• Glossophobia, or a fear of public speaking, is a very common phobia and one that is believed to affect up to 75% of the population. Some individuals may feel a slight nervousness at the very thought of public speaking, while others experience full-on panic and fear of public speaking. And it affects as many as four out of 10 Americans.
  • For those affected, speaking in front of a group can trigger feelings of discomfort and anxiety. With this can come uncontrollable trembling, sweating, and a racing heartbeat. You may also have an overwhelming urge to run out of the room or away from the situation that is causing you stress.
  • Glossophobia is a social phobia, or social anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders go beyond occasional worrying or nervousness. They cause strong fears that are out of proportion to what you are experiencing or thinking about.
  • Anxiety disorders often get worse over time. And they can interfere with your ability to function under some circumstances.

What does glossophobia feel like?

  • When faced with having to give a presentation, many people experience the classic fight-or-flight response. This is the body’s way of preparing to defend itself against perceived threats.
  • When threatened, your brain prompts the release of adrenaline and steroids. This causes your blood sugar levels, or energy levels, to increase. And your blood pressure and heart rate rise, sending more blood flow to your muscles.

Common symptoms of Glossophobia fight-or-flight include:

  1. Rapid heartbeat
  2. Trembling
  3. Sweating
  4. Nausea or vomiting
  5. Shortness of breath or hyperventilating
  6. Dizziness
  7. Muscle tension
  8. Urge to get away

What is glossophobia caused by?

  • Specific triggers of glossophobia will often vary from one individual to another. The most common trigger, however, is the anticipation of presenting in front of an audience. Additional triggers may include social interactions, starting a new job, or going to school.
  • While the exact cause of glossophobia is unknown, this disorder may be due to a combination of genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological factors. Understanding these causes and triggers may help optimize the prevention and treatment of glossophobia. 
  • Genetic factors could play a role, as individuals with a family history of glossophobia may be more likely to exhibit it themselves. Environmental and demographic factors, such as education and social upbringing, may also contribute to glossophobia. 
  • Moreover, past negative experiences involving a public speaking event e.g. an individual was ridiculed, embarrassed, or rejected while giving a speech may also contribute to the development of glossophobia.
  • Specific triggers of glossophobia will often vary from one individual to another. The most common trigger, however, is the anticipation of presenting in front of an audience. Additional triggers may include social interactions, starting a new job, or going to school.

Is glossophobia a mental illness?

Glossophobia isn’t a dangerous disease or chronic condition. It’s the medical term for the fear of public speaking. And it affects as many as four out of 10 Americans. For those affected, speaking in front of a group can trigger feelings of discomfort and anxiety.

How is glossophobia diagnosed?

  • Since the exact cause of glossophobia may be due to a combination of factors, diagnosis by a mental health professional can include a variety of techniques. Diagnosis is generally based on the signs and symptoms an individual exhibits, along with a review of their medical, social, and family history. 
  • In addition, assessment of symptoms and individual interviews are often used to classify the diagnosis according to the guidelines set forth by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is currently in its 5th edition (DSM-5).   
  • Signs of glossophobia may include avoiding speaking in public at all costs, over-preparing for social interactions. Fearing judgement, experiencing extreme stress during a presentation, and only engaging in activities that do not require public speaking. 
  • Individuals may come across as shy or introverted during social interactions. Use mainly passive, non-verbal communication methods. Or require alcohol or medications to mitigate fears before engaging in public speaking. 
  • Signs that glossophobia may be interfering and damaging various aspects of an individual’s life include low self-esteem, social isolation, poor relationships, pessimism, and poor achievement in work or school.
  • There are also many symptoms of glossophobia, which typically present when an individual is asked to speak in public or is actively speaking in public. Physical symptoms result from a fight-or-flight response, during which the body produces adrenaline to prepare for defense against perceived threats. 

Glossophobia Characters

  • This response is characterized by increased blood pressure, elevated heart rate, sweating, stiffening of muscles, nausea, and dry mouth. 
  • Many of these symptoms coincide with those of a panic attack, as individuals may exhibit a feeling of panic when having to speak in public. Verbal symptoms may include a weakened tone of voice, shaking or trembling voice, and stammering. These can often trigger non-verbal symptoms such as high anxiety, stress, embarrassment, and fear of judgement during public speaking.
  • In addition to a review of signs and symptoms, diagnosis of some cases may require physical examination, laboratory tests (e.g., blood tests and urine samples). Or brain imaging in order to rule out other illnesses that may be impacting an individual’s mental health or that result in similar symptoms (e.g., psychiatric diseases, cancers affecting the brain, or recent trauma). 
  • People with glossophobia may also have other, coexisting mental health conditions, such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or substance-related or addiction disorders. In order to appropriately manage the associated conditions, a thorough evaluation from a mental health professional is very important.

How do you get rid of glossophobia?

  1. Know your topic

The better you understand what you are talking about and the more you care about the topic. The less likely you will make a mistake or get off track. And if you do get lost, you will be able to recover quickly. Take some time to consider what questions the audience may ask and have your responses ready.

Get organized

Ahead of time, carefully plan out the information you want to present, including any props, audio or visual aids. The more organized you are, the less nervous you will be. Use an outline on a small card to stay on track. If possible, visit the place where you will be speaking and review available equipment before your presentation

Practice, and then practice some more

Practice your complete presentation several times. Do it for some people you are comfortable with and ask for feedback. It may also be helpful to practice with a few people with whom you are less familiar. Consider making a video of your presentation so you can watch it and see opportunities.

