Millions Experience Public Speaking Anxiety In the Form of Erythrophobia, Hyper-hidrosis and Voice Paralysis
Jonathan Berent, L.C.S.W., pioneering therapist and author, offers a new and continually growing library of unique and essential patient interviews on the common yet rarely-addressed issue of C-suite executives and entrepreneurs missing out on income and career progress by passing up leadership and public speaking opportunities for fear of being noticeably nervous.
Berent has compiled a unique library of clinical interviews offering first-hand treatment accounts from successful patients: click here. His aim in offering this information is to make otherwise successful executives aware that this problem is more common than they might believe and that others have overcome it and gone on to further enhance their careers.
Fear of public speaking is not simply an inconvenience; it’s an income inhibitor, career killer, and “an insidious anxiety disorder that most mental health and medical professionals do not understand,” according to Berent, who has pioneered treatment for performance and social anxiety since 1978. He is the author of “Beyond Shyness” (Simon & Schuster) and “Work Makes Me Nervous” (Wiley).
Berent adds, “The pain involved in this condition might seem unthinkable to those who have not experienced it. One past patient was a successful CFO who said she’d rather get into a car accident on the way to a conference than show up and face the crowd for her presentation…another was a real estate executive who easily closed $3 billion deals but fell into a state of terror when faced with talking about it to a group of students on career day.”
Panic at the podium—and embarrassment over the obvious symptoms—is debilitating for many executives and entrepreneurs and can include erythrophobia (fear of blushing), hyper-hidrosis (excessive sweating) and voice paralysis.
More than a quarter of the population reports a fear of public speaking, according to a recent Chapman University Survey. While many programs exist to address the problem on the surface through coaching, skill building and practice, almost none focus on the underlying causes.
Berent explains, “Many of my successful patients have told me, ‘Treatment is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.’ They are not just learning superficial behavioral tricks to ‘get by.’ They’re completing a process of introspection and taking control which fuses therapeutic technique – learning how to surf a wave of adrenaline rather than drown in it – with a deep exploration of their conscious and unconscious past, how this fosters insecurity and performance anxiety, and why it causes them pain today.”
Since 1978 The Berent Treatment Method has adapted therapy to the specific needs of social anxiety sufferers rather than try to fit the disorder into the narrow confines of an existing treatment modality. Having provided direct treatment, and supervised treatment, to approximately 10,000 individuals of all ages in individual, family and group therapy the following are some of my important observations.
Social anxiety is an insidiously complex problem which encompasses a wide spectrum of symptoms and functioning levels; from public speaking anxiety and selective mutism to pervasive social avoidance, performance anxiety, erythrophobia,and hyper-hidrosis.
Many of my high performing successful adults, who have resolved their public speaking anxiety have said about treatment; “this is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life”. What they are primarily referring to is the dynamic of introspection, which is the process of looking into one’s self. Countless children, adolescents, and adults with selective mutism have resolved this disorder via the Berent Method which teaches age appropriate introspective skills. Introspection becomes the key to developing emotional intelligence.
Introspection facilitates awareness of thoughts, emotions, and physiology, as well as behavior. These are crucial variables for any real treatment success. At the risk of being offense I’m appalled at the statements by the CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) community promising astounding results within a short- term framework. My conclusion is the professionals making these statements do not have a productive understanding of the disorder, which is the quintessential disease of resistance. In addition, CBT research is quite flawed. An upcoming article will explain this.
Resistance is based on the reality that social anxiety sufferers have become very skilled at the defensive process of detachment. This is disconnecting from thoughts and feelings. This dynamic is in play because the sufferer does not want to experience the discomfort and emotional pain of attachment or connecting. Detachment becomes very ingrained over time. For example; even with the typical 5-year-old selective mutism profile detachment is very pronounced.
Here’s the punchline. Without introspection the best treatment outcome that can happen is to implement technique without resolving the core problem. This is a band-aide approach.
