Glossophobia (phobia to speak in public): symptoms, causes and treatment

We are standing before a room full of people looking at us and waiting for us to talk. If we do not turn out to be very daring people, this situation can turn our stomachs a little.

This reaction is perfectly normal, since the pressure of public speaking can be disturbing. However, when this concern turns into a dread, we may face a case of glossophobia .

  • Related article: ” Types of phobias: exploring fear disorders

What is glossophobia?

The term glossophobia comes from the union of the terms of Greek origin “glossa” which is translated as “language” and “phobos” that corresponds to “fear.” Although at first glance it may not offer any clue as to what is glossophobia, it is a specific anxiety disorder in which the person experiences fear of public speaking.

Although it is normal to get nervous when we have to speak in front of many people, in the glossophobia the person experiences an excessive, irrational and uncontrollable fear of such situations . This exacerbated fear causes the person to experience abnormally high levels of anxiety every time he must speak in public, so he always tends to avoid these situations.

Although in many cases, glossophobia is part of a much broader social phobia, it does not always have to be that way. In addition, there are essential differences between these two types of specific phobia.

Unlike social phobia, for which the person expresses excessive fear of virtually any type of socialization, glossophobia is a situational phobia that only occurs in the specific context of having to speak to an audience , even if it is known or Small size

As mentioned, experiencing some nervousness or fear when speaking in public is completely natural; But when this fear prevents the person from carrying out such activity, it can be a glossophobia. In addition, there are certain characteristics that distinguish a phobic fear from a normative one :

  • It is excessive considering the real danger of the situation.
  • It is irrational. The person is unable to give a logical explanation to their fear.
  • It is uncontrollable. Who suffers it fails to control the fear or the reactions it causes.
  • It persists over timeand through different situations.

In addition, in the case of glossophobia, the anxiety response experienced by the person is so high that it is completely impossible to speak in public , to the point of fainting if they are forced to do so.

As a result, they tend to avoid this situation, which can interfere with their work or academic life, since it is quite likely that at some time they will be required.

  • You may be interested: ” Types of Anxiety Disorders and their characteristics

What symptoms do you have?

As mentioned above, glossophobia is an anxiety disorder so the symptoms respond to a clinical picture of this type of condition.

This means that the person with glossophobia who is exposed to the situation of having to speak in public will experience an extreme anxiety response. Sometimes the fear of having to speak in front of more people is so intense that the anxiety reaction can only occur when imagining the situation.

Although each person may experience different symptoms and with different intensity, the symptomatology that distinguishes both glossophobia and other phobias manifests itself in three different categories: physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms and behavioral symptoms.

1. Physical symptoms

When the person faces or thinks about facing the phobic stimulus, in this case having to speak in public, there is an overactivity of the central nervous system that causes a lot of changes and alterations in the organism. Among these symptoms are:

  • Increase in heart rate.
  • Increase of the respiratory rate.
  • Feeling short of breath or suffocation.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Nausea and / or vomiting.
  • Increased sweating
  • Tremors.
  • Gastric disorders
  • Faintness.
  • Feeling of unreality.

2. Cognitive symptoms

The physical symptoms are provoked and are accompanied by a cognitive symptomatology that is distinguished by presenting a series of irrational beliefs and ideas about the things that can happen when the person is speaking in public.

Ideas like that you will be humiliated, that you will not live up to the circumstances or that the rest of the people will notice the anxiety you experience are very recurring thoughts that invade the minds of people with glossophobia.

These cognitive symptoms manifest themselves through the following ideas or thoughts:

  • Intrusive, involuntary and uncontrollable ideas about the possible scenarios that can occur while the person speaks to an audience.
  • Obsessive speculationabout the feared action.
  • Mental images of a catastrophic nature.
  • Fear of losing controland not knowing how to manage the situation properly.

3. Behavioral symptoms

Finally, these symptoms are accompanied and manifested through a series of behavioral symptoms that appear as a response to the stimulus or aversive situation. These behaviors have as their purpose or the avoidance of said situation or flight.

All those behaviors that are carried out with the purpose of avoiding or avoiding the possibility of having to speak in public with known as avoidance behaviors. For example, the person with glossophobia may falsely claim that he has become ill to have to go to an appointment where he knew he had to speak in public.

On the other hand, all those behaviors that are carried out once the feared situation have started are called escape behaviors and although in glossophobia they are not so common, they allow the person to escape as quickly as possible from the phobic situation.

What are the causes?

In many cases, it is practically impossible to determine the specific origin of a phobic fear, since the person himself is unable to remember or determine what caused it .

However, in most phobias, a genetic predisposition to the effects of stress and anxiety, coupled with the experience of traumatic experiences or with an intense emotional load and related to the feared stimulus, are the perfect breeding ground for development of a phobia

Is there a treatment?

Since glossophobia can become highly disabling, it is highly recommended that people who suffer from it go to a specialist in psychology or mental health . Luckily, there are treatments that can significantly reduce the intensity of symptoms and even eliminate them altogether.

Through techniques such as live exposure or systematic desensitization, the person gradually faces the dreaded exposure. So if they are accompanied by training in relaxation techniques and cognitive restructuring , the person can overcome their phobic fear and carry out this activity in a normal way.


by Abdullah Sam
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