What is Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking?

It is absolutely normal for a person to have a fluttery feeling in the stomach and undergo stage fear ahead of a public speaking activity. Nevertheless, the nervousness reduces after sometime and they will be able to confront the public. However, there are others who may become prey of glossophobia or fear of public speaking.

Glossophobia is derived from "glossa" (Greek word) which means tongue. It is the irrational and strong fear of public speaking. A person with glossophobia or fear of public speaking is incapable of controlling the irresistible nervousness and are subjected to nervous breakdown when they confront with mass speaking. The fear may not be essentially restricted to larger stage experiences, although might occur in front of very few people or even in a small classroom. This can ultimately disturb the professional as well as the personal life of a person.

What is Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking?

How Many People in the World have Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking?

Glossophobia or fear of public speaking is a common phobia and it is found in 75 percent of the people. Statistically, majority of the people prefer death rather than delivering a speech in public. Even Jerry Seinfeld, American comedian joked at a funeral that many people prefer lying in the casket than to deliver the eulogy.

There are several ways in which glossophobia or fear of public speaking can reveal itself that includes:

  • Musicians, actresses and actors find concerts and shows very difficult.
  • Business people have fear to make presentations.
  • Fear to make speeches during weddings.
  • The fear due to anticipation of a public speaking event.
  • Avoiding the circumstances which may include public speaking.
  • Cabin crew and pilots feel highly uncomfortable in order to make announcements to the passengers in flight.
  • Stammering or stuttering in public speaking situations.

Causes of Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

Though the real cause of glossophobia or fear of public speaking is unidentified, this fear of public speaking can occur due to certain traumatic incidents in a persons' past as child or even as an adult. Usually the person with this kind of phobia may stay away from public speaking for long time which commence as normal anxiousness which turns into full blown glossophobia or fear of public speaking. Majority of the individuals with glossophobia or fear of public speaking are likely to be low on self-esteem, seek for regular approval, anticipating perfection in everything they do or anticipate failure.

Glossophobia or fear of public speaking may be caused by any related trauma or an inner predisposition itself. Causes for glossophobia in a person may be due to the following:

  1. A History of Trauma Can Cause Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

    Any distress or a related trauma can directly cause glossophobia or fear of public speaking. Nearly all the people with glossophobia are worried about being embarrassed to face a mass and being a failure during speeches. This can be the result of any such distressful incident that happened prior during public speaking. Though these events do not appear intense at the time of happening, yet can cause a fear that lasts longer which ultimately leads to phobia.

  2. Genetic Factors May Cause Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

    Glossophobia or fear of public speaking is common among people who had a prior family history of any phobias or any such fear. This fearful character is incorporated in the personality traits and will be rapidly activated even by a very small, imperceptible event or incident.

Signs and Symptoms of Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

The signs and symptoms of glossophobia or fear of public speaking may be as follows:

  • Occurrence of a strong feeling of anxiety (apprehension) before starting a verbal communication with a group.
  • Getting tensed unnecessarily by just visualizing oneself communicating with a group verbally.
  • Staying away from events which focuses the attention of individuals present in a group.
  • Physical symptoms include nausea, distress or have panic attacks.

The different specific signs and symptoms of glossophobia or fear of public speaking can be classified into 3 categories: Physical, verbal and non-verbal.

The physical signs and symptoms of glossophobia or fear of public speaking are typically caused by the compassionate (sympathetic) part of autonomic nervous system which retorts a "fight-or-flight" response to a situation. As this compassionate system have an all-or-nothing modus operandi, the secretion of adrenaline activates various symptoms immediately. All these symptoms increases a person's capability to escape from a dangerous situation or fight back. These include:

  • Severe hearing problems.
  • Raise in blood pressure (B.P).
  • Augmented heart rate.
  • Dilation of pupils.
  • Increased intake of oxygen.
  • Augmented perspiration.
  • Dryness in the mouth.
  • Trembling voice due to tension.
  • Hardening of the upper back muscles or neck.

A person may be subjected to vomit and nausea occasionally due to anxiety and stress. Drugs like beta-blockers that append themselves to the adrenalin receptors of the heart may augment these symptoms.

