What it is, signs and more I Psych Central

Speaking in front of others can be difficult for some, but there are ways to deal with it.

Many have experienced some level of anxiety when it comes to speaking in front of others. From a slightly elevated heart rate to sweaty palms, public speaking can make even the most experienced speakers and presenters a little nervous.

For some people, however, the fear of public speaking can become intense and even debilitating. The anxiety it causes can begin to seep into their daily lives and affect how they interact at work, school, or even at events.

Despite the challenges that public speaking anxiety presents, there are strategies to manage its symptoms.

Public speaking anxiety is basically the fear of public speaking. The possibility or reality of public speaking can create intense feelings of nervousness, discomfort, worry and anxiety.

Also known as glossophobia, public speaking anxiety is classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) as a social anxiety disorder.

Public speaking anxiety is estimated to affect between 15% and 30% of the general population, according to a article 2016. While some people may only experience mild anxiety about public speaking, others may experience more severe or intense symptoms.

When public speaking anxiety increases, you may experience psychological and physical symptoms.

Some psychological symptoms you may have include:

  • feelings of intense worry and nervousness
  • fear, stress and panic in public speaking situations
  • feelings of dread and fear before speaking in front of others
  • intrusive thoughts about public speaking

These feelings can cause you to actively avoid situations where public speaking opportunities may arise. This may include turning down a job opportunity, changing majors, or skipping important or significant events.

Public speaking anxiety can also affect you physically. You might have symptoms such as:

  • heart palpitations
  • chest pain
  • excessive sweating
  • tremble or tremble
  • shortness of breath
  • trembling voice
  • dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • to blush
  • muscle tension
  • panic attacks

There is no known exact cause of public speaking anxiety. But there are factors that may play a role in your public speaking anxiety.

This can be the result of:

  • a past traumatic incident with public speaking
  • a history of anxiety or another mental health problem
  • shy or nervous around others
  • fear of others judging you
  • self-awareness in front of a large group of people

A study 2017 suggests that genetics may also play a role in the development of generalized anxiety disorder. Other factors that can influence an anxiety disorder, such as public speaking anxiety, include:

  • personality traits, such as being shy or reserved
  • past traumatic events
  • a family history of anxiety or other mental health issues
  • take certain medications
  • high intake of caffeine or other substances
  • having a generalized anxiety disorder or another anxiety disorder

There may also be no reason for your anxiety about public speaking, and that’s okay.

If fear of public speaking is affecting your daily life, it may be time to consider seeking help from a therapist or mental health professional.

A good place to start may be to discuss your symptoms with a healthcare professional. They can determine if there are any underlying causes for your symptoms and refer you to a mental health professional for further evaluation.

A psychological evaluation may be recommended to establish a diagnosis and recommend treatment.

Public speaking anxiety is not its own diagnosis, but is instead considered an anxiety disorder.

According to the DSM-5, you may have an anxiety disorder if:

  • your anxiety causes extreme stress, which affects your daily life
  • you avoid situations or circumstances that cause you anxiety, or have high anxiety if you cannot
  • that you have suffered from anxiety almost every day for more than 6 months
  • your anxiety is excessive and disproportionate to the trigger (which in this case is public speaking)
  • there is no other mental health issue that could be causing your symptoms

If you experience any of these symptoms, consider seeking professional help. Only a mental health professional can make a diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, you and the doctor or therapist can work together to develop a treatment plan tailored to you and your symptoms.

Therapy

There are several types of therapy that can help you cope with or overcome public speaking anxiety.

A study 2019 found that therapy – whether online or face-to-face – is an effective way to reduce public speaking anxiety.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can help you understand your symptoms and may even help you determine the cause.

Maybe you had an embarrassing incident of public speaking as a child, or maybe a work presentation didn’t go as well as you hoped.

Whatever the root cause, getting to the root of your anxiety can help you more easily identify potential triggers and develop strategies to deal with them.

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) is another therapeutic method for overcoming speech-related anxiety. This strategy has grown in popularity in recent years – and for good reason.

Researchers have seen positive results, and a meta-analysis of 11 studies in 2021 shows that VRET techniques can significantly reduce symptoms of public speaking anxiety.

Medication

Your doctor may recommend medications in addition to — or sometimes instead of — therapy, depending on your symptoms and what may or may not work to relieve them.

There are many prescription treatments available. Depending on your particular situation, you can opt for drugs for regular use (long term) or as needed (short term).

Long-term medication is taken regularly to relieve daily stress and anxiety. These can include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.

Short-term medications are only taken as needed, such as right before you give a speech or whenever your symptoms start to overwhelm you. Beta-blockers are the most commonly prescribed medications for managing anxiety in the moment rather than on a daily basis.

Living with public speaking anxiety can be difficult, but there are ways to cope with your symptoms and prevent them from overwhelming you when you have to speak in front of others.

Being fully prepared is one of the most effective ways to manage public speaking anxiety, and there are many strategies you can use to make speaking situations more manageable.

These include:

  • Create a scenario. A script is a great way to plan out everything you want to say during your presentation – and a great tool to practice with. If you’re worried about getting buried in your script rather than fully engaging during your speech, consider creating a detailed outline instead. It gives you a roadmap to refer to while allowing your natural, amazing self to shine through.
  • Familiarize yourself with your equipment. Knowing your gear well will help you avoid any setbacks or obstacles along the way. You don’t need to memorize your presentation word for word, but having a clear understanding of your speech and what you are trying to convey will allow you to be more relaxed during your presentation.
  • Block it. “Block” is a stage term that refers to the position of actors or the actions they take during a play. If you don’t want to stand in one place during your presentation, consider adding planned movements during transitions in your speech, such as “When I go from point A to point B, I have 3 steps left.” This is especially useful for large spaces, such as conference spaces or lecture halls.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Review your entire presentation. Then iron it again. And even. The more you practice, the more the speech will become second nature, so you can deliver it with ease when the time comes.
  • Register. Watching your presentation can help you see where you might need to make adjustments, as well as show you what’s going well with your speech and delivery. This recording is just for you and you don’t need fancy equipment; a smartphone or tablet will work just fine.
  • Seek help from others. Asking someone to help you can bring you outside encouragement and support. Consider people you are comfortable with, such as a close friend or loved one.
  • Anticipate questions from the audience. If your presentation will be followed by a Q&A session, it can help calm your nerves by considering questions the audience might ask in advance. This way you can prepare your answers in advance and not worry about answering on the fly.

During your speech or presentations, many audience members share your fear. Public speaking anxiety is very common, and you are not alone.

Public speaking anxiety is a type of social anxiety disorder triggered by a fear of speaking in front of others. Also known as glossophobia, public speaking anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as an elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, and even panic attacks.

Therapy and medication are effective treatments for public speaking anxiety. There are also strategies you can try to manage or prevent your symptoms.

When giving a speech, remember to smile, make eye contact, and breathe. If your anxiety begins to increase, give yourself permission to acknowledge it and take a break.

Take a deep breath, focus, and carry on: you get it.

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