getting faint during public speaking (after 30years of doing it)

I’ve been a teacher; I’ve given scientific talks; I’ve been in front of crowds talking for a 30 years. (not everyday now, but about once a month or two). A year ago I interviewed for a job and had to give a presentation about myself. BAM! it hit me, two minutes into the talk. I was confused, nervous, sweaty, and faint. I had to sit down and apologize to continue. THis had never happened before.

Over the last year, it happened the next 2 or 3 times again…where I had to sit down, and even had to stop once completely. I thought I had it licked, a few months ago when I was able to get through my talks with little problem.

Then, it happened again…yesterday. It pisses me off to no end. I’m a professional. I’ve done this for decades. I know what I’m talking about.

I’m grasping at straws, maybe its the recent increase in my Simvastatin medication,…no…maybe?..probably not. Maybe my workout regimen is taking its toll, but that doesn’t seem any different than previous years

More importantly…any advice on how I can control these events?

No advice but I feel for you. Just the fact that you have done this for years successfully and now suddenly you are struggling I find worthy of investigation. Are you having self doubts about yourself or your program? Are you feeling the strain of young new professionals nipping at your heels? These might be some emotional aspects you could look at. I know I have suffered from this but I never have been a professional speaker.

After 30 years, you now get faint and confused when standing stationary for more than a couple of minutes?

Yes, statins may lower blood pressure. Or you may have some other problem.

Definitely rule out the physical. A few other thoughts.

Did anything particularly traumatic happen during a talk? Was any particular talk more high stakes than usual or more grueling? (Job interview could certainly fit the bill.)

For example, I flew for years without any qualms. I scoffed at those who quivered at turbulence. Then I had a very bad experience and now I can’t fly without Xanax. I still fly a lot, but the experience just completely changed my ability to get on an airplane without help.

I wonder if certain circumstances trigger a stress reaction for you. You mention the job interview. You might not be consciously even thinking of it, just like I’m not consciously flashing back on almost crashing and dying in a fireball, but your lizard brain is having a moment. Maybe it would be worth seeking out a trauma counselor for a few short sessions on working through triggers.

Did it feel panicky, like your heart was beating fast and you felt like you had to get the hell out of there?

Sounds like Vasovagal Syncope to me. Your trigger could either be a drop in blood pressure from standing for a long time, or from just the fear of it happening again. Do some reading and see if it fits your symptoms.

I think its the fear of it happening again, which causes it to happen again.

THe trauma of the job interview was what started it. It was the first time I had to talk about how good I was to a knowledgeable crowd. I don’t talk about how good I am…I talk about facts and programs I’m responsible for.

It was a different talk altogether.

Now I work myself up into thinking its going to happen again, so getting worked up and worried about it causes it to happen.


can I swear here?

GOD Dammit!!!

Now, how do I best deal with it? I’m reaching the conclusion that its just going to happen and its part of who I am now. I’ll just always have to have a chair and desk on stage with me.

Panicky and fast heart rate yes. Having to get out of there, no. Just embarrassed that I’m having trouble.

Two options. I think you should follow up on both.

Talk to your doctor about a med called propranolol. It’s a mild anti-anxiety med that’s used for a wide variety of things like public speaking, high blood pressure, and even migraines. It shouldn’t make you feel high or woozy but may help you with this situation without going to stronger classes of meds while you look into option 2.

Find a counselor that can help you with stress response/managing fear triggers. Work with that person to get this under control. They should help you learn how to manage your fear/panic attack and get past this. If you don’t want to go straight to a counselor, look for books on managing fear or stress on Amazon. Your situation is specific to you but lots and lots of people have stress and fear triggers and learn to work through them.

100% medical. Id talk to a doctor about this, pronto.

I am a very experienced public speaker and never ever get stage fright.

Last year I was giving a presentation. 5 minutes in I got dizzy and started sweating and had to excuse myself and run outside and puke my guts out. I slept for 17 hours and when I went back for day 2 was told other people got sick.

