Learning and School: Fear of Public Speaking
So, my teenage daughter (almost 17) has the biggest fear of public speaking. She basically goes into a panic attack—breathes fast, palms get sweaty, dizzy, nauseous, bright red face, heart races and then cries—and has done this since about ninth grade. Before then she was fine; now she would rather get an F on a project than do any kind of public speaking, even if it's just to say the project theme, and I am sure her teachers are aggravated.
This is so crazy. She went from winning a public speaking contest in eighth grade to this bundle of nerves in a few months' time. I know it's a very self-conscious age, but I just don't know what happened.
I think it started with her teacher. I will call her Ms. Schmidt. Ms. Schmidt was supercritical. She sent back her reports with notes all over them, and then graded her down for being messy. She forced her to make speeches, and then criticized her in front of the other students. The last straw for me was when Ms. Schmidt asked her if she had any different clothes to wear before one big presentation, and she asked her in front of two of her girlfriends. My daughter was totally humiliated. I ended up talking to the principal about it, but by the then damage was done. Since then it has just been getting worse and worse, and that was two years ago.
I have asked for a lot of advice, and some of it has been pretty good. I help her practice speaking in front of me and her brothers, so she can start with just one person and "work her way up." We even do it with furniture. She starts by sitting in her favorite chair giving her speech, then sitting on a kitchen chair, then standing behind the couch, etc. This seems to help a little, but she has a long way to go.
Mostly I am surprised at how much this hurts her, and hurts me, too. I can tell how embarrassed she is, which makes me feel even more helpless. It's a real phobia, something she can't get control of. I would take her to a psychiatrist, but we really can't afford it, and I actually am not sure that would help. I don't want her to think she's "crazy," and I am afraid taking her to a doctor would make her feel that way.