Stage fright and public speaking - causes of fear, can it be overcome?

Slava Profina 07/25/2018 no comments


The lives of many people are somehow connected with public speaking. Such activities are carried out by artists and teachers, lawyers and managers. Almost every person has spoken in public at least once. Glossophobia is stage fright. It is present in 95% of the population. This disease hinders further career growth and also negatively affects health.

Definition of stage fright

Public speaking causes anxiety for most people. There are professions whose activities require regular contact with the audience. Politicians, artists, lawyers, managers must be able to speak in front of the public. Oratory allows you to achieve good results.

Stage fright prevents you from speaking correctly and clearly. Even the most skilled speaker goes through a stage of fear and anxiety. Normal emotion forces you to carefully prepare for a performance, sharpens your attention, makes you more energetic and collected. This is an adequate reaction of students before exams, a novice artist, or any inexperienced speaker. A person who does not experience moderate excitement often loses his first public experience.

Fear due to traumatic circumstances can develop into a phobia. Sufferers of this disease experience an uncontrollable, constant fear of performing. It doesn’t matter how many spectators are in the hall, or whether they know each other.

Not everyone knows what stage fright is called and how it is recognized. This is a disease called glossophobia, or peiraphobia. A phobia can be recognized by the accompanying, pronounced symptoms.

Scarlett Johansson

Many outstanding personalities experienced stage fright at the beginning of their careers, but over time they were able to overcome the stressful situation. These are actress Faina Ranevskaya, Nelly Uvarova, musicians Pablo Casals and Glenn Gould, Barbra Streisand, Scarlett Johansson, Kim Basinger, Arnold Schwarzenegger and even the famous comedian Jim Carrey.

Types of fears

Before resorting to treatment for glossophobia, you need to know exactly how it is recognized. In medicine, glossophobia can also be called peiraphobia. It should be distinguished from the usual anxiety before a performance in the presence of a large audience.

An adequate reaction of a person is considered to be when he is worried before a musical number on stage or on the eve of an oral exam. Such people can freely demonstrate their talents among their loved ones and acquaintances.

Experts say that having a little anxiety before a performance is beneficial for a person because it helps him concentrate and become more collected. As a result, the planned event will go well for him.

If a person has real stage fright, then he will experience it both before and after performing in front of people. He cannot overcome stage fright, even when he is far from it and does not intend to perform in the near future. He develops fear both in front of unfamiliar listeners and in front of people whom he knows well.

The reason for the fear of public speaking

To successfully fight fear, you need to understand its cause. More often than not, people are afraid not of the performance itself, but of the audience's reaction. It is important to understand here that people in the audience are interested in personal benefit and wish only good luck to the person on stage.

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Fear of public speaking develops for two main reasons:

  • genetic inheritance;
  • social factors.

Due to an innate high level of anxiety, some individuals are prone to different types of fear. Of these, fear of society is the most common. A person is afraid of being an isolated, unaccepted and misunderstood unit. Temperament and the degree of anxiety can also be inherited; strong anxiety before public speaking is already programmed in the genes.

Social reasons have a greater influence on the development of phobias:

  • strict education with intimidation, threats, prohibitions;
  • insufficient level of education at school;
  • excessive sensitivity to criticism;
  • the presence of internal “censorship”;
  • low self-esteem due to criticism and pressure from adults;
  • negative childhood and youth experiences;
  • public installations.

Often the reason for the fear of performing on stage is the desire for perfection among people who value the opinion of the public. Poor preparation, low level of knowledge, and lack of experience among public figures also provoke the development of a phobia.

Fear can be rooted in childhood, when the child was persistently forced to read a poem or dance at a matinee or, conversely, was forbidden to speak loudly in public places, constantly pulled back and made comments.

Important! A negative assessment of one’s capabilities, uncertainty, and harsh criticism from other people perpetuate negative experiences.

Why does anxiety occur?

Psychologists suggest that anxiety appears at the level of instincts, which are also complemented by the individual, personal characteristics of a person. Feeling varying degrees of anxiety is normal, provided there are no panic attacks, inappropriate behavior, or deterioration in physical well-being.

Anxiety is characteristic of every person, only its manifestation and root causes may be different. Most people are able to cope with this unpleasant condition, but those who cannot, need to reconsider the tactics used to calm them down.

Symptoms of a phobia

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The causes of phobic disorders are different and are accompanied by certain symptoms. While waiting to go on stage, emotional tension increases and the functioning of internal organs changes. Due to the release of large amounts of adrenaline, the following symptoms appear:

  • muscles tense;
  • Gestures and facial expressions change;
  • hands and feet become cold;
  • the timbre of the voice changes;
  • speech becomes incoherent;
  • discomfort in the heart area;
  • The heart rate may increase, sweating may occur, and blood pressure may increase;
  • headache;
  • involuntary urination.

Symptoms of a phobia

People with increased nervous excitability may experience dizziness, accompanied by weakness and nausea, which will lead to fainting. The manifestation of the listed symptoms, their strength and quantity depend on the condition and characteristics of the body at that moment.

