Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, is a common fear, but there are treatment methods and coping skills that can help you cope.
Effective public speaking is a skill set that requires good communication and engaging others effectively. You have to know how to sustain an audience’s attention and engage them in what you are saying.
It also requires you to understand communication skills, such as tone and volume. If you have a speech coming up, honing these skills may feel overwhelming and possibly cause anxiety.
Public speaking is required in some professional careers and often among academic programs where you may be required to make presentations. If this gives you a sense of dread, you aren’t alone.
Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking, and it’s pervasive. Research from 2007 estimates that it’s the most prevalent lifetime social fear, and up to
You may have glossophobia if you freeze up or dread talking in front of people. People with fears such as public speaking may try to avoid it.
If you fear speaking in public, you may wonder where this fear comes from. There are many reasons why someone may develop a fear of public speaking.
Specific causes of phobias are unknown. But multiple factors likely contribute to developing a phobia, like glossophobia.
Phobias may be caused by factors such as:
Public speaking fears are often prevalent in university students as academic endeavors require speaking in front of others.
2019 research on public speaking among university students found an association between individuals with glossophobia and self-perception of voice.
Findings indicate that students who believe they can capture and maintain their audience’s attention may experience fear when public speaking.
But students that believe they can influence their audience through communication are less likely to fear speaking in public.
Public speaking anxiety or fear may present differently depending on the individual.
Some signs and symptoms of public speaking anxiety include:
- avoidance of situations where you may have to speak in public
- increased heart rate
- feeling flushed
- physical discomfort with speaking in front of others
- body tension
- fear of making mistakes
These symptoms can make you feel frustrated, sad, and overwhelmed. As a result, you may try to avoid speaking in front of others at all costs. But support is available to help you cope.
Several treatment options, such as exposure therapy, are available if you want to overcome your fear of public speaking. Consider the following treatments to support you.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy used to help you deal with unhelpful patterns of thinking that can influence your thoughts and behaviors, such as avoiding public speaking.
For example, CBT effectively treats social anxiety related to a fear of public speaking.
Virtual reality exposure training
This is a newer treatment method but has the potential to be a go-to therapy for anxiety. For example, a small 2020 study examined the effects of virtual reality exposure training and its impact on public speaking settings.
The researchers found a significant decrease in anxiety reported by the participants in the study after a 3-hour virtual reality treatment session.
This study suggests that exposure to conditions that make you fearful may be less intimidating through virtual reality. This controlled exposure can help provide a safe treatment setting to practice public speaking skills.
If the thought of speaking in front of others makes you want to hide, you may try these strategies.
Practice your speech
Practicing your speech before public speaking can help you become more confident. In addition, this allows you to refine what you want to say.
If you practice your speech, you can also work on the pace and timing of your speech. When practicing, don’t forget to take a break.
Take some deep breaths
Deep breathing is an effective way to manage anxiety and stressful situations. 2019 research suggests that deep breathing effectively reduces both physiological and psychological stress.
Other research also suggested a technological prompt to help remind public speakers to take a deep breath at appropriate times during their presentation.
This may be a way to help reduce anxiety during a presentation in real-time, but more research is needed on this.
Use visualization techniques
Another strategy that you can use to help ease fears surrounding public speaking is to try visualization. With visualization techniques, you visualize yourself giving a speech or presentation effectively.
According to research from 2021, visualization can be used as a technique to improve speech performance and reduce self-perceived speech anxiety.
Glossophobia is a fear of public speaking that many people experience. If you have public speaking anxiety, you may experience physiological reactions in response to pressure.
While there are many possible reasons you are prone to anxiety when you have to give a presentation or talk in front of people, social anxiety is a common cause of glossophobia.
Treatment strategies for managing fear of public speaking include psychotherapy such as CBT and exposure training. You can also try coping strategies on your own.
Public speaking anxiety can be all-consuming. If your anxiety about public speaking is getting in the way of doing your job effectively or your life, it may be time to seek treatment.
To help find professional help near you, try using this FindCare tool. You can check out the National Social Anxiety Center for more on social anxiety.