You are in front of a crowd, you try to speak, but you can’t really find the words, you are sweating, and your heart seems to want to jump out of your chest. Your mouth is like a desert, completely dried out. There is no oasis to be found, no words to speak. You are lost.
Do you find this situation even a little bit relatable?
Then you might suffer from glossophobia or fear of public speaking. You are not alone, as 77% of the general population has it. Some people overcome public speaking anxiety by simply avoiding doing it. This strategy won’t work in the long term, however, as they might have to speak in public at some point, regardless of whether they want it or not.
Glossophobia is not something incurable. You don’t need to run away from public speaking. You can find ways to fight this fear. One option you might be able to do is by therapy.
Do You Need Therapy for Public Speaking?
SAD leads to a considerable fear or anxiety in social interaction in which a person is exposed to unfamiliar people and thinks they might judge them. It is highly impairing, and it drastically reduces the quality of life of the person who suffers from it. Glossophobia is a specific form of SAD that only appears in the context of public speaking. It could lead to:
- Failing a certain class at school where oral presentation is required
- Being absent from work, on certain days when a presentation had to be done
- Avoiding social gatherings that imply speaking with a large group
If you are not sure whether you are suffering from public speaking anxiety or not, the following list of symptoms could serve as a guideline to help you clear this issue.
Symptoms of public speaking anxiety
Due to public speaking anxiety, you may begin to anticipate the event weeks in advance, imagining the worst-case scenario.
When the moment of public speaking comes, your fear will make you perceive the situation as a threat. It will engage the fight or flight response, making a person freeze or become highly alert.
Engaging the fight or flight response might result in an array of physical symptoms that might engulf you, such as:
- Pounding heart
- Upset stomach
- A lump in the throat
- Palmar sweating
These symptoms could occur even if you don’t suffer from glossophobia, it might just be a situation when the stakes are really high. However, If the symptoms repeatedly appear when speaking in front of others, you should consider therapy. It will teach you how to overcome public speaking anxiety.
Taylor Williams on TEDx gave a fascinating speech about public speaking anxiety:
How Can Therapy Help with Public Speaking Anxiety?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an option you might consider for your public speaking anxiety. It helps by understanding what thoughts or cognitions could cause the fear of public speaking. Therefore, the therapy will focus on changing certain patterns of dysfunctional thoughts like:
- I failed once, I will fail whenever I speak in front of others.
- One must have perfect oral skills to do public speaking.
A therapist might help you change these thoughts with something more functional like:
- The presentation might be bad, but it’s not the end of the world.
- You failed once, but that doesn’t speak about your general capabilities.
Along with the changing of thoughts, you will also do systematic desensitization, which implies exposing yourself to public speaking bit by bit. You might start by simply imagining public speaking and gradually moving to role-play, continuing with simple real-life situations.
Another kind of therapy you might consider is virtual reality therapy. This type of therapy uses a virtual environment that realistically simulates the context of public speaking.
If you have public speaking anxiety, it might be hard to take the step of seeking help. It might be difficult to find a place in your schedule to do it and travel to a certain place to do therapy.
Online therapy might be an easier step. You could work with a professional from the comfort of your home or any place, as CBT works through conversations.
This type of therapy involves messaging and live sessions via text or audio messages. It can fit any schedule, so you could even book a session with a therapist just before your presentation.
Online counseling is not only a click away but is also more affordable than most in-person therapy options; therefore, it’s a great way to get started.
When to Consider Medication
If you are greatly suffering from public speaking anxiety, and doing therapy is not enough, you could talk with your doctor for medication specific to this problem.
One of the medications prescribed in the short term, for example, is propranolol, a beta-blocker that helps relieve the symptoms of anxiety. People take it before a presentation.
Taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) could also help. Serotonin is a chemical messenger within the brain that, among many other things, enables you to regulate your mood. Coupled with therapy, this medication could decrease public speaking anxiety.
Other Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
There are also strategies you could implement yourself to decrease your public speaking anxiety:
- Have a structure. Use an easy-to-follow format that makes you able to get smoothly from one point to another and makes your listeners able to follow you along. Additionally, you could use visual and audio content to get your point across.
- Know your audience. For your audience to be engaged with what you are talking about, they ought to understand you. Don't use highly complex and domain-specific words if your audience doesn’t have the same general knowledge you have.
- Practice. You should practice your presentation several times, do it with people close to you, and ask for feedback. After doing that, try the same with people you are not that familiar with. Improve the presentation with their feedback in mind.
- Eliminate the worries. Make a list of your worries. Think about their likelihood and what objective evidence you have about their possible outcomes.
- Breathe slowly. When we are anxious, our breathing pattern becomes erratic, and we start taking short, desperate breaths. Before doing the presentation, try calming yourself by taking several deep breaths.
- Join a community. You are not alone in fighting against these problems. You could attend a workshop or join a group session of online therapy for public speaking anxiety.
- Silence is not your enemy. Don’t panic if you have lost your train of thought, just continue. Even though for you it seemed like an eternity has passed in those 3 seconds, just get back to your presentation; people will appreciate that you kept yourself together under intense emotions.
- Be grateful to yourself. Even if the presentation didn’t go exactly how you thought it would, you should still celebrate your efforts. Every single time you challenge your fears by speaking in public is a success by itself. You will learn from your experiences and get better with time.
Speaking in public can be a terrifying experience, so many people avoid it altogether. Running from your fears can work at some point, but you can’t run all your life. You have ways to fight this. Doing therapy might be a possible step.
Many people feel that getting help is a daunting task because of the effort involved in finding a therapist and physically going to the sessions. Nonetheless, it doesn't have to be like that. You can choose to do online counseling. CBT will help you eliminate your negative thoughts bit by bit and decrease your fears.
The more you delay the moment you seek help, the more you suffer and increase the chance of developing generalized anxiety disorder. Any sort of action matters, take one right now by starting to do online therapy.