It refers to the fear or apprehension of speaking in public or of speaking on a general level. It is also referred to as speech anxiety. The term “Glossophobia” is derived from the Greek word “glōssa”, which means tongue and “phobos”, meaning fear or dread.
A lot of people are only plagued by this fear, while there are others who also experience other social anxiety disorder or other social phobias.
Glossophobia and Social Phobias
It is a subcategory of social phobias or the fear of social circumstances. Most people having Glossophobia do not display the symptoms of other forms of social phobia, such as the fear of meeting or interacting with new people or the fear of performing tasks in the presence of others.
In several cases, people with this condition have also been found to sing or dance on stage with relative ease as long as they are not required to talk. Nevertheless, stage fright is believed to be a common symptom of this disorder.
The exact factors responsible for the development of this condition are unknown. However, several factors can lead to this disorder. It is often believed that certain traumatic events might have affected the patients at some point in their life which have made speaking in public a fearful notion in their minds.
Glossophobia may also develop if one has been gradually avoiding speaking in public over a long time and the very idea of doing so causes the individual so much anxiety and nervousness as to ultimately lead to the disorder. If a speaker suffers from certain psychological states such as low self esteem, seeking complete approval, believing in perfection, or anticipating failure, such mental conditions may also cause episodes of Glossophobia.
The symptoms of this disease may include an intense feeling of apprehension prior to commencing verbal communication with a group or feeling tense just by imagining oneself communicate verbally with a group; avoiding events that focus the attention of the group on individuals present, and physical symptoms like distress, nausea or having panic attacks.
The various specific symptoms of Glossophobia can be classified into 3 categories:
The physical symptoms are caused by the sympathetic portion of autonomic nervous system that reacts to a situation with “fight-or-flight” response. Since the sympathetic system has an all-or-nothing modus operandi, the adrenaline secretion triggers numerous symptoms at once, all of which enhances one’s ability to fight back or escape a particularly dangerous scenario. These include:
- Acute hearing problems
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Increased oxygen intake
- Increased perspiration
- Dry mouth
- Quivering voice caused by tension
- Stiffening of the neck or upper back muscles
Occasionally, an individual may also experience nausea and vomit under the influence of stress and anxiety. Some of these symptoms may be heightened by drugs like beta-blockers, which attach themselves to the adrenalin receptors of the heart. The verbal signs and symptoms include a tense voice, quivering voice as well as vocalized pauses that comfort the anxious speakers. A particular form of speech anxiety is the dysfunctional speech anxiety, the intensity of fight-or-flight response of which inhibits an individual from effective performance.
Many patients report speech disorders induced by stress that are present only during public speech. In many cases, Glossophobics have been successfully able to perform on the stage, sing, dance, and even speak in a stage play as long as they do not see the audience. Some report being comfortable if they are under the impression that they are representing a stage persona or character rather than actually presenting themselves. Blending in a group like a choir or band also allows alleviating the apprehension caused by glossophobia.
Approximately 75% of people experience some kind of anxiety or nervousness while speaking in public.
Most careers involve public speaking in some form or the other, from participating in group meetings to giving necessary presentations to the clients. If the Glossophobia of an individual progresses to an advanced degree, he or she might find it extremely difficult or even impossible to perform these vital tasks. This can ultimately lead to severe consequences that might even include losing one’s job.
People suffering from various social phobias are also at a greater risk of developing adverse conditions like depression or other anxiety-related disorders. This is mainly due to the sensations of isolation which can develop over long periods of time. Another probable reason is that certain people are more prone to suffer from anxiousness and seem to be hardwired to that feeling. This can of course manifest in a number of ways.
Glossophobia can be cured successfully in a number of ways. A very common treatment method is use of cognitive-behavioral therapy. In this form of therapy, a patient learns to replace his or her fearful thoughts with positive self-talk. Relaxation techniques are taught to the sufferer that enables him or her to effectively handle panic situations. Individuals with this disease learn to confront their fears in safe and controlled environments.
A therapist may also prescribe medications that might help an individual to control their fear. Drugs like beta blockers are useful in relaxing an anxious person before he gets on stage to speak in public. The medications are generally used along with therapy instead of being used on their own.
Complementary therapies like hypnosis, meditation, psychotherapy and counseling can be useful in helping an individual to overcome glossophobia.
Natural treatments like homeopathic and herbal remedies have shown effectiveness in relieving anxiety, fear and nervousness that is commonly associated with public speech. The homeopathic treatments are not only gentle and safe but also promise fast results. Homeopathic components such as Chocolatum, Gelsemium and Graphites assist in reducing the anxiety levels, help in conquering shyness, social fears and worries, and help to calm the individual. Herbs like Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), and Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata) also give support to the nervous system and keeps the nerves eased and soothed.
Glossophobic patients can also join public speaking groups like Toastmasters International, Association of Speakers Club and POWERtalk International that offer training courses in honing one’s speaking skills. These classes use guided techniques and constructive criticism to build the confidence of such patients and thereby reduce their speech anxiety. The speech training modules crafted by these organizations also allow the patients a platform where they can relate to each other, share their experiences and have the understanding that they are not alone. Practicing speaking in public greatly helps in overcoming one’s speech-related anxieties.
The condition can be treated effectively. The success rate of treatment for this disorder is extremely high.
Glossophobia, like many other phobias, is a mental and emotional condition rather than a physical one. The ideal way to treat this phobia is to firstly find a therapist who will meet the needs of a patient and then work out a management plan that cures the condition.