Fear of public speaking
If you want to be free from your fear of public speaking, if you want to feel comfortable and natural when talking in front of groups, then welcome to the MindSpa phobia clinic.
You're in the right place because the fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias we treat. So although it can feel like you are the only one, or yours is worse than anyone else's, you are not alone and even extreme phobias can be cured.
What is fear of public speaking?
Fear of public speaking is a form of social phobia - an intense and irrational fear of being judged by others when speaking in front of them - or of being embarrassed or humiliated in such situations - causing dread, panic and avoidance.
Sufferers recognise that their fear is excessive or unreasonable but they feel powerless to do anything to change their responses. So the feared situations - such as presentations, wedding speeches, meetings or even one-to-ones - are avoided or else endured with intense anxiety or distress.
In work situations the fear most commonly occurs around formal presentations and meetings. It can then spread out to smaller groups, to conference calls, to informal situations like one-on-one conversations (especially with more senior people) and to things like introducing oneself on a course. It can then even spill into social situations with friends and family.
How it manifests itself
When sufferers feel that all eyes are upon them - "the spotlight effect" - their acute self-awareness makes it very difficult to focus on what is going on around them, to remember their speech, to read from notes or follow a meeting. Their mind goes blank. Their distress is further fueled by their efforts to hide or mask their discomfort which may become apparent through blushing, sweating, shaking, twitching, or an inability to speak normally or coherently.
Some of these feelings may be present for some time before the event - weeks and even months beforehand - and may be accompanied by sleeping problems and loss of appetite. Life becomes a nightmare from the moment they know they have to speak. It can feel like a death sentence. Not only that, but the feelings may linger afterwards as the sufferer analyses and ruminates on how they did and how other people may have judged them.
Fear of public speaking is distinguished from shyness by the intense, often debilitating, fear it generates. At its worst it will end in a panic attack. So it's way beyond shyness or butterflies. This is hardcore fear.
Who does it affect?
Most people with a fear of public speaking are normal, intelligent, happy and well-balanced. They often come across to friends and colleagues as confident and outgoing.
Many of the people we treat in our clinics are very successful, so they have risen to a level in their career where they are more and more called upon to share their knowledge and expertise and lead projects, teams and departments. But in these situations they come across as reserved, disinterested or unenthusiastic because they have got this phobia, this thing.
So it's very frustrating because a part of them (the rational thinking part) knows that it doesn't make sense. They know their subject - that's why they have been asked to talk - and they know the situation is non-threatening. But they nevertheless find that when they are asked to talk in front of a group, another part of them (the irrational unconscious part) drives out rational thought and fear floods in.
Have a read through the science of phobias on our knowledge page to see exactly how and why this happens.
In our experience it is the more imaginative, creative or artistic people who are more prone to developing phobias. This is because phobias have a lot to do with the misuse of the imagination. That's why we treat all kinds of people in our clinics: from psychiatrists to politicians, from students to city bankers terrified of the spotlight. We have treated them all and at all extremes: from mild panic to people who have passed out when speaking in public.
Safety behaviours & avoidance
Safety and avoidance strategies are used by the sufferer to reduce the danger and to control, accommodate and conceal their panic and embarrassment.
Energy and time are used in planning and avoiding the presentation, meeting, seminar or speech. Elaborate ways are created to reduce or hide their distress or to produce distractions from it. Sufferers may self-medicate with alcohol. Sickness may be feigned. People and situations may be manipulated. Careers may be blighted: jobs and promotions may be turned down - because they may entail more presenting - or jobs may be left because of their fears of "discovery".
Many people accommodate their phobia like this for a long time - typically for years, even decades. We are often surprised at just how far people get in life and have still managed to avoid public speaking.
But over time these "solutions" become part of the problem, using up time, energy and attention needed for other things. The avoidance and manipulation becomes too risky - threatening jobs or relationships - or a presentation or speech (usually a wedding or leaving speech) just can't be avoided. When this happens most sufferers think "enough is enough". And do something about it. And get help.
Fear of public speaking can be caused by many things. It can be an extension of childhood shyness reinforced by bad experiences of reading aloud in class or presenting work at college or university.
It can also start later in life, often at a time when background stress levels have been raised by other things like relationships or work. Then something happens that the individual can usually cope with but because of the background stress they tip into a mild panic attack. This is frightening and embarrassing. It destroys self-confidence. And it builds into a phobia as the sufferer starts to fear it happening again and begins to panic about panicking, to fear the fear.
At the start, it may take some time for people to recognise that they have a phobia. They may mistakenly put it down to excessive shyness. But then the panic starts to occur more frequently and consistently and a pattern emerges. The response is reinforced each time it happens and they panic, and each time they avoid speaking in public and feel relief.
A phobia of public speaking is like getting a puncture: it happens to lots of people, it can happen to anyone, it makes certain things very difficult or impossible, it's very frustrating, and it doesn't matter when, where or how you got it: you just know you've got it and that it can be fixed.
We do this fixing using the Fast Phobia Cure. It's fast, gentle and without the scare tactics and exposure used by the older and less effective phobia treatments. It simply allows your mind to re-evaluate speaking situations as non-threatening. It does this by engaging the part of your mind that has run the phobia - the imaginative creative side - which, as you have found out, is stronger than logic, reason and willpower have ever been.
It usually requires just two or three pleasant and enjoyable sessions for people like you to feel comfortable and natural when speaking to groups. Sometimes it needs just one session.
Like no other treatment
What makes this different from other approaches is that we are therapists who specialize in fears and phobias. So we focus on the fear because this is where people need help.
So this isn't about how to plan, structure and pace your speech. Or how to use audiovisual aids. Because you already know what you want to say and how to say it. And this isn't about turning you into an amazing speaker. Because right now you probably just want to do it without the debilitating fear. So you don't need a presentation skills course. Or lots of tricks, scripts and tips to manage your fear. You just want it gone.
So we focus on eliminating your fear because you can do the rest well enough when the fear is gone. Once you are calm and comfortable in front of groups, then you have the chance to start thinking about how good you can be and what that will mean in your life. But right now you probably just want to do an adequate job and feel nothing.
If you are reading this and think this is what you have been looking for call us now to speak to a specialist about your fear of public speaking and how we can help you.
Or take a few minutes to look at how it can work for you, what's in the program, why you should choose us and what it costs. Then get in touch.