Public speaking is a challenge for many adults, both professionals and non-professionals. While most public speaking fears are associated with anxiety and a short-term distress, there are some individuals who experience public speaking phobia – a far more complex mental health complication. If you have a public speaking engagement coming up, and you are living in distress every day, it is important to consider ways in which to alleviate your public speaking phobia prior to the event.
Phobias, by their very nature, are often difficult to overcome and in most mental health settings, patients are taught to overcome their phobias through exposure that is controlled. When seeking out mental health treatment for a phobia in public speaking, you can expect that your therapist, at some point, will begin to slowly move you into public speaking engagements so as to reduce your anxiety by controlled exposures.
Before your exposure to public speaking can take place in a controlled setting, the mental health provider will first need to teach you some basic cognitive behavioral therapy techniques in relaxation. Because there are physiological changes, including anxiety, associated with public speaking exposure, your therapist should teach you not only how to reduce these physiological symptoms and changes, but also how to prevent those changes from occurring in the first place.
Once you’ve learned how to manage your stress with relaxed breathing and meditation, your exposure to public speaking should begin. Typically, your therapist will begin by asking you to speak publicly within the clinic setting and then transition you to a public speaking environment with other anxious patients who suffer from a similar phobia. After a few weeks of therapy, you may find that your therapist will have you fully prepared to give your speech at your originally scheduled public speaking engagement. In some cases, your therapist may even opt to accompany you to the event to help with your anxiety and fears prior to the event.
Public speaking phobias are common and affect millions of adults each year. If you believe you are suffering from a phobia that is associated with public speaking, you will want to seek out therapy several weeks prior to your speaking engagement and undergo cognitive-behavioral therapy with exposure response as a way to alleviate your phobia and overcome your public speaking fears.
Sources: The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, by Edmund J. Bourne, pp. 15-17.