Standing up in front of a large crowd of people and giving a speech isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us. In fact, an estimated 75% of people are anxious about public speaking, with many suffering stress induced speech impediments. In many cases, it only affects speech, while dancing, acting or singing and playing music can all be carried out without issue.
Glossophobia is the extreme fear of public speaking, similar to – but not quite the same as – stage fright. Taking its name from the Greek word Glossa, meaning tongue, it’s one of the most widespread phobias. While not particularly dangerous, the fear is very much real. Indeed, many sufferers are only half joking when they say “I’d rather die than give a speech”!
Suffering from Glossophobia can result in many missed opportunities, in all areas of your life, and no shortage of embarrassing moments. There are however, many ways one can go about overcoming the fear of public speaking.
CAUSES OF GLOSSOPHOBIA
There are many reasons why Glossophobia can develop, and several theories as to why it’s so widespread. A traumatic past experience could very well be at the root of the fear. From getting a math question wrong in front of the class, to slipping up during a reading at a wedding, the possible scenarios are endless, and can affect people regardless of age.
A less severe, more general social anxiety can develop into Glossophobia, especially if the sufferer manages to avoid talking in front of people for prolonged periods of time. By never experiencing public speaking, it remains an unknown, and nothing is scarier than we don’t understand.
In some cases, genetics may be responsible, and it may be the case that you are born with a natural fear of being in the spotlight. Perfectionists and those with low self-esteem can also develop Glossophobia. The desire to get it right in front of other people, or rather, not get it wrong, can develop into a fully-fledged phobia of public speaking.
SYMPTOMS OF GLOSSOPHOBIA
Depending on the severity of the case, Glossophobes can exhibit a variety of symptoms. Most commonly, any form of public speaking – even among small groups of friends – can result in a panic attack and some or all of the following symptoms;
- Mind going blank
- Voice feels weak
- Shaking hands
- Dry throat
- Freeze in terror and unable to talk
- You feel the muscles around your mouth moving in strange ways
- An urge to escape
- Profuse sweating, clammy hands
- Hot or cold flush
- Increased heartbeat
In more extreme cases, the sufferer may experience an anxiety attack just at the thought of public speaking. Prior to the event itself, they may find they are unable to focus on anything else, resulting in stress and anxiety, and possibly insomnia. A classic case being the student praying that the teacher won’t pick them to speak.
Most Glossophobes will actively avoid any situation that involves public speaking. This can limit their job prospects, and opportunities in their social life.
Since Glossophobia is such a widespread phobia, it may come as no surprise that there are numerous methods one can use to overcome the fear of public speaking. Medication such as Beta blockers may aid in reducing the symptoms of anxiety, but they are not recommended. They merely reduce the impact of your phobia, rather than curing it forever.
There are numerous Self-help options, from books to Hypnotherapy audio files. These can be worked on in the comfort of your own home. One effective technique is to use Neuro-Linguistic Programming in conjunction with Relaxation techniques. The idea behind most self-help resources is to change your negative mindset, and think more positively about public speaking.
There are numerous Public speaking courses that sufferers can attend, in order to learn the relaxation techniques used by the pros to deliver a world class speech. Associations such as Toastmasters International are also excellent ways to learn and practice among friendly people who have been in your shoes.
In today’s digital world, there are even apps or audio therapy sessions such as subliminals you can download to help rid you of your phobia.
BENEFITS OF OVERCOMING FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
While the effects of Glossophobia may not be as serious as some other phobias, it can lead to a somewhat stunted growth. There are many opportunities to progress in life that can hinge on public speaking. From professional ambition, to social desires, by overcoming your Glossophobia, you will find the way forward far less stressful, and a lot more enjoyable.
Many people associate public speaking with confidence, and would actually love to be able to speak in front of people without worrying. There are ways to do just that, and you won’t ever look back.