Communication 101

Glossophobia: What Is It?

April 12, 2022
5 Min Read

It’s not uncommon to feel a bit nervous or anxious before a speech or presentation. Many people even feel nervous before work meetings. Nonetheless, most people figure out how to cope and push through their feelings, even if it means getting through the occasion without enjoying it.

It’s different for people who suffer from glossophobia. Often, glossophobia leads people to actively avoid any public speaking situations that could cause them discomfort and anxiety.

Since it is a social anxiety disorder, glossophobia can persist — and even worsen — until you address it head-on. This incredibly strong fear of public speaking could have a negative impact on your work and career.

If you deal with glossophobia, you can take steps to master it. Below, Poised explains this phobia in more detail and provides practical tips for defeating it.

One of the Most Common Fears  

Glossophobia is the medical term to describe the fear of public speaking, and it is one of the most common phobias known. In fact, about three of four adults live with a degree of anxiety toward public speaking. In fact, some argue that speaking in front of an audience is more than their fear of death.

Most people experience discomfort and anxiety. But in some people, these conditions quickly deteriorate. If your fear is strong enough to impact your work performance and team collaboration abilities, you might have glossophobia.

More specifically, glossophobia is a social phobia. Those who suffer from a social phobia genuinely fear specific or general social situations. Glossophobia does not typically cause symptoms of fear in other social circumstances like performing tasks in groups or meeting new people. Many who live with glossophobia can freely dance or sing in front of people, but their stage fright could just center on the spoken word.

Large crowds are not necessary to impact those with glossophobia. Just the chance of becoming the focus of attention is horrible for some.

What Is a Phobia?

Aphobia refers to an irrational and long-lasting fear of specific activities, situations, or objects. The fear is often uncontrollable and can overwhelm a person so that they avoid the source at all costs.

Many people with phobias experience panic attacks,  a sudden and intense fear that happens for a short period. In most cases, panic attacks occur when no legitimate danger is present.

Phobias are wide-ranging in source and intensity, affecting about 19 million U.S. adults and children. Phobias equally impact men and women, and many people begin noticing symptoms by the age of 20.

Many experts believe that environmental and genetic factors are strong contributors to the onset of phobias. In most cases, a phobia originates from a troubling first encounter with the feared activity, situation, or object.

There are three primary phobia types:

  1. Specific phobia
  2. Social phobia
  3. Agoraphobia

What Are the Main Categories of Phobias?

A specific phobia refers to the fear of an activity, situation, or object that generally will not harm anyone. This could include anything from dogs or heights to flying or closed-in spaces. When someone suffers from social phobia, they fear embarrassment or humiliation in front of people.

Agoraphobia is when someone fears they will have a panic attack in specific scenarios. And often, a person with agoraphobia will, in fact, experience a panic attack from their anxiety. Many people who live with this phobia avoid crowds, driving over bridges, being at home alone, and other situations or locations that could spark fear.

What Is the Fight or Flight Response?

Many people who live with phobias experience the fight-or-flight response, an automatic physiological reaction to a perceived frightening or stressful situation. This response is vital in helping people survive genuinely threatening situations. However, it’s common for people with anxiety disorders or phobias to have overactive threat systems.

If you suffer from anxiety or phobia, it will help to understand fight-or-flight more deeply. For instance, if you have panic disorder, you may be prone to misinterpret physiological fight-or-flight signs as indications of impending doom. Knowing how to identify the fight-or-flight response can help you calm down and think about your situation rationally.

Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often mistake bodily signs as indicating a genuine threat, especially when the patient is still learning to live with and treat their PTSD.

Learning more about fight-or-flight responses can help people develop coping and grounding strategies. Likewise, if you deal with glossophobia, you can learn to recognize your fight-or-flight reactions and implement relaxation techniques.

What Are the Symptoms of Glossophobia?  

If you experience the fight-or-flight response from your glossophobia, your brain releases more steroids and adrenaline when meeting the perceived threat. Your blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate, and energy will rise, which will increase blood flow to your muscles.

