Glossophobia: The Fear of Public Speaking

Symptoms, Complications and Treatments

Man closing eyes behind microphone
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Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is remarkably common. In fact, some experts estimate that as much as 75% of the population has some level of anxiety regarding public speaking. Of course, many people are able to manage and control the fear. If your fear is significant enough to cause problems in work, school or social settings, then it is possible that you suffer from a full-blown phobia.

Glossophobia and Social Phobia

Glossophobia is a subset of social phobia, or fear of social situations. Most people with glossophobia do not exhibit symptoms of other types of social phobia, such as fear of meeting new people or fear of performing tasks in front of others. In fact, many people with glossophobia are able to dance or sing onstage, provided they do not have to talk. Nonetheless, stage fright is a relatively common experience in those with glossophobia.

Glossophobia can even occur in front of just a few people. In a child, it may present as the child desperately hoping she doesn't get called on in class to answer a question. It may cause people to avoid situations, including social situations, where they may become the focus of attention.

Symptoms of Glossophobia

Physical symptoms of glossophobia include:

  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dilated pupils

Complications of Glossophobia

The vast majority of careers involve some level of public speaking, from participating in meetings to giving presentations to clients. If your phobia is severe, you may find yourself unable to perform these necessary tasks. This can lead to consequences up to and including losing your job.

People who suffer from social phobias also have a higher than normal risk of developing conditions such as depression or other anxiety disorders. This is likely due to the feelings of isolation that can develop over time. Another possible reason is that some people seem to be hardwired for anxiety, which can manifest in a wide range of ways.

Treatment Options

Glossophobia can be successfully treated in a variety of ways. One of the most common is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). You will learn to replace your messages of fear with more positive self-talk. You will also learn relaxation techniques and what to do when you experience a panic attack. You will gradually confront your fear in a safe and controlled environment.

Medications may also be prescribed to help you get control of your fear. These medicines are generally used in conjunction with therapy rather than on their own.

Once you have successfully worked through the worst of your fear, you might want to consider joining a speaking group such as Toastmasters.

These groups can help you polish your public speaking skills through repetition and constructive criticism from fellow members. Building confidence in your ability to speak in public can further reduce your anxiety.

Glossophobia is common, and in some cases it can be life-limiting. However, the success rate for treatment is extremely high. The first step is to find a therapist that you trust who can help you work through the fear.


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Do You Suffer From Glossophobia? Retrieved November 21, 2008 from

How Does It Work? Retrieved November 21, 2008 from

McClafferty, A. "12 'Fear of Public Speaking' Symptoms and How to Beat Them." Forbes (2015).

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