It’s good to know who to take advice from. In the realm of psychotherapy an often- used term is evidence based. It appears that my free clinical library offers the most conc clinical evidence available regarding the treatment of social anxiety.
The Perfect Storm of Anxiety Builds Momentum in the Educational System
Although anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States most suffers do not receive help. This is because an anxiety disorder is the quintessential disease of resistance; especially social anxiety which is the largest subset. This resistance is due to the fact that most afflicted are ruled by embarrassment and shame and remain avoidant. The result is that the mental health profession has struggled to provide productive treatment strategies.
Conservative estimates put the figure at 18.1% of the population
School phobia, social anxiety, selective mutism, public speaking anxiety, panic attacks, and performance anxiety are some of the anxiety problems that students will bring into the classroom this school year, where schools are essentially clueless as to how to help. This is due to the complexity of the anxiety disorder spectrum.
Here’s an example. Selective Mutism which is a complex form of obsessive compulsive disorder is in essence a speaking phobia. Approximately 7 out of 1000 children are impacted. There is very little help worldwide. Public schools are mandated to legally accommodate this “disability”. However; the process of accommodating academically often inhibits the mental health of the child. It’s complex.
Berent says “the most common thing I’ve heard from thousands of patients of all ages is “I have nothing to say or I don’t know what to say. Society’s obsessive and compulsive technology dependence is inhibiting the neuroplasticity required for the social skill of verbal conversation. In essence it’s an epidemic of selective mutism on the rise”. Consider the fact:
Texting has replaced talking as the most common form of communication.
In a recent article “My patient said I understand why kids shoot up schools” Berent describes the psycho-dynamics of the school shooter. It’s worth noting that the majority of perpetrators experienced challenged social skills. Many have been described as noticeably or abnormally quiet.
The most common anxiety in the world is fear of public speaking. Many of Berent’s patients have traced the roots of this insidious problem back to school settings where the emotions of shame and embarrassment were raw. Closely associated with public speaking, in both formal and informal settings, is the fear of being noticeably nervous. This can manifest as erythrophobia (fear of blushing), hyper-hidrosis (sweating), panic attacks, and verbal freezing or stammering.
The fear of being noticeably nervous can create unbearable emotional pain for many. This pain often evolves into situational avoidance which is a phobia. Substance dependence and depressions are significantly co-morbid. Suicide is on the rise. In general the mental health profession has been remiss in understanding the depth of emotional pain associated with anxiety disorders.
Many children and adolescents experience school phobia. This is a combination of an anxiety breakdown and dysfunctional parenting. Finding a school- based program to help with this common disorder is next to impossibility.
Anxiety disorders, technology overdependence, and “FOMO” (fear of missing out, associated with social media over-dependence) mixed in with evolving hyper-vigilance associated with the school shooting epidemic create the perfect storm for our schools. Berent believes that while the schools are breeding grounds for anxiety disorders there is great potential for prevention if anxiety and stress management courses were integrated into the curriculum. He adds “anxiety disorders are evolving at a rapid pace due to society’s blueprint for increased performance and productivity”.
Jonathan Berent, L.C.S.W. author of “Beyond Shyness” (Simon & Schuster), “Work Makes Me Nervous” (Wiley), and “Social Anxiety: The Untold Story” (AKFSA). Berent’s extensive work and unmatched clinical success is evidenced in his clinical library and dates back to 1978 He is available to the media as an expert on social anxiety and related disorders.
Modern technology and a perfectionist culture may increase the risk
We all need moments of solitude, but people are primarily social creatures. Connecting with others gives us a sense of meaning and purpose, and helps us make our way in the world.
That is why social anxiety can be so devastating—it injures our ability to connect. Read More
Jonathan Berent, L.C.S.W., author of “Beyond Shyness” (Simon & Schuster) and “Work Makes Me Nervous” (Wiley) has identified technology compulsion as the gateway to an alternate reality for individuals of all ages afflicted with social anxiety and avoidant personality.