Challenge specific worries

When you’re afraid of something, you may likelihood of bad things happening. List your specific worries. Then directly challenge them by identifying probable and alternative and any objective evidence that supports each worry or the likelihood that your feared outcomes will happen.

Visualize your success

Imagine that your presentation will go well. Positive thoughts can help decrease some of your negativity about your social performance and relieve some anxiety.

Do some deep breathing

This can be very calming. Take two or more deep, slow breaths before you get up to the podium and during your speech.

Focus on your material, not on your audience

People mainly pay attention to new information  not how it’s present. They may not notice your nervous. If audience members do notice that you are nervous, they may root for you and want your presentation to be a success

Don’t fear a moment of silence

If you lose track of what you are saying or start to feel nervous and your mind goes blank. It may seem like you have been silent for an eternity. In reality, it’s probably only a few seconds. Even if it’s longer, it’s likely your audience won’t mind a pause to consider what you have been saying. Just take a few slow, deep breaths.

Recognize your success 

After your speech or presentation, give yourself a pat on the back. It may not have been perfect, but chances are you’re far more critical of yourself than your audience is. See if any of your specific worries actually occurred. Everyone makes mistakes. Look at any mistakes you made as an opportunity to improve your skills.

Get support

Join a group that offers support for people who have difficulty with public speaking. One effective resource is Toastmasters, a nonprofit organization with local chapters that focuses on training people in speaking and leadership skills.

  • If you can’t overcome your fear with practice alone, consider seeking professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a skills-based approach that can be a successful treatment for reducing fear of public speaking.
  • As another option, your doctor may prescribe a calming medication that you take before public speaking. If your doctor prescribes a medication, try it before your speaking engagement to see how it affects you.
  • Nervousness or anxiety in certain situations is normal, and public speaking is no exception. Known as performance anxiety, other examples include stage fright, test anxiety and writer’s block. But people with severe performance anxiety that includes significant anxiety in other social situations may have social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia). Social anxiety disorder may require cognitive behavioral therapy, medications or a combination of the two.

Just before your presentation

  • If possible, practice your material one last time before heading out to give your presentation. You should also avoid food or caffeine before speaking.
  • Once you have arrived at your speaking location, get familiar with the space. If you are using any equipment, such as a laptop or projector, make sure everything is working.

During your presentation

  • Keep in mind that 40 percent of the audience fears public speaking, too. There’s no need to apologize for being nervous. Instead, do your best to accept that stress is normal and use it to be more alert and energetic.
  • Smile and make eye contact with any audience members you encounter. Take advantage of any opportunity to spend a few moments chatting with them. Be sure to take several slow, deep breaths to help calm you down if needed.

What are some examples of glossophobia?

Here are some examples where glossophobia might arise:

  1. Musicians, actresses and actors performing in front of huge crowds
  2. Business people making presentations to their team
  3. Calling a friend or colleague about something
  4. Children dreading being asked a question by their teacher

How is glossophobia treated?

  1. Psychotherapy

Many people are able to overcome their glossophobia with cognitive behavioral therapy. Working with a therapist can help you identify the root cause of your anxiety. 

For example, you may discover that you fear ridicule, rather than speaking, because you were mocked as a child.

  • Together, you and your therapist will explore your fears and the negative thoughts that go with them. Your therapist can teach you ways to reshape any negative thoughts.
  • Examples of this might include:

Instead of thinking “I can’t make any mistakes,” accept that all people make mistakes or have omissions when presenting. It’s okay. Most of the time the audience isn’t aware of them.

Exposure Therapy (ET)

In ET, treatment involves exposing individuals to situations that trigger their glossophobia, which gives their minds opportunities to adapt to the triggers, enabling better management of their fears. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

On the other hand, CBT focuses on changing individuals’ mental, emotional, and behavioral processing of situations that could stimulate their strong fears of public speaking, at times also involving exposure.


  • Depending on an individual’s situation and past treatments, certain medications may also be used to control symptoms of glossophobia. Anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines  (e.g., lorazepam or clonazepam) may help prevent or control symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks. Beta blockers, like propranolol, are another class of medication that may help reduce symptoms of speaking anxiety, including increased heart rate, sweating, and dizziness. 
  • In some instances, sedatives may help relax and calm the body in triggering situations. Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (e.g., sertraline) or selective serotonin norepinephrine inhibitors (e.g., venlafaxine) may also be effective in managing social anxiety.
  • If therapy doesn’t relieve your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe one of several medications used to treat anxiety disorders.
  • If your anxiety is severe and affecting your daily life, your doctor may prescribe benzodiazepines like Ativan or Xanax.

What are the most important facts to know about glossophobia?

  • Individuals with glossophobia may avoid speaking in public, as they typically experience fear and anxiety when speaking in front of a group of people. 
  • Glossophobia may also involve a wide range of emotional, mental and physical symptoms that typically present when an individual is asked to speak in public or is actively speaking in public. Because the exact cause of glossophobia is unknown, and symptoms alone may be non-specific, understanding contributing causes and triggers may help optimize prevention and treatment strategies. 
  • In general, overcoming glossophobia is not a simple process and requires patience, willingness, and commitment from the affected individual.



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