The verbal symptoms and signs of glossophobia or fear of public speaking may cause a tension in the voice which leads to a trembling voice and vocalized pauses which soothe the nervous speakers. The dysfunctional speech anxiety is a particular specific form of speech anxiety with fight-or-flight modus operandi which hinders the effective performance of an individual.

Speech disorders that are induced by stress occur only during public speeches are reported by majority of the patients with glossophobia or fear of public speaking. Glossophobics are able to perform effectively on stage, dance, sing and even converse in a stage play till they do not see the audience. Some patients feel comfortable on stage if they are under the notion that they are signifying a character or stage persona relatively than presenting themselves. The anxiety caused by glossophobia can be alleviated by amalgamating the people in a group like a band or choir.

When to Consult a Doctor for Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking?

Glossophobia or fear of public speaking can cause a great obstruction in the professional life of a person. It can be treated effectively through medicines and therapies. A person has to visit a doctor If he or she is experiencing these symptoms for more than six months and the symptoms have evidently affected the person's everyday life.

Complications in Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

Majority of the careers necessitate public speaking in some way or the other. It may be giving presentations to the clients, participating in group meetings and many more. If a person's glossophobia or fear of public speaking advances to a complex level, then he or she may find it very hard and even unfeasible to execute these essential tasks. This may eventually lead to serious consequences which may even make him lose his job.

There is a larger complication of developing undesirable conditions like anxiety-related disorders or depression for those people who suffer from glossophobia or fear of public speaking. This occurs mainly because of the isolation sensation which may develop over a longer time period. The other possible reason for glossophobia or fear of public speaking is that some people are more likely to go through additional anxiety and appear to be genetically determined to that feeling. This can be apparent in a person in numerous ways.

Tests to Diagnose Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

Glossophobia or fear of public speaking has no lab tests. The diagnosis of glossophobia or fear of public speaking is typically based on diagnostic guidelines and a complete clinical interview. You may be asked questions by your doctor about the symptoms you have and also take up a psychiatric, medical and social history.

You should meet certain basic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which has been published by the American Psychiatric Association for you to be diagnosed with a phobia. The mental health providers use this manual for diagnosing conditions and are also used by insurance companies for reimbursement

Treatment for Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

Treatment for glossophobia or fear of public speaking can be done by making use of both medicines and psychotherapies.

Exposure Therapy with Relaxation for Treating Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

The most effectual treatment method for the apprehension of glossophobia or fear of public speaking is through exposure therapies. The therapist guides the person who need to confront public speaking settings by way of regular exposure sessions. Numerous relaxation techniques like meditation, mind visualization exercises and muscle releasing exercise will be taught by the therapists during these exposure sessions. In course of time the person finally becomes tolerant for anxiety and fear.

Medicines for Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

Serotonin, present in blood platelets and serum is a brain chemical that aids in the regulation of the mood level of a person. The mood level goes down during episodes of glossophobia or fear of public speaking. Anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medicines help in adjusting these brain chemicals.

Prevention of Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

The best way to prevent glossophobia or fear of public speaking before it takes over your life is by consulting a psychologist particularly if you have children. Even though these phobias develop due to genetic factors, a phobia can generate in children if they frequently see your phobic reaction. If you are able to deal with your own fears, you can save your children from being a victim of glossophobia or fear of public speaking.

Alternative Treatment for Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

To calm the anticipation experienced before public speaking events, there are numerous homeopathic and herbal remedies. Homeopaths may recommend Gelsemium or Aconitum napellus depending on the symptoms of glossophobia or fear of public speaking, the nature of the individual, temperament and the exact history. Lemon balm, passion flower, lavender, etc... are typical herbal remedies which can aid in soothing the nerves and calming oneself ahead of a public speaking event.

Beta blockers are prescribed which is a traditional treatment which serves to soothe anxiety, to lower heart rate and also to control trembling and shaking. There are numerous restrictions on consuming these medicines; the person suffering from depressiondiabetes or heart disease must consult to doctor before intaking these medicines.

The alternative(complementary) treatments such as meditation, hypnosis, positive visualization and even acupuncture can aid a person to address the cause of the problem and ultimately defeat glossophobia or fear of public speaking.

