you could possibly hold onto that fear next time you are asked to do a presentation, either spontaneously or prepared, which seems to be your concern. It is common that your mind associates a fear response with the place or activity that you last experienced it. In other words, you already experienced anxiety with the spontaneous presentation, so you may begin associating anxiety with future presentations. But since you have given these presentations before (although prepared) the likelihood that you would suddenly develop a phobia of public speaking is small. Plus you are already aware of the issue and are addressing it, which is a good sign that this is not likely to become a problem for you.

What you may want to try is the least amount of intervention first to see what works. A course on spontaneous presentations would give you the opportunity to practice your response each time you are called unexpectedly for a presentation. It helps your mind and body get used to the surprise, therefore reducing your anxiety. There is a common technique for reducing anxiety called exposure therapy that means being exposed to the feared situation. That is exactly what the class could do for you.

If you find that after taking a class that you still experience some anxiety regarding talking in public spontaneously, then therapy will help you address any possible deeper issues that might be causing the problem.

I hope this has helped you,
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thanks - that's helpful. I will certainly practice doing spontaneous presentations which I'm sure will help. I'm not particularly concerned about ones that I can prepare for as have done plenty in the past which have gone well - actually have one coming up in 2-3 weeks so should be a good opportunity

I'd be interested to know a bit more about hypnotherapy - can a session literally eliminate fears in areas that you identify?

I can feel anxious in other situations - even though I know it's irrational. And when I have a bad experience like the recent presentation I can worry about it after, especially the feeling of losing face - compounding the situation - which is ridiculous as the whole thing was self generated in the first place and it's my problem no one else's!

If there are ways to tackle these sorts of feelings I'd be interested to know about them. I know about the 'chimp paradox' psychology used by the british cycling team, however its one thing knowing about it and another applying it. It must help the professional athletes in that they have the coach relationship to reenforce the way of thinking

Hypnosis is not the usual treatment for anxiety. Although some may find it helpful, studies have shown that talk therapy and self help are more effective methods of treatment when it comes to anxiety and phobias.

Chimp Paradox theory is worth a try, though I do not know of any studies or proof that it works. If you feel you can learn something from it, then taking a look at it would not hurt.

Although anxiety is normal in every day life and can sometimes increase due to stress or trauma, experiencing it without obvious cause usually means that you need to pay attention to what might be going on.

Anxiety can seem irrational. You are anxious and can't find a reason why. But anxiety often shows up as a symptom of a deeper issue. It is the body's response to your thought(s) that something is wrong and you need to be on alert. What caused you to feel that way is what therapy and self help can address.

Therapy is so effective because it helps you uncover what you do fear- whether it was a past issue or something that happened to you in the present. Self help is also a good way to address how you feel. It helps you learn more about your body's reaction to the anxiety and how changing your thoughts can often change your body's reaction to anxiety.

There are numerous resources to help you learn more about anxiety. The more you know, the better you can help yourself. Here are some to get you started:

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne is excellent for any fears. It is self help and contains everything from supplements to relaxation techniques.

The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety: A Step-by-Step Program by Bill Knaus Ed.D. and Jon Carlson Psy.D. Ed.D.

From Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You in Control of Your Life by Lucinda Bassett