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To provide a bit of background, I've had fear of public speaking probably from the age of about 14 or so, and am currently 20 years old. I've had good and bad experiences with public speaking since then.
Recently I started a year long work placement at a bank. The main symptom I suffered from during public speaking to date has been dry mouth and shortness of breath, although there were other symptoms such as increased heart rate, slight shakiness (though they were not as bad as the dry mouth). It didn't used to be extreme though, it was bareable - until about a year ago, where this began to get increasingly worse. Today, it's come to the point where I have difficulty speaking - my voice becomes croaky and sounds funny, sometimes I feel like I need to swallow before even completing a word.
In the not too distant past, although I experienced these symptoms I generally was able to speak fairly clearly and make sense. Also, with time, I sort of got used to/learned to overcome the rapid heart rate and the shakiness, but the dry mouth and shortness of breath feeling seems to have gotten increasingly worse in the last year or so. I always take water to these sorts of situations with me, however I can't really sip away water after every single word I say, but I've gotten to a point with this where I feel like I need to.
I'm wondering if I've started to develop a more general form of anxiety now rather than public speaking anxiety itself, as I now not only have these feelings in public speaking situations, but in a variety of situations, even on one-on-one meetings/chats where I feel nervous/uncomfortable or feel like I'm being judged or am worried about what the other person might think about me or say in response to my questions/comments.
After reading a lot of stuff online and trying a few different approaches (paul mckenna's confidence program, janet esposito's public speaking book etc) and medication (tried lemon balm, st john's wort etc), although I've had some good experiences as earlier mentioned, today I feel I am at a low point, thus I finally decided to go to a GP who then got referred to a psychologist who I will be meeting next week.
In the past, although I found public speaking to be a phobia, for the most part I tried not to avoid the situation and did my best. However, today I got to a low point and basically said no to a team presentation which I could've participated in next week as I want to speak to the psychologist and really get on top of this problem before I do something like that again. Next week I also have an important meeting with my manager, his manager and two of my teammates to talk about one of our projects, and as I was the lead on the project, I will need to talk about my work and show them what I've done, and we will need approval for the next stage of the project. Even in this sort of situation I feel quite nervous and get the dry mouth and difficulty speaking problem, thus I'm worried about that meeting too, as I want it to go well and am worried that I'll look really foolish in front of a senior person, my manager and my teammates.
I feel like I'm a rare case as I haven't really heard of a case where someone got dry mouth/shorntess of breath to the point where they had difficulty talking and sounded so croaky in such simple situations, even informal chats with certain people or casual rehearsals for presentations with some of my friends at work. I just sound croaky and indistinct, and have difficulty completing sentences. A sip of water is very helpful but only for a few moments, and then it starts again!
Note that I don't really have this problem in more informal/casual situations or with people I am more comfortable around, it's mainly when I feel in the spotlight, or feel like I'm being judged, evaluated or questioned etc, so I don't think it's a social anxiety sort of thing. I don't want to have this problem pull me back in my career or my relationships with people. I don't know if this is general anxiety, speaking anxiety or something else.. I feel like I'm the only one who has this sort of a problem.. I'm not sure how to approach this. This has gotten to a stage where it's occupying about 80% of my thoughts, and it feels like if I can get over this, I can get over anything in life.. Any opinions, thoughts, recommendations would be greatly appreciated!
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