Berent explains “the fact that texting has replaced talking as the most common form of communication characterizes a societal shutdown of the neural pathways required for verbal communication specifically, and social skills in general. Society’s massive and rapidly developing technology dependence is enabling a dramatic increase in selective mutism, which is a variation of obsessive compulsive disorder and a speaking phobia. Using technology to communicate rather than talking has become a way of life for many”.
Current statistics put selective mutism as occurring in 7 out of 1000 children. Berent adds “I have seen countless adolescents and adults with this disorder. In fact many of my patients with public speaking anxiety, which is the world’s number one phobia, identify selective mutism as the driving force of their performance anxiety. The most common phrase that I have heard from thousands of patients in forty years of practice is “I have nothing to say” or “I don’t know what to say”.”
Individuals with social anxiety are the most at risk for phone compulsion because of their tendency to avoid direct human interaction. The degree of interactive avoidance is an important diagnostic for measuring the degree of the overall anxiety problem. Over-dependence on technology sustains avoidance. Social anxiety is currently the most common anxiety disorder. It is driven by performance dynamics. Given society’s relentless pursuit for productivity and its technology dependence, social anxiety disorder has already reached epidemic proportions.
For insight into the connection between avoidance and technology consider the following case examples which are very common.
“Rob” age 26 lives at home with his parents. He left college after a few days because of social anxiety. While he has had a few jobs he has been unemployed most of the time. He stays up most of the night and sleeps most of the day. He has not had a “girlfriend” since junior high school. He does not have a social life. He spends over 70 hours per week gaming online. One of his biggest fears is having a conversation with someone outside of his family. He has no initiative for his mental health. He has no ambition. All he cares about is his online world or alternative universe!
“Janice” age 15 experienced a panic attack when her parents took away her I-Phone. Her FMO (fear of missing out) turned into a compulsion to always be on her phone at the expenses of her school work and other responsibilities. Not having her phone, on which most of her social life was based, caused her to be depressed.
Al, age 40, was human resources professional. For months he never verbally participated in his weekly staff meeting because he believed he had nothing to offer. He was eventually fired. In social situations his anxiety was so high that he often made believe he was talking on his phone to avoid conversion.
A free clinical library with rare interviews with individuals and families who have achieved life-changing results with The Berent Method is available.
Jonathan Berent, L.C.S.W., A.C.S.W., has pioneered psychotherapy for social anxiety and has worked with thousands of individuals since 1978. His website www.socialanxiety.com has had over three million visitors.
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Rob went to college for a week until his social anxiety got the best of him and he retreated home. At age 26 he worked sporadic jobs with no continuity, socialized occasionally with one friend, and spent most of his awake time playing computer games.
Jadine, age 20, like Rob, dropped out of art school after a short stint and retreated to her room where for two years she rarely communicated with her mom because of her selective mutism. She spent her days with various pursuits online. She had an online “boyfriend”. She had no friends with whom she socialized in person. She stayed up all night and slept for most of the day.
Mike at age 20 was school phobic since elementary school. He had no friends since age 7. He did not work. The only activities that were meaningful for him were video games and college football.
So; if you are a parent of an individual with similar profiles do you say to yourself “my child will grow out of the problem” or I’ll take him or her to a therapist to fix the situation?
Let me help you here. I can assure you that when the child reaches their 20’s there is no way simply growing out of the problem will happen. In fact; believing it could is either a cognitive distortion or delusion. And if you think taking your dependent to any therapist (if they will go) is a viable answer please consider the following content.
After thirty eight years of clinical experience with thousands of social anxiety patients of all ages I can say, with the utmost of integrity, that one of the primary reasons the mental health community has remained helpless in its attempt to provide productive treatment for social anxiety is the confusion regarding avoidance and dependence. In clinical terms I am addressing DSM V 301.82 Avoidant Personality Disorder and DSMV 301.60 Dependent Personality Disorder.