Fear of public speaking in a 51-year-old woman.

For many years I have struggled with a panic reaction to speaking or reading in public. While many people have public speaking jitters, my reaction has been more severe; resembling a full blown panic-attack. I began to experience panic disorder symptoms (which started as claustrophobia) about 20 years ago. At a later point in time, the panic reaction generalized to situations that involved public presentations.

After several years of various forms of treatment, I was able to overcome the claustrophobia and general anxiety, but I still experienced panic when faced with public speaking or reading. This had significant impact on my career as a teacher and parent educator. I tried many different methods to alleviate the symptoms: meditation, visualization, self-talk, psychotherapy, none of which had any affect on what had become a very disturbing part of my life. When I took Dr. Schubiner's class, I had come to accept that the only way I could speak before a group was with the help of anti-anxiety medication.

During the first class session he briefly spoke about some basic brain structures and their functions. Hearing that a structure exists in the brain that allows a human to “over-ride” conditioned physiological responses was a joyous breakthrough for me. I have been using the simple exercises and self-talk that he recommends and find that while I still have some degree of pre-speech anxiety, more often than not, it dissipates as I begin my presentations. This has been tremendously empowering. I recently organized a large conference where I spoke to hundreds of people. Not only has it created a sense of freedom in an area that previously felt like a prison, but it has me thinking, “What other areas of my life may be more under my conscious control than I ever imagined?” Dr. Schubiner's work and this class in particular are both highly beneficial and exciting. I am grateful that I didn't just give up and rely on Xanax.

Janet C.

*The personal stories are from actual course participants and are used with permission. The names and photos have been changed to protect confidentiality.