Turns out it was during move in day of a trade show and I may have gotten carbon monoxide poisoning from all the trucks pulling in the arena!
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My wife is susceptible to this after standing for a long time, or if she gets dehydrated, or if she hasn’t eaten well. Drinking a lot of coffee seems to be a good way to trigger it. She’s passed out and cracked her noggin a couple times due to it.

Anyway, another vote for “go to a doctor posthaste.”

Stop locking your knees.

Did this ever get any better for you? I am experiencing the same issues. I have given numerous speeches in meetings over the years without a problem, but now have the feeling of passing out come over me in waves during a speech.

I used propranolol for years for public speaking, though eventually I weaned off it. Frankly it worked miracles for my career.

My caution here os that it lowers blood pressure, which may already be an issue for the OP.

Really it sounds like a generic visit to a doctor would be best.

Hey, Sigene, any luck working through your fainting spells? I am a young professional who has always had some basic public speaking anxiety, and fainting spells at sight or even thought of blood. my blood pressure just drops and i lose consciousness. in recent years, my fainting spells seem to have somehow caught on to my public speaking anxiety as well. i was managing to stave off a public fainting spell, until i recently had an extremely embarrassing incident in front of a large audience… looking for advice/reassurance from anyone struggling with similar issue. :frowning:

I’m happy to update. Its gotten noticeably better, but still twinging. I think if I spoke more often in front of crowds like I did when I was teaching, I’d get over it much easier and faster.
So as I get more used to the new normal, I’m less affected. I don’t know what happened those few years ago, but what I think bothers me the most is that I WORRY that I’m going to have a panic attack and so I do…just by worrying about it.

I’ve got one word for you…XANAX!

Its been probably the best thing for me; and while I don’t like having to rely on the drugs, the reality is at least for now, I take a couple about 2 hours before a speaking engagement…and I’m nervous (but not terrified) for about 2-3 minutes at the beginning and then just smoothly calm down.

I do ask for a stool or chair and a podium as well, as sitting makes me more relaxed and allows the blood to stay in my head a little better.

So, I think the strategies that are working for me are:

  1. Xanax
  2. chair and podium
  3. speaking in public more often (though I don’t control that so much)

p.s. also when appropriate, I do write out a script that I can read, but I’d prefer to not have to do that, as such presentations are so…scripted…and less extemporaneous.

p.p.s. Also, Xanax will make you relaxed…sleepy…so make sure you take that into account that you will want to nap a few hours after you take it.

Sigene, thank you for your update and the advice! I’m glad to hear things are better for you. I can totally relate to what you’re saying–it happens because of the fear of it happening, and the panicked attempt to “make it stop” or push it away of course makes it worse.

Also agree that sitting definitely helps. I also have found that even when I have really bad anxiety come on, it rarely lasts for more than a few minutes before I’m fairly comfortable (unless I really lose it, like I did recently:smack:). I think once my brain engages with the actual material I’m presenting, it diminishes the “fight or flight” response. I’m not sure if I am ready to explore meds as a way to manage my anxiety, but I will certainly keep it in mind as I work thru this.

I recently also read a passage from a book about a famous volcanologist who predicted the Mt. St. Helens eruption in Oregon–he had the same issue, vasovagal syncope that was triggered by public speaking or other anxiety-inducing situations. I’m sure many others out there have struggled with this and we should strive to feel no shame about it–it’s just something that our bodies tend to do sometimes, and no reflection on our competency.

Anyway, thank you so much for responding. It is so heartening to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this, and that it can be managed and overcome :slight_smile: You’ve given me hope!

I’m happy to assist. Its really weird that I was able to do this for 30 years before I had a problem. But I try to own up to it. I haven’t had to speak in public for a few months now for some odd reason…people haven’t invited me to come to their public events in the last couple of months. But I can happily report that I am doing well, and hope to gain confidence to not need the xanax. Smaller events are less of a problem, and events that are less formal where I can banter with the audience before and during the presentation are also apt to be drug free.