Fear of public speaking

Public speaking anxiety

Fear of public speaking is also referred to as public speaking phobia (In extreme cases) or public speaking anxiety. The term therapists would use to define this anxiety is Glossophobia.

It is possibly one of the most common phobias that I come across and there are ways to overcome your fear of public speaking, but lets first look at the reasons and symptoms.

But what does a fear of public speaking actually mean? When we refer to speaking in public we often have an image of someone addressing a crowd in a large room but while this would be a tricky challenge for most, public speaking anxiety refers to an intense fear of talking in front of others.

This could be attached to many situations such as:

  1. Having to deliver a presentation
  2. Being in a meeting where your opinion may be asked
  3. Delivering a best man’s speech 
  4. Anywhere where you may have to talk in front of others


What are the symptoms of public speaking phobia?

There is a big difference between having a few nerves before speaking in front of others. Most of us will experience this and this is basically ‘performance anxiety’, it is the bodies way of keeping you alert and just a little nervous so that you deliver the best possible performance. And normally the nerves are felt leading up to the speech, as soon as you start talking, the anxiety starts to ebb away.

However, with a real fear of public speaking, the sufferer will endure huge waves of anxiety every time they think of the meeting or presentation. This prolonged fear will start days before the event and build up. Sometimes it can be so intense that the only way the individual can overcome the dread, is to avoid going! This avoidance is a safety behaviour. It helps reduce the anxiety, however, in the long run, it will actually increase the worry and dread.

The symptoms are similar to other phobic responses and the ‘fight or flight‘ response is triggered.

  1. Racing heart
  2. Dizziness
  3. Sweating
  4. Nausea (some people will actually be sick)
  5. Shallow breathing
  6. Intense butterflies in the stomach
  7. Upset tummy, needing to rush to the loo
  8. Sense of unreality, like your in a dream

In some instances, this intense fear may trigger a panic attack. If the person does experience a panic attack in a public situation then they may start to attach that response to all future occasions. This attachment makes the fear worse!


How does a fear of public speaking begin?


phobia of speaking in public

When I see clients with this particular fear, I often see a thread that is very common.

Most of the fear is about your thinking. And then it is about negative evaluation of others and if you were negatively judged, what would that say about you? There may be some deep core beliefs at play also. This means that you have a belief about yourself, other people or the world around you that is negative. Common unconscious beliefs are:

I am not good enough

People must like me

I am a failure

I will get found out

These beliefs will have probably been developed when you were young.

However, it isn’t always the case that a belief from the past is at play. But certainly, the way you think effects the way you feel and behave. If we use our imaginations to see the future event all going wrong and turnng out the way we feel it will turn out, then it’s only right that your feelings will be very negative. Then you may begin to think about what will other people think of me if this all goes wrong. They may think I am stupid, I may lose my job, I will never get that promotion, and so on.

Sometimes the fear was experienced earlier on in life. Perhaps at school when you were asked to stand up in front of your class or in assembly. If there was something that went wrong, for example, forgetting your lines, or messing them up and the audience laughed, then you may have felt embarrassed. Or another one I encounter, is having to read a line or two from a book in front of the teacher and class.

How do you overcome your fear of public speaking?

Fear of public speakingThere are many techniques that I use to help you with this. We look at the history of the problem and work closely on the feelings and the thoughts. I do this separately and will introduce psychotherapeutic techniques to help you feel more comfortable and confident.

I will use cognition training (Adapting your negative thoughts) and hypnotic rehearsal as a way of desensitising your feelings. I may also use regression techniques if it was obvious that the fear started when you were younger. Sometimes this fear can lay dormant until you are actually in a similar situation and then the unconscious part of your mind triggers the feelings.

As this is one of the most common fears that I see at my office in Warrington, I am used to working with the thoughts and feelings and if you are fully on board with the process of adapting and changing then there is a better possibility of you overcoming this outdated fear.

I always give my clients stuff to do away from the sessions. This may include listening to my recordings or writing down thoughts and feelings. My successful clients never see this as homework, but as a great way to get the best out of the change process and it helps that change happen a lot quicker too.

If you or someone you know suffers from a fear of public speaking then give me a call and we can chat about your problem, or simply send me an email and I will respond as soon as I am available.

0800 849 94 94

01925 354 820

64 Shackleton close – Old Hall – Warrington – Cheshire – WA5 9QE






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“Image (illustration) courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.