Is the Fear of Public Speaking a Common Worry or an Anxiety Disorder?

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Three in four women, and nearly as many men, report that they suffer from a fear of public speaking. Also known as Glossophobia, it surpasses fear of death and spiders as one of the top sources of anxiety afflicting human beings.

Fear of public speaking is so common that many famous people acknowledge their status as sufferers. Britain’s gregarious Prince Harry recently noted his own secret dread of speaking in public.

With the fear of speaking in front of others affecting so many people, do experts consider it to be a true mental disorder? For people suffering from a fear of public speaking, understanding the phobia and knowing when to seek professional help are key.

Glossophobia defined

Nearly everyone gets nervous about speaking in public. True Glossophobia, which also can signify a fear of communicating in general, is marked by “an extreme, irrational, overwhelming and disabling” fear of a certain place, activity or object, according to a 2014 study.

Glossophobia can result in tangible physical reactions such as nausea, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, perspiration and heavy breathing, the study notes. It also can lead to feelings of physical distress and panic.

Part of a larger spectrum

Fear of public speaking qualifies as a phobia, which is part of a larger category known as anxiety disorders. While the precise cause of anxiety disorders isn’t known, genetics, childhood trauma and other factors may play a role, notes the National Institutes of Health. Risk factors for anxiety disorders also can include a timid or negative personality. In addition, anxiety disorders in general afflict women more often than men.

Anxiety disorders, including Glossophobia, can sometimes exacerbate other mental health issues, including depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse, Mayo Clinic reports.

When to seek professional help

How can people successfully confront the fear of public speaking, and when should they seek professional help?

NIH notes that social anxiety disorders often begin during the teenage years and are unlikely to resolve without treatment. An individual would be clinically diagnosed when the anxiety leads to “significant fear,” performance impairment or avoidance of situations that might induce anxiety. In addition, NIH notes that for patients who also suffer from additional mental health conditions, professional evaluation is important.

Criteria for diagnosing a social anxiety disorder includes:

  • Extreme, persistent fear of humiliation or embarrassment.
  • Recognition by the sufferer that the fear is unreasonable or extreme.
  • Avoidance or endurance of a situation accompanied by severe stress or anxiety.
  • Significant diminishment of normal routines, social activities or relationships related to the avoidance or endurance of the stressful situation.
  • A duration of at least six months.

Your fear matters

Despite the fact that many people suffer from fear of public speaking, only you can know how much your fear affects your emotional health. If you feel that your anxiety is impeding your quality of life, your ability to work or your relationships, consider an evaluation and help from a qualified professional.

Pasadena Villa programs set out to create a comforting and therapeutic environment for those suffering from anxiety disorders. We do things a normal family would do. Our staff and residents learn and model appropriate social and communication skills, from daily mealtimes, to many fun and relaxing social activities.  Our mental health professionals work directly with residents. They observe them in actual social situations and incorporate these observations directly into the resident’s ongoing treatment plan.  This individual real life personalized attention makes the Pasadena Villa treatment experience more appropriate, relevant and beneficial for each of our residents, especially when compared to any other available adult residential treatment mental health services.

The Villa Orlando and Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge are adult intensive psychiatric residential treatment centers for clients with serious mental illnesses. We also provide other individualized therapy programs, step-down residential programs, and less intensive mental health services, such as Community Residential Homes, Supportive Housing, Day Treatment Programs and Life Skills training. Pasadena Villa’s Outpatient Center in Raleigh, North Carolina offers partial hospitalization (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (PHP). If you or someone you know may need mental health services, please complete our contact form or call us at 407-215-2519 for more information.



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