Additional Information. Panic stage fright can provoke the development of a speech disorder - logoneurosis (stuttering). Only timely comprehensive treatment will relieve serious problems.


In any case, no matter what type of disorder you have, you should definitely go to a specialist.

Since self-medication may not give the desired results, and time and other resources will be wasted, which will only complicate the recovery process.

After all, it is actually not an easy task to cope with a mental illness, which is even such a seemingly insignificant glossophobia.

An integrated approach is important, for example, in case of logophobia, in addition to a psychotherapist, you should also visit a speech therapist-defectologist.

Because therapeutic work alone cannot get rid of problems with the speech apparatus, it is necessary to perform certain exercises depending on the diagnosis.

But, for example, if stuttering arose against the background of severe stress, you cannot do without the help of a psychologist.

If somatic ailments appear, in the form of insomnia, depression, a consultation with a psychiatrist is also necessary. Since he has the right to prescribe medications that are usually not sold without a prescription.

If you are afraid that they will lock you up in the clinic, you shouldn’t. This is not a disease for which hospitalization is indicated.

The only thing is that if a person poses a threat to the life or health of both himself and others, then naturally he will have to stay in the clinic for some time.

But this happens in severe forms of manifestation. When everything has gone so far that, for example, being in a depressed state, a person tries to commit suicide, just to end his suffering as quickly as possible.

Basically, the psychiatrist prescribes sedatives that help reduce anxiety and relax the nervous system.

Also a sleeping pill, if the phobe is unable to sleep due to nightmares and insomnia, to restore the resources expended during the day.

Also, antidepressants to even out the mood and expand the range of emotions experienced. So that it becomes possible to experience not only panic and anxiety, but also joy, satisfaction, tenderness, calmness, and so on.

Is it possible to learn not to be afraid?

Fear of people and society - what is this phobia called and what is it

A person suffering from glossophobia must understand that he is not the only one with such a disease. More than 90% of people in the world experience stage fright, and almost everyone is nervous.

You can get rid of the fear of public speaking on your own using possible methods of resolving the problem. They include four stages:

  • recognition of the problem;
  • identification and analysis of causes;
  • consideration of solutions;
  • application in practice.

Stage fright is often accompanied by severe stress and the development of various mental disorders. Experienced specialists tell us how not to be afraid to speak in public. For this purpose, various modern psychological techniques, trainings, and master classes are offered.

How to overcome stage fright

If a person does not know how to overcome anxiety and fear of speaking in public, special exercises to relieve nervous tension will come to his aid.

Positive attitude

Positive attitude

We need to prepare ourselves for a positive result in advance. Take critical comments, if any, calmly, understanding that it is impossible to please everyone.

Breathing exercises and support from loved ones will help you calm down and relax. Understanding your right to make mistakes will help reduce your anxiety, because everyone makes mistakes, even the most seasoned and experienced.

Visualization for success is useful and effective. Imagine how satisfied spectators applaud, give flowers, congratulate, and express approval. Positive affirmations will help you get rid of worries and tension, and create a sense of personal value and uniqueness.

Planning your speech

High-quality preparation of a speech is very important. When everything is under control, a person feels more confident, nervousness and fear disappear. To do this, you need to draw up a plan with outlines, theses, and thoughtful remarks. You should think through possible questions and approximate answers to them.

The topic should be carefully studied; the prepared speech should not be replete with complex terms and bureaucracy, but be informative and simple. A preliminary rehearsal in the presence of at least one listener will not hurt. Perhaps he will give useful comments. The filmed video will help you pay attention to facial expressions, gestures, posture and gait, work on voice intonations and improve your appearance. All these actions at the preparatory stage will help you overcome muscle tension and learn to relax.

Before the audience arrives, it would be a good idea to inspect the performance space, assess the size, lighting, location of the rows and steps leading to the stage. You can choose some object in advance to fix your gaze on it, if you are afraid to look at the audience, stand on the stage to get used to it. Developing the territory will make the process much easier and eliminate unwanted punctures and overlays. A well-prepared action will reduce anxiety about its success.

Constant practice

You can improve in oratory and artistic art only by constantly practicing. Lack of information and experience gives free rein to the imagination. Everyone once did not know how to swim, ride a bike or skate, but they continued to act, coped with the adrenaline, and all fears remained in the past. Listening to and evaluating other people's performances is also a unique experience.

You can improve your communication skills by interacting with more people every day. Constant practice will yield positive results, and performing on stage will no longer be so intimidating.

Important! The idea that light doses of tranquilizers, stimulants or alcohol will help cope with performance anxiety is wrong. These remedies can only ruin everything.

There are different ways to stop worrying and being afraid of speaking in public. First of all, you need to determine for yourself the purpose of the speech and not deviate from the main topic. The desire to talk about many things will confuse your thoughts and inevitably lead to failure.

Short stories on the topic, taken from personal experience or world practice, will be a good motivation for listeners. It is recommended to use quotes and aphorisms and joke a little - this will enliven the atmosphere of the hall and win over the audience.

10-15 minutes before the start of a report or concert, severe fear sets in.

