Glossophobia (Fear of Public Speaking)
Glossophobia is the irrational fear of public speaking. Someone suffering from this condition will have an extremely difficult time talking in front of other people, especially among strangers or people of high status. The fear of public speaking is largely due to their fear of being judged by the individual’s listening. Glossophobia can leave someone virtually paralyzed, unable to speak or even move.
Glossophobia is one of the most common phobias that exists, alongside arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces). It is very plausible to hypothesize that the fear of public speaking is due to evolutionary adaptations. Our ancient ancestors would have had good reason to speak confidently and eloquently in front of large crowds to appear powerful and convincing. If the masses were unimpressed or felt they could not trust their leader/speaker, then this could accrue grave consequences for the speaker.
Public speaking is very important as it is a way to spread ideas to the masses. People suffering from glossophobia will find such an event to be absolutely horrifying.
Someone with this condition will find themselves to be overly concerned with the way they speak, the words they choose, the pitch of their voice, the volume of their voice, the way they’re standing, their facial expressions, the way their hands are moving, analyzing the body language of their audience, and so on and so forth. This is not to mention the plentiful amount of negative worry thoughts they will inevitably experience as well.
Symptoms of Glossophobia
Someone suffering from full blown glossophobia will find themselves entering into a fight, flight, or freeze state of mind when speaking in front of a crowd. More times than none, they will often try to avoid speaking in front of crowds as best they can to reduce the intense anxiety they would otherwise experience. It is also not uncommon for people with glossophobia to have panic attacks or faint when giving speeches.
The mere thought of giving a speech in front of a crowd of people can actually cause physiological changes to occur. For instance, by simply thinking of their fear of public speaking their heart will begin to beat faster, they may start sweating, their mouth may start to get dry, and they may start trembling. All of these symptoms can happen to them while they are in the comfort of their own home. For some, just thinking about speaking in public is enough to give them intense anxiety.
As is the case with most phobias, someone with glossophobia will diligently try to avoid speaking in public, so much that it may negatively impact their performance at their job or hinder their performance in school/social functions. Though avoiding speaking in public will reduce their anxiety in the moment, it will also worsen their condition as a whole in the long run as they will be reassuring to themselves that speaking in public is something worth fearing and that it should be avoided.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of glossophobia:
Intense anxiety when speaking in public
Anxiety when thinking of speaking in public
Dizziness or fainting
Muscle tension and shakiness
Overly concerned with other’s opinions
Avoiding speaking in public
May experience panic attacks
Causes of Glossophobia
As mentioned before, there is likely an evolutionary advantage as to why most people are somewhat fearful of speaking in public as anxiety or nervousness can help us to perform better by realizing what is at stake. For example, if someone was speaking in front of a large crowd and they were not the least bit anxious, then they probably didn’t care much about what they were talking about, thus making for an apathetic and uninspiring speech.
Genetics and one’s environment are both likely causes for someone developing glossophobia. For instance, if someone has a family history of mental illness, especially of phobias, then they may have an increased risk of developing glossophobia. This would likely be due to them also having a higher risk for being genetically predisposed to develop mental illness in general.
If they were to have such a genetic predisposition, then all it may take for them to develop glossophobia would be some sort of traumatic event. Such an event may be that they “froze-up” while on stage in front of hundreds or thousands of people and had a panic attack. Events such as these may be so traumatizing that it may make them never want to speak in public again.
Though we do not know the exact cause of any given mental disorder, there is a consensus among most mental health professionals that both genetics and one’s environment play very significant roles.
Glossophobia Treatments (abridged)
Exposure therapy is one of the most common and effective forms of treatment for those suffering from phobias, including glossophobia. Exposure therapy works by having the patient be exposed to their fear over a given period of time. The amount of stimulus the patient will be exposed to will gradually increase as they begin to improve. Though they will experience a great amount of anxiety when enduring such exposure, it will also help them to become desensitized to their fear in the long run.
The therapist may expose the patient to speaking in public by having them simply say a small speech in front of the therapist. They can gradually move on to more anxiety provoking tasks such as getting the patient to make a speech in front of their family or friends. Eventually, the patient would move on to more anxiety provoking situations. It is very important to gradually increase the intensity of these situations over time as it would be counterproductive if the patient was exposed to too much anxiety too soon.
If you think you may have glossophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms outlined in this article, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, she may refer you to see a specialist such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist for further treatment.
Exposure Therapy for Glossophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as glossophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with glossophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with glossophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their glossophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with glossophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
Working Out for Glossophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including glossophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of glossophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of glossophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with glossophobia over time.
Yoga Sessions for Glossophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from glossophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with glossophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with glossophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with glossophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of glossophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Glossophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from glossophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with glossophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of glossophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Psychiatric Medications for Glossophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe glossophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their glossophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as glossophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of glossophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of glossophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Glossophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with glossophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with glossophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with glossophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with glossophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Glossophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like glossophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with glossophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with glossophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with glossophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your glossophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Meditation Practice for Glossophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from glossophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from glossophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with glossophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of glossophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with glossophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Control Caffeine Consumption for Glossophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with glossophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with glossophobia.