What is Glossophobia? (A Comprehensive Guide)

In this blog the cause, symptoms and therapeutic interventions of Glossophobia will be deliberated.

Glossophobia is an irrational fear of public speaking.

The person suffering from Glossophobia will undergo a full-blown panic attack even when he/she thinks of speaking in front of people or an audience. 

Public speaking is an important part of living in a society and helps us to communicate our thoughts with one another.

If this communication is hindered then one’s ideas may not be communicated effectively.

Glossophobia is an intense fear and hinders the person’s academic life, where he might not be able to participate in group discussions, ask a question from the teacher in the class (he will not be able to satisfy his query), answer the teacher if being questioned (teacher may misperceive that he has not learnt, is rude or not interested). 

The person suffering from Glossophobia will suffer in school and college and might be unable to get a quality result.

His occupational stance will also be negatively affected. At work the emphasis is how well a person can present his case. 

Therefore, presentations and verbal communication is of utmost importance.

But for a person who is suffering from Glossophobia will find it extremely anxiety provoking and will avoid all sorts of interactions with the colleagues or the boss where speaking in front of everyone is required.

Glossophobia is an extreme fear of speaking out publicly, especially in front of a person of higher authority, for fear of being judged.

The fear of not coming up to the standards of others or being critically analyzed is unsurmountable.

The person suffering from Glossophobia will always be fearful of what others think if he engages in speaking in front of them.

Causes of Glossophobia

Glossophobia may be caused due to any of the following factors:-

  1. Genetic Predisposition

Every person has a genetic tendency to contract a disease or go through a mental illness.

This predisposition is embedded in our DNA and is handed down to us over the generations.

If the person’s ancestors suffered from anxiety disorders, phobias, mental illness or even Glossophobia, then chances are higher for him/her to suffer from the same or from either of these.

Phobias are familial and most often than not run in families. Their intensity may vary from person to person, from one relative to the other.

  1. Biological Cause

Hormones play an important role in causing anxiety disorders, specifically phobias as well.

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is directly related to the etiology of anxiety related problems that occur.

Symptoms that indicate a Thyroid malfunctioning are:

  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Nervous demeanor
  • Irritability
  • Losing or gaining weight 

Low levels of Testosterone (male hormone) can also lead to anxiety.

Serotonin, is also called a happy chemical and depletion of this hormone can also cause anxieties of varying levels. 

Dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical or neurotransmitter is involved in happiness and a state of elatedness.

When the levels of Dopamine are low then anxiousness is on the rise.

Adrenaline rush is another biological factor that emanates the ‘flight or the fight’ response.

This response is triggered when the brain suffers from a threat.

To combat the threat the brain then releases, Adrenalin, a chemical that fastens the heartbeat, elevates the blood pressure, and strengthens the muscles of the legs to either flee for the source of threat or fight what causes it.

This threat may be caused by a stimulus that causes anxiety. This stimulus is the very stimulus that initiates a phobic fear.

In the case of Glossophobia, this stimulus will be speaking in public.

  1. Behavioral Cause

Children learn behaviors and attitudes from people around them.

These people may be their parents, siblings, extended family members like uncles or aunts, grandparents or any significant others they are attached to. 

In Glossophobia it is often found that if a member of the family is scared of speaking in front of people, cannot hold a conversation with people of authority or shies away from places where they might be expected to talk or speak, then chances are very high that the child of that household may develop Glossophobia, depending on if he has a genetic predisposition in his DNA. 

Unknowingly adults are encouraging behaviors that propagate anxiety or stresses in children. This in turn affects the learnt behavior.

Instead of pick and choose from the environment the child replicates the behaviors of his adults, deeming it a fit action to display. 

  1. Past Traumatic Incident

As a child or a student may have been reprimanded by a teacher during a presentation or an employee was put down in front of the entire office by his boss when he was speaking.

These incidences that show ridicule at the hands of an authoritative figure and the subsequent shame and embarrassment, then it is highly likely that the person may develop Glossophobia.

 Symptoms of Glossophobia

Different people display the symptoms of the same phobia differently; with varying degrees of severity.

There are two types of symptoms; Physical symptoms and Psychological symptoms.

The Physical Symptoms include those that involve changes in the bodily sensations and are felt by the sufferer.

