Public Speaking: Will Fear Be the Death of You?

The “You and The World” project consists of strategies that will teach students and/or other participants the values of issues that affects the world as a whole. The goals of the student(s) are to generate solutions to those problems. Each person might have a different view of the chosen situation, but the student will focus on their perspective and argue with further information they have gathered.

My topic consists of people and their fear of public speaking. (Closely related topics such as social anxiety are also largely included.) This topic enthralls me because of my own fear of it. My public speaking skills improved over the years, but anxiety still sets in whenever there is a huge crowd in front of me. Interacting might not be a problem when it comes to talking one on one with someone else, but it becomes one when talking to large group. Knowing about social anxieties is essential to further interact and deal with the problems that are a part behavioural structures. Social interaction is a key step to learning about the psychologic reasons as to why people are “afraid” of large crowds.

As I have mentioned before, my topic will consist of people being afraid of public speaking. But the fear can manifest itself into an uncontrollable chronic sense of worry or tension, which is anxiety. They are merely on the same boat, but barely. Recent studies have highlighted the role of right-sided temporal and prefrontal lobes activation during anxiety. When fear is activated in the brain, the signal travels to the amygdala. The amygdala processes a chemical called glutamate out into two regions of the brain. One of the signals is sent deep into the base of the brain into an area that humans physically have little to no control over. The second signal is sent to the hypothalamus and triggers the autonomic nervous system, which results to the body having movement without the recognition of the person. From this analysis, people now have the ability doubt that everyone experiences fear differently because of how the brain processes it.

We, as humans, have (mostly) similar brain functions. That is why TMVision interviewed, researched and surveyed over 3,000 U.S. inhabitants. The #1 ranked fear out of those 3,000 participants is (none other than) “speaking before a group.” Compared to that, the fear of death is ranked #6. This survey shows that there is more pressing matters on their mind rather than death, which is public speaking. A scenario might be, someone might fuss over their presentation for school/work they have to do for next week. Yet, they might not be thinking about death quite yet until something grave happens. To put in simpler words, people may actively fear public speaking more than they fear death, but their fear of public speaking is actually not stronger than their fear of death. This speaks out about what our society has to offer about what we’re afraid of collectively as the human race.

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Figure 1: This shows the result of TMVision’s result of 3,000 U.S. inhabitants that participated in the survey that asked what they were afraid of most, on the top of their heads. Public speaking is ranked #1.

Anxiety attacks might be hard to relate to because individuals experience them in different ways. Suffering from any mental illness is not similar at all to a physical one. You can treat a physical injury with prescription drugs and medicine. When it comes to mental illnesses, the symptoms of having it is real. The only problem is, they reside within you and your mind. Many people do not understand the meaning of this, mostly because they haven’t been in the same or mostly similar situation as someone else. It’s quite hard to make them understand or feel empathy because they have not felt the same way.

Studies show that there is a clear distinction between fear and anxiety. Not only it is a matter of linguistics, another reason is the way our minds are different. Some are afraid of something. While others might have anxiety about something. Two different scenarios have to unfold if someone experiences fear or anxiety. Fear is driven by a physical object, such as a tarantula ready to pounce on you from your bedroom window. Anxiety derives from possibilities in your mind and it reverberates into your body through feelings of sickness (ie. nausea, dizziness).

“Curing" the whole world of social anxiety will surely be ineffective. This sounds a little pessimistic, I know. But every individual experiences and goes through so much that it’s not fair to compare them to someone else’s story. Different approaches should be taken when dealing with such a catastrophic amount of people. There are about 7 billion people inhabiting the world today. Slow steps are required, one at a time. Anyone and everyone can suffer from fearing speaking out to large groups. Even people that you know, work with, attend school with, etc. The Social Anxiety Association (SAA) is a “nonprofit organization that promotes understanding and treatment of social anxiety disorder.” This organization helps and treats those who suffer from social anxiety and those who fear public speaking. 7% of the population today suffer from some type of social anxiety disorder. 7% of 7 billion accumulates to 490,000,000 people. Every single number equals to a single person. Each person needs help with their anxieties. There are 490,000,000 different reasons as to why we need to help them.

Figure 2: “Social Anxiety is the third largest mental health care problem in the world today. Alcoholism is first, depression is second, and social anxiety is third. Social anxiety causes chronic anxiety and fear over social situations.” -- The Social Anxiety Association

Social problems prevent people from achieving the life they ultimately want. Being put in a situation in which a person has fears of speaking in a group is the fact that it affects their social life as well. A similar scenario is: wanting to hang out with your friends/coworkers/classmates with the fear of losing them all. But the thing is, you have that aching feeling that they’re all going to leave you if you slip up once, twice, or numerous times. This feeling can be overcome with going to a therapy session with a structured therapist. Having friends and family on one’s side when overcoming their current situation is much needed. Those who suffer from social anxiety need to have those closest to them helping them in every step of the way. That is one of the many active ways that you could help anyone you know that suffers from social anxiety.

Currently, I wonder if people suffering from social phobia as I do get their motivation. Also, I ask if people understand what it means to have phobias of socializing, yet they turn it down and see it as a petty fear. I want to continue further in my research of finding out who deals with their fears and anxieties. My main goal after conducting research, experiments, and movements through this project is to help those who solely suffer from these awful mental disorders.

Click here to view my sources.

Comments (2)

Sandra Watson (Student 2018)
Sandra Watson

I really like this topic because I even suffered with is for a while than got better at it . I think it is interesting because everyone has to learn how to do this so I think that this would be more than helpful to everyone .