Glossophobia: fear of public speaking

Elizabeth C

Written by Elizabeth Chung

Nearly everyone has fear of public speaking. However, it is the severity difference that makes some people more afraid than others. Clinical psychologist Dave Carbonell says that the fear of public speaking can start from one small incident. “Once the person has had maybe one episode where they feel like they are the center of attention and found themselves getting embarrassed and self-conscious, they start anticipating and worrying that it will happen again,” Carbonell said. “Generally, the more they worry about it, the more nervous they become. It becomes a vicious cycle.”

Carbonell says that the fear might be severe when people reach the point where they start avoiding public speaking. “Some people pick a college major and a career not based on what they want to do or what their talents are but based on what kind of

work they could do where nobody will ever ask them to do public speaking and it is a shame,” Carbonell said. “They don’t get to make choices based on what they want in life but based on avoidance.”

Instead of trying to fight back the nervousness that ensues with the fear, Carbonell says to accept the nervousness and try to work with it. “Practice speaking in situations and allow yourself to accept the symptoms and do the talking anyway and give the anxiety the chance to subside,” Carbonell said. “That’s what’s often called the exposure treatment. You show up and spend time with whatever you are afraid of and you stay there long enough to learn how to breath and calm yourself down, and over time, it becomes easier. The key element is that the person needs to become willing to practice having the fear and giving it a chance to subside rather than trying not to be afraid.”