Zayn Malik must take 'baby steps' to get over anxiety, says expert


Zayn Malik, who pulled out of appearing on stage at the Capital FM Summertime Ball, needs to take "baby steps" to get over his performance anxiety, says a psychological specialist.

Peter Kinderman, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool, said that anxiety is a common experience that happens in stressful conditions.

The president of the British Psychological Society said he sympathises with the former One Direction singer because of the "enormous" pressure he will be under.

"If you have had a difficult and challenging situation that can be seen as a very negative setback, to get back to where you were before, normally the advice is baby steps first," he added.

"Build your confidence back up in stages would be the advice. I feel some sympathy for people who are in the public gaze because celebrities are under a very great deal of pressure."

Zayn Malik pulled out of the Summertime Ball (Rich Fury/AP)
Zayn Malik pulled out of the Summertime Ball (Rich Fury/AP)

Zayn pulled out of the music event at Wembley Stadium on Saturday which would have been his first live UK solo stage performance.

In a message on his Instagram account he apologised "to everybody I've let down" and explained that his anxiety about performing live "has gotten the better of me".

Prof Kinderman said it may be the case that pulling out of one performance might then make it more difficult to go into the next show - causing an "anxious loop".

"The thing about big performances is that those are quite challenging because the classic advice for people having anxiety problems is to build up your confidence in graded exposure," he said.

"For a performer that is a bit more difficult because it is easy in the beginning of your career to play gigs to your friends and neighbours and then move on to the local pub.

"But to restart a stadium tour after pulling out of a show with anxiety might be quite a challenge."

Anxiety can be caused by or experienced around important events such as exams, job interviews, or having a baby, brought on by past or childhood experiences or everyday habits such as stress.

Triggers of anxious thoughts can include things that remind an individual of their anxiety - which can include smells, noises or music.

Symptoms of anxiety, according to the mental health charity Mind, vary from person to person in their combination but will involve both physical and psychological sensations.

Zayn Malik
Zayn Malik (Doug Peters/PA)

Psychological sensations can include feeling tense, nervous or on edge, a sense of dread, feeling restless or numb and dwelling on negative experiences.

"A lot of us experience anxiety from time to time and for many of us it can adversely affect our lives and cause many problems for people," he said.

"Personally I would see it more as a psychological phenomenon rather than a disorder - I think it is important to stress the fact that anxiety is part of our emotional lives that all of us experience."

Currently, there are a number of techniques which exist to help sufferers manage and treat anxiety.

These range from counselling to hypnotherapy, as well as cognitive behavioural therapy which helps people understand the causes of anxiety and to develop strategies to cope with the symptoms. As well as relaxation therapy, and exercise on prescription from a GP, medications can be used to manage the condition too - these include antidepressants, beta-blockers and tranquillisers.