April 28, 2015

Fear of Public Speaking Statistics and How to Overcome Glossophobia

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You're not alone. Read about the % of people who fear public speaking and scientific ways to beat glossophobia.

© Sebastiaan ter Burg (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

If the thought of getting up in front of a crowd and giving a speech sends chills down your spine, you're not alone. Glossophobia, also known as the fear of public speaking, is an all-too common phenomenon that millions of people around the world struggle with. This condition is just one type of social phobia that has the potential to significantly affect your personal and professional relationships, as well as your overall quality of life.

Overcoming glossophobia can be challenging, but it's not impossible if you're equipped with the right tools. CreditDonkey has collected some key statistics on the fear of public speaking to illustrate just how many people it affects. We've also found some helpful tips on how to push past your trepidation so you can be more comfortable sharing your thoughts in the workplace and other social settings.

GLOSSOPHOBIA FACTS AND FIGURES

To begin, we examined data from several sources to determine how many people grapple with a fear of public speaking and what, if any, factors influence its development.

1. What percentage of people fear public speaking?
It's estimated that as much as 75% of the population struggles with a fear of public speaking to a certain degree. That means some 238 million people feel nervous about talking to others.

2. Are men or women more likely to be fearful?
When it comes to speaking in front of an audience, men seem to be more at ease addressing a crowd. One survey found that 44% of women said they were afraid of public speaking while 37% of men agreed.

3. Does education affect glossophobia rates?
The more educated you are, the more comfortable you may be with speaking in front of others. In one poll, 24% of college graduates expressed a fear of public speaking, compared to 52% of respondents who had a high school diploma or less.

4. What about race?
Surprisingly, there's a slight racial divide when it comes to who's more prone to glossophobia. In the same poll mentioned above, 43% of whites admitted to being jittery about public speaking versus 34% of nonwhites.

ANXIETY AND SOCIAL PHOBIAS

To offer a deeper understanding of what causes a fear of public speaking, we decided to do a little more digging and look at how many people are affected by anxiety and social phobias.

5. How many Americans experience anxiety?
Roughly 40 million people in the U.S. aged 18 or older suffer from different forms of anxiety. Only about one-third of people who have anxiety issues seek treatment.

6. How common is social anxiety disorder?
Glossophobia is typically categorized as a form of social anxiety disorder. It's estimated that some 15 million people deal with this illness on a daily basis.

7. What's the lifetime prevalence rate for anxiety?
Lifetime prevalence refers to the number of people who will experience a particular condition at some point. Approximately 9% of the population will have a bout with generalized anxiety disorder at least once in their lives.

8. At what age does social anxiety disorder typically develop?
Transitioning from childhood to the teen years can be stressful; it's not unusual for social anxiety disorder symptoms to begin appearing around age 13 .

9. What percentage of people suffer from social phobias?
Nearly 20 million Americans report having at least one social phobia, including glossophobia. That's about 6% of the population.

10. What's the lifetime prevalence rate for social phobias?
Compared to the rate for anxiety, the odds of developing a social phobia are much higher. It's believed that 13% of the population will have to contend with a phobia sooner or later.

11. How common are social phobias among children?
Approximately 5.5% of kids between the ages of 13 and 18 have a social phobia. For 1.3% of them, the disorder is severe.

12. Are men or women more likely to have social phobias?
Compared to men, women are twice as likely to report having a social phobia. Symptoms typically appear beginning around the age of 7.

13. How harmful are anxiety disorders?
Constant anxiety can take a serious toll on your physical and mental health. In terms of your heart health, anxiety can increase the risk of developing coronary disease by 26%. The odds of dying after a heart attack jumps to 48%.

14. What's the financial cost of anxiety disorders and phobias?
Research estimates put the price tag on treating anxiety disorders and phobias such as glossophobia at $42 billion per year. That's about one-third of the total amount spent treating mental health illnesses annually.

OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING

If you struggle with speaking in social situations or your button-lipped tendencies are making it difficult to get ahead at work, you're in luck. We've assembled a list of tips to help loosen your tongue that are backed by scientific evidence.

15. Use visualization techniques
Picturing yourself doing something first often makes it easier to approach a difficult situation, and research has shown that to be true with public speaking. A study of students conducted at Washington State University found that those who visualized themselves giving an effective speech reported feeling less anxiety overall than those who didn't.

16. Just breathe
When you're nervous, your heart rate accelerates and so does your breathing, but getting it under control can eliminate some of your anxiety. In an Australian study of 46 musicians, those who spent time breathing deeply 30 minutes before they went on stage reported feeling less tense and anxious during their performance.

17. Try meditation
Meditating regularly can have a calming effect on your physical and mental state, which can make speaking in public less stressful. An analysis of 47 research studies conducted by doctors at Johns Hopkins University revealed that engaging in a mindful meditation practice for a period of 8 weeks can significantly reduce anxiety levels.

18. Assume the proper posture
If you're about to go out in front of a crowd, you may feel weak in the knees - but that's the time you should be standing firm. Research from social psychologist Amy Cuddy demonstrates that assuming a “power pose” while speaking not only boosts confidence but improves your audience's perceptions of your performance.

19. Get moving
Getting your blood pumping before a public speaking engagement can help to relieve some of the anxiety you may be feeling. A 2013 study conducted at the KG College of Arts and Sciences found that as students increased their physical activity level, their nervousness about speaking in front of others decreased.

20. Give acupuncture a shot
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that's still used today as a way to ease pain and treat certain illnesses. In a Harvard study of pregnant women, the use of acupuncture correlated to reduced levels of anxiety and depression, both of which can be experienced by glossophobia sufferers.

21. Listen to some tunes
Listening to relaxing music before you get up in front of a crowd can help you to get your nerves under control. Numerous studies have linked listening to music to reduced stress and improved health, as well as marked reductions in anxiety levels.

22. Get excited (or at least pretend to)
When you're dreading giving a speech, pumping yourself up mentally can improve your performance. In an experiment at Harvard University, test subjects were asked to say "I am excited" or "I am calm" before giving a short speech. The ones who said they were excited scored better overall in terms of the length, quality and performance of their speaking efforts.

23. Talk it over
Although talking about your fear of public speaking in a therapeutic session requires a certain investment of time and money, it can improve the odds of seeing results. According to a 2013 study from researchers at Stanford University, therapy can help to recondition the brain's response to fear of public speaking and other social phobias so that you're better able to cope.

FINAL WORD

When it comes to public speaking, feeling the fear and doing it anyway may not be the most proactive approach. Instead, training your mind to focus on giving the best performance possible can keep you from feeling like a deer in the headlights.

Sources and References:

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