How Scott Stossel Survived Anxiety

If you have public speaking anxiety or other phobias you'll be interested how Scott Stossel survived. He is the Editor of The Atlantic Magazine and you really have to wonder how he managed to be in a high-pressure job! Scott has dealt with crippling fears of failure, public speaking, flying, heights, and more since childhood. He shares his experiences with courage and honesty. Here are a few excerpts:


Scott Stossel on Public Speaking Phobia Editor, Atlantic Magazine

I’ve finally settled on a pre-talk regimen that enables me to avoid the weeks of anticipatory misery that the approach of a public-speaking engagement would otherwise produce. Let’s say you’re sitting in an audience and I’m at the lectern. Here’s what I’ve likely done to prepare.

Four hours or so ago, I took my first half milligram of Xanax. (I’ve learned that if I wait too long to take it, my fight-or-flight response kicks so far into overdrive that medication is not enough to yank it back.) Then, about an hour ago, I took my second half milligram of Xanax and perhaps 20 milligrams of Inderal. (I need the whole milligram of Xanax plus the Inderal, which is a blood-pressure medication, or beta-blocker, that dampens the response of the sympathetic nervous system, to keep my physiological responses to the anxious stimulus of standing in front of you—the sweating, trembling, nausea, burping, stomach cramps, and constriction in my throat and chest—from overwhelming me.)

I likely washed those pills down with a shot of scotch or, more likely, vodka, the odor of which is less detectable on my breath. Even two Xanax and an Inderal are not enough to calm my racing thoughts and to keep my chest and throat from constricting to the point where I cannot speak; I need the alcohol to slow things down and to subdue the residual physiological eruptions that the drugs are inadequate to contain. In fact, I probably drank my second shot—yes, even though I might be speaking to you at, say, 9 in the morning—between 15 and 30 minutes ago, assuming the pre-talk proceedings allowed me a moment to sneak away for a quaff.

Scott Stossel on Other Crippling Fears Editor, Atlantic Magazine

I've abandoned dates; walked out of exams; and had breakdowns during job interviews, on flights, and simply walking down the street.

Scott Stossel also goes on to tell the story of some famous people who have suffered from performance anxiety:

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Mahatma Ghandi
  • Hugh Grant
  • Jay Mohr
  • Ricky Williams
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Donny Osmond

Read more at My Anxious, Twitchy, Phobic (Somehow Successful) Life, The Atlantic, January/February 2014.

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