Some of the physical symptoms of glossophobia include:

  • Muscle strain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Uncontrollable trembling
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hyperventilation
  • Dry mouth

If you notice any of these symptoms before video meetings, presentations, or other public speaking events, then it’s essential to address the condition. If ignored, your glossophobia could put you at a higher risk of developing depression or other mental health disorders.

People with social phobias tend to avoid certain social situations, potentially leading to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and/or depression.

What Are the Causes of Glossophobia?

The fight-or-flight response was essential when humans dealt with survival scenarios like fighting off wild animals and enemies. It can even help specific situations today. But one place fight-or-flight will not serve you is the meeting room. And the best way to manage your glossophobia is to find the root of your fear to determine practical steps through it.

Most glossophobic individuals are afraid of being embarrassed or rejected. The fear often traces back to a poor public speaking experience, such as being asked to present without having thoroughly prepared or giving a class report that went bad.

There seems to be a tentative link between family history and social phobias, but scientists are still working toward a clear understanding. They are not prepared to claim that social phobias are hereditary conditions.

How To Overcome Glossophobia On Video Calls

Whether you have glossophobia or more common public speaking anxiety, there are ways to improve your speaking skills and speech anxiety.

Let’s discuss how to present in front of others at your next virtual meeting.

What Are the Most Helpful Relaxation Techniques?  

One of the most practical ways to beat your glossophobia is to confront it head-on through different treatment options. Some of these may include deep breathing techniques like Paced breathing or CBT therapy.

Today, let’s touch on exposure therapy. During exposure therapy, a therapist will create a safe environment and expose you to your feared activity (public speaking). Engaging in the activity in this safe environment can reduce your fear and decrease the frequency with which you avoid the activity over time.

Relaxation techniques also help people overcome glossophobia. For example, before your video call, take time to breathe deeply, slowly inhaling and exhaling. If you become nervous while talking in front of a group, take a moment to breathe slowly and deeply before you begin speaking again.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s essential to prepare well before your in-person meeting or video call. Make sure you know your material inside and out; don’t hesitate to practice it many times. One thing you can do is to ask a friend to listen to your presentation or conduct a mock interview. With practice, you can increase that single supporter to a small group of people, like your favorite coworkers or friends.

If that’s not an option, consider recording a video of your presentation and noting any changes you need to make.

Moreover, you might run through your material again before you show up for your meeting. That way, it will be fresh in your mind, and you can begin your presentation with confidence.

If you are meeting in a physical space, consider arriving a few minutes early to get familiar with the location. If you are speaking to an audience on a video call, make sure all of your equipment is working before you start.

Poise in Social Situations    

Say that you have anxiety in various social situations, even when you’re around just a few people. The best approach to overcoming your anxiety is to start small and work your way up from there.

For instance, be intentional about saying yes to social situations with your coworkers. Even if you focus on speaking with one or two people, it will help you become more comfortable in unfamiliar settings with others you don’t know very well.

If you are at a large gathering, such as a party or work function, find a couple of people to talk to. Don’t worry about traveling the room and speaking to everyone. Chances are, people will come up to you and start conversations throughout the event. Just try to relax and enjoy your time.

Often, results and hard data are comforting to people. That’s one of the reasons Poised is used by professionals at Disney, Forbes, and Shopify.

If you would like to track your performance on video calls and see where you need to improve, Poised has your back. Our software will coach you to more effective communication in no time!

Going Public: Say Goodnight to Stage Fright  

Glossophobia is common, but that doesn’t mean it has to control your work experience and life. Look out for signs that you have an extreme fear of public speaking, and start taking steps today to build your confidence and overcome your anxiety.


Glossophobia or the Fear of Public Speaking | Verywell Mind

Phobias | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn? Understanding Trauma Responses | Healthline

PUBLIC SPEAKING ANXIETY | National Social Anxiety Center

Say it like you mean it.

Improve your commmunication skills with Poised

Sign up for Free
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.