Written by: Abigail Saneholtz, Psy.D
Effective communication is an essential part of building relationships, expected across work settings and occurs regularly within school projects. Glossophobia or the fear of public speaking is a common challenge that affects approximately 73% of the population according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Such fears impact a large amount of people and their performance across many demand situations throughout their lifetime.
Think back to the first time you had to speak in front of a large group. What did you experience? Typically people shared they felt nervous, feared the worst happening, heard their voice shake, experienced sweating, dry mouth, increased heart rate and the dreaded “brain freeze”. At some point in our lives, most of us have had these fears and either challenged them to confront the issue or avoided the situation as many people do when feeling anxious. The more people avoid their fears it will bring short-term relief, but in the long-term it will maintain their anxiety.
State anxiety is anxiety that arises out of an event. Trait anxiety pertains to a personal characteristic. High-trait individuals are more highly anxious across most areas in their life, which has them experiencing a higher likelihood of also being more anxious when speaking in front of a group. High-trait anxiety individuals focus more on the physical signs of anxiety, which increases their fears and impacts their performance when speaking. When they have completed the tasks they continue to show higher levels of anxiety. Whereas, individuals who exhibit state anxiety and/or low-trait anxiety also tend to feel anxious about public speaking, but after it has ended report that they felt relief over completing the task and that it wasn’t as bad as they feared. Both types of individuals can learn to overcome their fears through becoming more aware about the underlying concerns that impact their anxious thought process, learning relaxation skills and stepping into the demand situation in order to feel less anxious about public speaking in the future.
According to researchers, mental health professionals and speech coaches, there are several contributing factors that include the following:
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