Glossophobia

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Background

Glossophobia or speech anxiety is the fear of public speaking. The word glossophobia comes from the Greek γλῶσσα glōssa, meaning tongue, and φόβος phobos, fear or dread.

Glossophobia may be a symptom of stage fright.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • intense anxiety prior to, or simply at the thought of having to verbally communicate with any group,
  • avoidance of events which focus the group's attention on individuals in attendance,
  • physical distress, nausea, or feelings of panic in such circumstances.

The more specific symptoms of speech anxiety can be grouped into three categories: physical, verbal, and non-verbal. Physical symptoms result from the Autonomic Nervous System responding to the situation with a “fight or flight” reaction. These symptoms include acute hearing, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilated pupils, increased perspiration, increased oxygen intake, stiffening of neck/upper back muscles, and dry mouth. The verbal symptoms include, but are not limited to a tense voice, a quivering voice, and repetition of “Umms” and “Ahhs” which tend to comfort anxious speakers. One form of speech anxiety is dysfunctional speech anxiety, in which the intensity of the “fight or flight” response prevents an individual from performing effectively.

Many people report stress-induced speech disorders which are only present during public speech. If you don't get up in front of an audience you never have to worry about stage fright. Some glossophobics have been able to dance or perform in public as long as they do not have to speak, or even speak (such as in a play) or sing as long as they cannot see the audience or they feel that they are a character or stage persona rather than presenting as themselves.

Causes

The root cause of glossophobia, although occasionally unknown, can usually be attributed to[citation needed]:

  • a single or multiple traumatic incidents, usually experienced personally but sometimes associated with someone who has, or
  • a slow build-up from avoiding public speaking over time until it builds into a more severe form of glossophobia

or

  • a series of beliefs formed early in life some of which have to do with speaking (ex.What I have to say is not important) and some of which have to do with competence and failure (ex. If I fail, I'll be rejected; I'm not capable).

The causes of this anxiety are self-defeating thoughts and anxiety-provoking situations. Self-defeating thoughts are thoughts in which the speaker pictures oneself failing, thinking that everything must be perfect, and a desire for complete approval. Situations that provoke anxiety are ones that hold great importance to the speaker, situations in which one is the center of attention, and situations in which the speaker is of subordinate status to the audience.

Help and relief

Some organizations, such as Toastmasters International and International Training in Communication, and training courses in public speaking may help to reduce the fear to manageable levels. Self-help materials that address public speaking are among the best selling self-help topics. Some affected people have turned to certain types of drugs, typically beta-blockers to temporarily treat their phobia.

References

See also

de:Lampenfieber nl:Glossofobie sv:Glossofobi


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