top of page
Featured Posts

How to Overcome The Fear of Public Speaking

How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking



To overcome the fear of public speaking, also known as Glossophobia and stage fright, you will:

1. Begin before the speech by monitoring your "If then" thinking.

2. During the speech you will lower your self-preoccupation.

3. After the speech you will focus on what you did well.


Although, fear of public speaking, or stage fright for some, is one of the most common fears, there are no clear statistics of how prevalent this fear actually is.

Some blogs on the internet suggest that 73% to 75% of the population experience anxiety of public speaking.

Fear of public speaking (Glossophobia) is actually a form of Social Anxiety Disorder.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports an estimated 12.1% of U.S. adults experience social anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.

With social anxiety disorder (aka social phobia) people experience fear and anxiety about one or more social situations where they could be observed and judged by others.

Meeting new people, having conversations, being observed by others, eating or drinking around others, and performing or giving a speech are some of the situations that someone struggling with social anxiety would likely want to avoid.

Even writing and signing your name in front of others could cause anxiety.

What is Fear of Public Speaking?

Performance and Evaluation Anxiety

“What if my speech doesn’t measure up to people’s expectations? They will think that I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

You may become all-consumed with doing everything “Perfectly.”

You may worry about other people seeing you in a negative way or making negative judgments about you as a person based on your performance.

You worry that people will poorly rate your knowledge or ability to communicate. You may also rate your own ability poorly and then expect that others will too.

People worry that they will be “found out” to be deficient or ineffective while giving a speech. These worries, thoughts, and expectations all cause symptoms of anxiety.

The symptoms of stage fright will then have a tendency to interfere with speaking performance.

What are the Symptoms of Fear of Public Speaking?

Symptoms of Anxiety

People who become fearful before giving a speech may blush, sweat, tremble, have their mind go blank, and experience a rapid heart rate.

They may then fear that others will see them blush or sweat and then know that they are anxious.

Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty speaking and word-finding

  • Having a stiff, rigid body posture and making poor eye contact

  • Feeling self-conscious

  • Fearful of being judged and criticized

  • Feeling embarrassed and awkward around others

  • Upset stomach or nausea

  • Trouble catching your breath

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Muscle tension

  • Panic attacks

What are the Causes of Fear of Public Speaking?


Public speaking means that all eyes are on you. Everyone will see the clothing that you chose to wear and how you physically appear. They will witness any mistakes you make.

Having the attention of an audience focused on your every word and every move, leaves you vulnerable to the impressions of the audience and their collective and/or individual behavior (i.e. do they laugh, yawn, or clap).

Your fear may be that the audience will “Discover” your vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

This will cause you to continually self-monitor and you will monitor the audience for any sign of negative impressions, such as yawning, walking out, or laughing when you did not intend to be funny.

Excessive Self-Preoccupation

People Glossophobia tend to be more preoccupied with their worries, their personal limitations, and how other people will react to them.

Their thoughts are centered on themselves rather than on their surroundings or on other people.

These thoughts are usually negative and involve expectations that other people will disapprove of them.

Strong Need for Approval

As human animals, we have a strong need to belong and to be accepted by others. So we naturally care about how our behavior may affect others.

But caring too much about one’s own behavior can lead to excessive self-preoccupation and anxiety.

Some people define their self-worth and their identity based other people’s impressions of them.

This is great if the impressions are favorable but bad if the impressions are poor.

When it comes to speaking to a group of people, it will be very difficult to constantly manage all of those impressions and meet everyone’s expectations.

Negative Fearful Thoughts

  • “What if I forget what to say?”

  • “I will freeze up.”

  • “What if people ask questions that I can’t answer?”

  • “What if someone in the audience knows more than I do on the topic?”

  • “People will think I’m stupid and boring.”

  • “People will see how nervous I am.”

Negative Beliefs

You have developed beliefs about yourself, other people, and the world. Your current beliefs influence how you think, how you behave, and how you feel.

If you believe that the world is basically a dangerous place, then your thoughts, behavior, and feelings will follow.

If you believe that you are defective and not a capable person, then your thoughts, behavior, and feelings will reflect those beliefs.

Early experiences such as freezing up during an oral presentation in school for example, and any other unsettling experience while speaking in front of others could have created negative beliefs about your public speaking abilities.

How is Fear of Public Speaking Treated?

If you believe you could have stage fright or social anxiety it will be helpful and important to seek consultation with a mental health professional to first verify the diagnosis and then receive appropriate treatment.

The fear of public speaking can be successfully treated with psychotherapy, medication, and public speaking workshops.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a well-researched and highly effective form of talk therapy that focuses on learning more helpful ways of thinking and behaving.

You learn ways of improving your communication skills and different ways of responding to social situations and to your feelings of anxiety.

CBT helps challenge and change your unhelpful beliefs that cause the anxiety.

After you learn to master the anxiety, you will be encouraged to approach more public speaking situations that trigger the anxiety.

This is where you apply your new CBT skills within a feared situation and have the experience of feeling less anxious and more confident. This is when your beliefs really begin to change and the fear of public speaking becomes non-existent.


Please consult with your primary care physician or a psychiatrist regarding the use of medication.

Medication can help reduce the physical symptoms anxiety that are experienced during public speaking.

Commonly prescribe medications include benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, and beta blockers.


Benzodiazepines are quick acting sedatives that are generally safe and effective for short term use.

However, the long term use of benzodiazepines is associated with the risk of developing tolerance, dependence, and possible other adverse effects.

Also since benzodiazepines are a sedative, they may interfere with performance.

Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines are:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)

  • Lorazepam (Ativan)

  • Diazepam (Valium)

  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)


Anti-depressant medications are also effective at reducing symptoms of anxiety on a daily basis. This helps dampen the physical and emotional effects of anxiety and increases a person’s capacity to cope with stressful situations.

Anti-depressants will not affect a person’s performance.

Commonly prescribed anti-depressants are:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)​

  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

  • Paroxetine (Paxil)

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)

Beta Blockers

Beta Blockers are used to treat high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and migraines.

They are also prescribed for off-label use by physicians to help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety.

Beta blockers have the ability to control rapid heartbeat, shaking, trembling, and blushing in response to anxiety.

Beta blockers do not interfere with cognitive performance and are by far my favorite for removing the jitters before a speech.