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  • Writer's pictureMed Insider

An Understanding of Public Speaking Anxiety

By Richa Nakrani


  • Fear of speaking in front of others

  • Common form of anxiety

  • Can range from little nervousness to paralyzing panic


According to a 2016 study, public speaking anxiety affects around 15% and 30% of the general population. Speaking in front of others can cause intense nervousness, discomfort, panic, worry, and anxiety. Public speaking anxiety is also known as glossophobia and is classified as a social anxiety disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). Whether it be school, work, or any other setting, this can affect people due to fears of how others may judge us or personal insecurities. Risk factors and underlying causes of this type of anxiety include past experiences with speaking in public that were traumatic, having a history of anxiety or other mental health conditions, and having an introverted personality or being shy or nervous around others. Having generalized anxiety disorder or another anxiety disorder can amplify this type of anxiety or cause it to occur.


This type of anxiety can result in symptoms that affect you mentally and physically. Psychological symptoms include feelings of intense worry and nervousness, fear, stress, and panic, feelings of dread and fear before speaking in front of others, having a brain freeze, and intrusive thoughts about public speaking. The prefrontal lobes of the brain play a role in sorting memories and are sensitive to anxiety. During a brain freeze, one can get more stressed, leading the stress hormones to increase even more. Physical symptoms include heart palpitations, excessive sweating, nausea or vomiting, trembling voice, muscle tension, blushing, shortness of breath, shaking or trembling, dizziness, chest pain, and panic attacks.

Tips and Management

Treatments such as psychotherapy and anti-anxiety medications may help, but public speaking anxiety can also be managed in other ways. Being prepared for any public situation is a must because the better one understands their topic and what they are talking about, the less likely a mistake is to occur. This can be done by getting organized through a script, outline, or visual aid. Visualizing your own success and being confident in ways such as improving posture and eye contact can also help ease anxiety. Getting comfortable with silence and practicing as much as possible is very important to execute anything well in a public speaking situation. Practicing but not memorizing, recording yourself, and preparing for the worst can help handle the situation and anxiety on the actual day. Breathing exercises are also a very effective technique to help ease public speaking anxiety and calm yourself before a speech or public speaking event.


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