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TriStar Centennial Medical Center

Freedom From the Fear of Public Speaking

image The fear of public speaking is a type of social phobia characterized by an intense fear of social or performance situations. Social phobias can trigger physical symptoms, like heart palpitations, tremors, sweating, diarrhea, confusion, and blushing.

What Causes This Fear?

Researchers have not pinpointed the exact cause of public-speaking fear or other types of social phobias. But, some possible explanations include:

  • Over activity of the part of your brain responsible for fear.
  • Genetic link—Social phobias may be inherited.
  • Having overprotective or overly judgmental parents.


The fear of public speaking can be being successfully treated by cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). During CBT, people learn to change negative thought patterns and behaviors. People can then confront audiences under the supervision of a trained therapist. Instead of fleeing from the fear, individuals confront their anxiety with a goal of steadily reducing the dread they once felt.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other types of medications may also be used to treat the fear of public speaking.

Build Your Skills

Toastmasters International is an organization where members meet regularly to practice public speaking in a supportive environment. Toastmasters offers these tips for success:

  • Be yourself.
  • Know your material. Pick a topic you are interested in, using personal stories and conversational language to minimize the chance of forgetting your speech.
  • Practice beforehand by rehearsing out loud. Use a timer to pace your speech.
  • Know you audience. Begin by greeting people as they arrive.
  • Familiarize yourself with the room by arriving early. Practice using the microphone and other visual aids.
  • Picture yourself giving your talk in a clear and confident voice and manner. Imagine the audience clapping and how their positive response will boost your confidence.
  • Realize that everyone is rooting for you. Audiences want you to be interesting, entertaining, and informative.
  • Do not apologize for problems or nervousness. These usually go unnoticed.
  • Focus on your message and the audience, rather than your anxieties.
  • Gain experience to further build your confidence.

If you are interested in gaining experience by joining Toastmasters International, the organization has meetings throughout the United States.

  • American Psychiatric Association

  • National Institute of Mental Health

  • Canadian Psychiatric Association

  • Canadian Mental Health Association

  • Public speaking tips. Toastmasters International website. Available at: Accessed August 5, 2015.

  • Social anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated April 17, 2015. Accessed August 5, 2015.

  • Social anxiety fact sheet. Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association website. Available at: Accessed August 5, 2015.

  • Social phobia (social anxiety disorder). National Institutes of Mental Health website. Available at: Accessed August 5, 2015.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. TriStar Health does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.