Life hacks on how to not be afraid to go on stage and feel more comfortable:

  • adequate sleep will allow the body to rest before a busy day;
  • A nutritious breakfast wouldn’t hurt, an hour before going out – a couple of glasses of cool water;
  • deep breathing, focusing on inhalation and exhalation, for five minutes will relieve tension;
  • fingering a rosary or a Rubik's cube is a good way to calm down for introverts;
  • A few simple physical exercises alternating tension and relaxation of muscles can help;
  • An extrovert can be distracted by a conversation with someone, hum a favorite melody, make a phone call;
  • a good luck amulet will strengthen faith in success.

The path of self-improvement is endless and will definitely lead to success.

How to get rid of glossophobia

To overcome the problem, you must work on yourself. Often, aspiration alone is clearly not enough, since it is necessary to act as consistently as possible, realizing the importance of the decision made. It seems possible to get rid of glossophobia only when the individual understands the full extent of the responsibility that lies before him. So what steps need to be taken?

Constant practice

To overcome any difficulty, it is necessary to work through the situation. If you leave everything to chance, there will be no visible effect. Only constant practice can improve the situation. If you have a fear of speaking in public, then you need to try to do it as often as possible. In this way, you will be able to relieve internal tension and overcome the apparent gap between your desires and the real state of affairs. With constant practice, you can truly discover new possibilities in yourself and realize existing abilities. There is no person on earth who could not learn something new when the appropriate conditions are created for this. By acquiring the necessary skills, you can truly become a much more confident person. A sense of self-sufficiency comes with new positive experiences.

Recording victories

To overcome severe glossophobia , you need to start counting your victories. In most cases, this will be enough to make you feel more confident. Personal development is impossible without overcoming all sorts of obstacles. If we begin to really work on our character, set ourselves serious tasks and strive to solve them, then new victories appear that we can rightfully be proud of. You can even start recording your overcomings on paper. This method will allow you to capture even the smallest successes.

Confidential conversation

If you learn to openly express your feelings, the problem will gradually go away. A confidential conversation is especially necessary when there is a negative experience that definitely needs careful elaboration. It is best to try to talk about the problem you have with someone you trust unconditionally. Having acquired such a positive experience, you will no longer be afraid of the negative assessment of others. By getting used to expressing our thoughts out loud, we learn to be open and gain self-confidence. It is very important that a close friend or just an acquaintance does not try to judge you. It is necessary to gain new positive experience, which will become the foundation for future success.

Voice training

To get rid of glossophobia, you need to systematically train your voice. The manner of pronunciation is really very important for gaining self-confidence. The way we speak affects how others perceive us. The more a person trains, the more effective the treatment of glossophobia will be. It is best to start voice training with simple exercises. Gradually the load can be increased. To achieve the desired effect, it is necessary to act purposefully, without retreating from emerging difficulties.

Thus, glossophobia takes away a lot of internal strength from a person. It turns out that precious energy is wasted, not bringing the expected results. The individual often realizes that he is missing out on opportunities, but this does not give him an understanding of what needs to be done. If you cannot cope with the problem on your own, then you can seek advice from psychologist Irakli Pozharisky. Working with a specialist will be aimed, first of all, at restoring peace of mind and gaining self-confidence.

What to do if fear cannot be overcome

Not everyone can cope with public fear on their own. If fears do not go away, but become an obsessive state (neurosis), professional help is needed. There are acting and rhetoric courses with experienced teachers.

The fear doesn't go away

Additional Information. Many successful individuals studied public speaking. Regular exercises with specialists relieved them of speech defects and helped them overcome anxiety and natural shyness. They became charismatic and courageous people.

Some tips for overcoming fear:

  • do not read the text, but talk to the audience;
  • draw up a plan for the speech, highlighting the main points;
  • avoid multiple terms;
  • take breaks, avoid monotonous text.

You should not attach great importance to critical remarks and poisonous remarks. A good lesson for such a skeptic would be to be invited on stage to have the opportunity to speak. You can be 100% sure that he will not risk going out and facing the audience.


In psychiatric and psychological practice, several types of glossophobia . The symptoms of these conditions differ slightly, but the objects of fear are different.

Determining the specific form of phobia is necessary to find the most effective methods of dealing with the problem. In some cases, this can only be done by a qualified specialist.

Glossophobia can manifest itself in the following forms :

  • peiraphobia (fear of public);
  • verbophobia (fear of spoken language);
  • lalophobia (fear of stuttering or poor diction).

Recommendations from a psychologist

Psychologists give useful advice and recommendations on how not to be afraid to speak in public:

  1. You should be extremely sincere and avoid falsehood.
  2. Make sure that there are no tables or podiums on the stage during the performance.
  3. Do not take questions or comments personally.
  4. Without knowing the correct answer, simply postpone consideration of the question or redirect it to the audience.
  5. Invite your friends and acquaintances - making eye contact with them will help overcome anxiety.
  6. Don’t forget about a smile - it helps relieve mental stress and encourages the audience to communicate with the person on stage.


The public loves honest, open people. A sincere apology to the audience for your excitement will win over the audience, and a warm atmosphere in the hall will help in overcoming fear. If you do not deny fear, but accept it as a challenge and motivation, then it will be much easier to cope with it.

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