Fear of speaking in public: how to overcome it?

Public speaking is an exercise that can be difficult for some people. However, if the anxiety felt is too great when it comes to addressing third parties or if this act leads to a situation of avoidance, this becomes truly problematic. The psychiatrists on Healthlinerx help you identify this fear, and inform you about the right reflexes to adopt to get rid of it.

What is the fear of public speaking?

The fear of public speaking, also called glossophobia, is one of the main manifestations of social anxiety, along with the fear of writing or eating in public. This fear is common and very widespread: it affects nearly 75% of the world’s population. Glossophobia, when it significantly alters the daily life and quality of life of an individual, can be described as social phobia. It can appear just as well before speaking in front of a small group of people as in front of a large assembly.

Different physical, verbal and non-verbal symptoms qualify the fear of public speaking, such as:

  • intense anxiety before speaking, or when the idea of ​​having to communicate in public is stated;
  • avoidance of self-focused events;
  • physical distress, nausea or feelings of panic;
  • better hearing acuity;
  • increased heart rate;
  • increased blood pressure ;
  • pupil dilation;
  • increased sweating ;
  • stiffening of the neck and back muscles;
  • dry mouth.

The physical symptoms result from the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system, which interprets the stressful situation as a real fight. The body will secrete more adrenaline and will help define our ability to fight or flee a scary scenario.

What causes the fear of public speaking?

Fear of public speaking, like the majority of phobias , is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by excessive and irrational fear of an object or situation. If fear is a natural reflex in the face of the presence of danger, phobia is uncontrollable. Phobias generally appear during childhood or adolescence, it is not always easy to determine their real causes (traumatic, genetic, biological, psychological aspects…).

Glossophobia is often linked to bad past experiences with public speaking, especially following an invitation to speak in a group without prior preparation. Indeed, if it did not go well, the fear of speaking in public can then arise and remain anchored over time.

Related to social anxiety, this disorder is characterized by a mental predisposition to believe that interactions with others will result in severe negative judgment from others. Before social interaction takes place, such as public speaking for example, the individual with social anxiety will tend to create negative thoughts of failure, imposture , fear and will have the feeling unable to carry out this public speech.

What can you do to overcome the fear of public speaking?

There are various simple methods to combat the fear of public speaking. Here are some tips to overcome it:

  • gradually get used to speaking up in less anxiety-provoking situations, for example, during a dinner with friends;
  • practicing abdominal breathing to slow the heartbeat and reduce stress;
  • in case of rising anxiety, practice yoga. This sporting activity combining physical exercises and breathing allows you to refocus on the present moment and thus create a void around yourself;
  • practice before a public speech by rehearsing your argument;
  • prepare small notes with key words in case of memory lapse;
  • perform sophrology exercises to evacuate stress;
  • practice self-mockery by joking with your audience;
  • work on your posture with gestures that resemble you and in which you are comfortable. Fix your gaze above the heads so that each person is included in your field of vision and feels concerned without having to look at them directly;
  • If glossophobia is taking too much of an impact on your daily life, you can also try taking acting classes. This will get you used to speaking in public without fearing the gaze of others.

If the anxiety caused by public speaking persists, do not hesitate to talk about it with a healthcare professional. He or she may prescribe:

  • behavioral and cognitive therapy (CBT), to reduce the state of stress;
  • psychotherapy;
  • exposure therapy. It consists in exposing the patient to his fear over a given period. The use of virtual reality can be a good alternative.

Would you like to talk to a general practitioner or a psychiatrist about your fear of public speaking? On Healthlinerx, health professionals are at your service.

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