Helpful Tips to Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking

By: Suzanne Feinstein, PhD

What Is Glossophobia?

Glossophobia is a fear of public speaking and causes you to experience a significant discomfort or unease when presenting in front of an audience. 

You become hyper aware of all eyes on you. You feel like people are judging you on how you speak, what you say, and how you look. 

You may feel your heart palpitating, butterflies in your stomach or shaky limbs. Your face might turn bright red or you may break out into a cold sweat. Your mouth may become dry or pasty and your voice may start to tremor. You may stumble on your words or, worse yet, your mind might draw a complete blank on what you were about to present. 

Public speaking fear is quite common and most people can still carry out their presentation without too much interference from their anxiety. However, if you have such a high level nervous system response that your phobia interferes with your ability to present, you likely have glossophobia. If your phobia causes you to avoid public speaking, you can miss opportunities that are crucial for your personal and professional development. 

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The following are examples of situations in which glossophobia can significantly interfere with your ability to function:

  • Work presentations
  • Telling a story to a group of friends or family members
  • Oral exams
  • Speaking at work meetings
  • Giving a speech at a social event

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Those with glossophobia might dread public speaking due to:

  • The audience noticing the anxiety (i.e. visible shaking, sweating, or blushing)
  • Fear of forgetting the content
  •         Tripping or falling in front of others
  • Making a mistake

What Does Public Speaking Anxiety Feel Like?

Public speaking anxiety is experienced differently for every individual. Some individuals with public speaking phobia may feel significant anticipatory anxiety before they present but once they start speaking, their anxiety quickly dissipates. Others may feel little to no anxiety beforehand but once they start speaking they become acutely aware of all eyes on them. And still others may feel significant anxiety before, during and even after they present. Common scenarios where people might experience public speaking anxiety include:

  • Work presentations
  • Telling a story to a group of friends or family members
  • Oral exams
  • Speaking at work meetings
  • Giving a speech at a social event

People with glossophobia experience a number of distressing physical symptoms. Some of these might include:

  • Tense muscles
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Crying
  • Stomach issues
  • Blushing
  • Sweating

What Causes Public Speaking Anxiety?

Public speaking phobia can be a result of a number of factors. A person may be more likely to be predisposed to it due to:

  • Genetics
  • Fear of being rejected
  • Fear of being embarrassed
  • Past avoidance of public speaking
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Overactive amygdala (the part of your brain that controls the fear response)

How Can Public Speaking Phobia Affect Your Life?

Public speaking phobia can hinder you both professionally and socially. Your lack of participation at work meetings can interfere with, and possibly jeopardize your professional advancement. Fear of speaking up in large groups can negatively impact your levels of enjoyment at social events and not allow your personality to shine through. When you don’t engage in some or all social situations, you might experience the following effects:

  • Depression
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Negative thoughts
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor social skills
  • Sensitivity to criticism

How Can I Treat My Public Speaking Anxiety?

If you are suffering from public speaking anxiety, you may benefit from seeing a mental health professional who uses CBT. Cognitive Behavior Therapy uses therapeutic methods that can help diminish anxiety symptoms, improve your quality of life, and increase opportunities for personal growth. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

A highly trained behavioral therapist will work with you to identify what social situations trigger anxiety and how to manage the related physiological effects. They will help you change your negative thinking patterns and will set up exposure exercises to help you desensitize to your feared scenarios. You will be introduced systematically to various social triggers as your brain and body learn the difference between real and perceived threats. 

Relaxation Therapy

In addition, people can learn some relaxation methods to help ease their symptoms before, during, and after a social event. Some of these techniques include:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Breathing

 Get Help Managing Public Speaking Phobia

You don’t have to suffer through your public speaking phobia alone. There are steps you can take to decrease your symptoms and live a happy life. Working with a licensed psychologist experienced in treating social anxiety disorder and public speaking phobia can make it easier. 

Advanced Behavioral Health, LLP is here to help you identify and manage your public speaking anxiety. Our compassionate team looks forward to providing you with a mental healthcare plan that is personalized to you and your needs. Contact our office to schedule an appointment.

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