Examples are:-

  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Avoiding public gatherings
  • Avoiding business or work related meetings in fear of having to speak up in front of his colleagues and bosses
  • headaches
  • Sweating and trembling
  • dry mouth
  • raised blood pressure
  • nausea
  • dizziness

 The Psychological Symptoms include those that impinge on the mind and are visible through a person’s behavior. Examples are:-

  • feelings of dread
  • Self-critical
  • Socially isolated
  • Fear of authority
  • Low self esteem
  • fear of dying
  • Fear of speaking in public
  • Apprehensive at the thought of attending lectures or workshops that would require the Glossophobe to speak up in front of others.
  • fear of losing control
  • fear of harm
  • fear of illness
  • feeling of helplessness
  • confusion
  • anger
  • irritability
  • mood swings

Therapeutic Interventions for Dextrophobia

Phobias can be treated through a variety of therapeutic interventions.

a) Systematic Desensitization b) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) c)  Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP) d) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) d) meditation e) medication

  1. Systematic Desensitization

This is one of the most common therapies used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the person suffering from these intense fears. In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the stimulus gradually with varying degrees of severity, varying durations of time.

The degree of severity is hierarchical,ranging from low to high. Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.

First of all this hierarchy of fear inducing stimuli is created by the client with the help of the therapist.

Secondly, the therapist teaches relaxation responses that are to be practiced during the exposure procedure.

In Glossophobia the client is exposed to images of speaking in public first.

For the fear to be invoked during therapy, the patient must be exposed to an intense stimulus (one that is feared).

The aim of Systematic Desensitization is to remove the ‘feared stimulus’ and substitute it with a ‘relaxation response.’

The therapist takes the client through these situations via two methods:

a)     In vitro – where the feared stimulus is made to imagine

b)    In vivo – where the client visits the the feared place in reality

The exposure to the phobic stimulus is of varying durations, where the client exercises relaxation techniques and can revert to a previous non-threatening situation any time.

  1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved.

This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.

The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought and behavior that follows.

This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels.

CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation. 

Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations. Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior.

Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.

The therapist separates the problem into parts. These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions. 

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis. According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.”

This is what subjective perspective is. It is their thinking actually that upsets the behavior and emotions.

In the treatment of Glossophobia, the therapist will focus on the present only, the unhealthy emotions and address the subsequent unhealthy responses.

The therapist will aid in identifying the clients’ personal attitudes and beliefs and replace them with sensible ones.

c) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP)

In this therapy the client is asked to 

  • Access the phobia in a safe environment.
  • Help them to replay the phobia along with happy emotions.
  • Disassociate from the phobia.

d) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment.

We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us.

We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions. 

In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!

Meditation

Alters the emotional attachment one has to his/her thoughts.

This attachment is actually the root cause of Glossophobia and other phobias as well. Meditation helps to disconnect and is by far the quickest, most effective way to do this.

Meditation helps one to detach their thoughts from the emotional content of the phobia. 

Meditation helps you to alleviate all irrational thoughts.

Relaxation and maintaining focus gives one the strength to press into the phobic fear and gain access so that it can be eroded, session by session.

e) Group Therapy

Group Therapy is one of the most effective treatments available for phobias. In this the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.

These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias or anxieties. They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping mechanisms.

This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.

f) Routine Modification

The person suffering from Glossophobia is advised to alter his daily routine and bring about a change.

The change is always considered to be a healthy way of dealing with stress and phobias in particular.

  • Adopt a walking regimen
  • Induct exercise on a daily basis
  • Alter eating and drinking habits

Caffeine intake should be made less, because when the person suffering from Glassophobia is exposed to the anxiety provoking event where he might need to speak up in front of people, then the brain goes into the ‘flight or fight ‘ response.

So less caffeine consumption leads to less anxiety.

  • Improving the sleep cycle

g) Medication

There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of  Glossophobia are severe and hinder the daily activities of the sufferer, especially the OCD like symptoms.

  1. Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)

These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.

  1. Antidepressants 

These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of  Glossophobia as well as other phobias.

Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fear of speaking in public?

The fear of speaking in public is called Glossophobia.

How is Mindfulness effective?

Mindfulness is effective in refocusing the attention from the stimulus that has emotional baggage attached to something benign.  

Is meditation more effective than CBT?

Meditation and CBT are equally effective for the treatment of Dextrophobia, but a person may not always require medication. 

What are the causes of Glossophobia?

   Genetics along with the behavior model and any past incident that may have happened                        can cause Glossophobia.

Titles to Read

by Jarnail Singh and Janardhan Singh

by Martin M. Antony, Michelle G. Craske, et al

by Edmund Bourne PhD 

by Albert Ellis

What we recommend for Phobias

Professional counselling

  • If you are suffering from Phobias then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you address the fears you are facing.

Panic Courses

  • Phobias and anxiety go hand in hand and in the end they result in Panic. A panic course such as this may help you alleviate those feelings of fears as it has with over 50,000 people.

Weighted Blankets

Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if your phobias are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night.

Citations 

  • www.albertellis.com
  • www.psychtimes.com
  • www.mindfulness.com
  • www.nhs.uk

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