Coping with Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

The best way to cope with glossophobia or fear of public speaking is by taking training courses in public speaking. Self-help materials which address public speaking are the greatest selling self-help topics.

The anxiety of a speaker can be greatly reduced if they are well-versed with the topic and strongly believe in it. When people get started to public speaking it has been recommended that they should practice speaking in front of small and less intimidating groups. Moreover focusing on attentive and friendly people was found to help the sufferers of glossophobia or fear of public speaking. It has been recommended that the speakers have to remember to not take themselves very seriously during a public speaking. They should also keep in mind that there is a good chance that the audience will not have noticed the mistake they have made. It becomes easier for a person, once he gains experience in public speaking. Recent studies have suggested that there exists a close connection between self-efficacy and glossophobia or fear of public speaking and which attempts to aid presenters enhance their self-efficacy also decreases this fear.

A "tough crowd" can be loosened (relaxed) by way of asking questions which promotes the participation of the audience. This exercise may also be helpful to the speaker as it gives him time to get back to their train of thought whenever their mind goes blank.

Cope with glossophobia or fear of public speaking by making a self-assessment.

  • Start by recognizing thinking patterns which are problematic.
  • Solicit yourself, "What am I really afraid of?" By doing so may aid you achieve a more practical perception of realities of what is anticipated and what is not anticipated.
  • Solicit yourself, "What are my strengths as a public speaker?" in other words, do not fail to notice the strengths you possess and stay away from becoming too focussed on limitations.

Another way of coping with glossophobia or fear of public speaking is by gradual exposure and preparation.

  • Exposing yourself to mild-moderate levels of apprehension that challenges, by looking out for opportunities. At the same time do not overwhelm your success abilities.
  • Consider, developing an optimistic visualization of yourself by way of giving a successful presentation or class speech.
  • Practicing before reliable friends, reviewing the feedback with friends and making adjustments if any accordingly.
  • Audiotape or take videos of yourself. Look at yourself and give constructive feedback to yourself about what needs to be enhanced and what was done well.
  • Thoroughly prepare and rehearse yourself before delivering a public speaking. Spend sufficient time in practice.
  • Use of relaxation techniques for managing the feelings of anxiety. These techniques include yoga, muscle relaxation and meditation which balances and strengthens the body and mind.

Coping with glossophobia or fear of public speaking during the presentation or speech:

  • Do not forget that majority of the presenters and speakers compete with different levels of public speaking anxiety and you are not the only one.
  • Try to view the audience as friends or supporters who are usually helpful and want you to succeed than blocking them out completely.
  • Even if you feel anxious or nervous always act calmly. You will remain preoccupied with anxiety and nervousness, the more you dwell on it.
  • Try not to notice minor mistakes during the presentation or speech. Your general impressions are more importance to the audience rather than a perfect speech(word).
  • Do not think you are speaking because you are forced to do so but consider it as an opportunity.
  • In case, if your self-critical thoughts begin to surface, put an attempt to switch off the "critical observer" of the left brain and switch on the "passive, supportive observer" of the right brain.

Coping with glossophobia or fear of public speaking after the speech or presentation:

  • Temper (the state of mind of a person seen in terms of their being angry or calm) external feedback with internal values and expectations that you have established in the 1 and 2 points.
  • Questioning others later on, "how did I do?" instead of asking yourself first might prevent yourself of a most important source of feedback:You.
  • Exceeding all, always feel satisfied on what you have accomplished. Recognize yourself by giving credit to yourself for making the presentation or speech as successful as possible.

Prognosis/Outlook for Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

The condition of glossophobia or fear of public speaking can be effectively treated. The success rate of treatment for glossophobia is very high.

Glossophobia or fear of public speaking is an emotional and mental condition like many other phobias. The best way of treating this phobia is to find a therapist who understands the patients' need and works out a management plan which cures this condition.

Recovery Period/Healing Time for Glossophobia or Fear of Public Speaking

Only your doctor will be able to provide you with the estimated recovery period/healing time for glossophobia or fear of public speaking as it dependents on the mode of therapy. To know about your recovery time and further questions like recurrence, always consult your doctor.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: October 3, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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