Fear of public speaking is a social phobia where the sufferer fears being negatively judged or evaluated by others and therefore are afraid of doing something to embarrass or humiliate themselves in public. This can incorporate physical symptoms of anxiety such as sweating, blushing, dizziness, heart palpitations, tense muscles, trembling and nausea.
Not everyone experiences physical symptoms, many can just feel afraid and very self conscious. Social phobia is the most common anxiety disorder and is thought to affect one in 10 people at some time in their lives. About three per cent of people are thought to have social phobia at any one time. Approximately 40 per cent of social phobias occur prior to the age of 10, and about 95 per cent before the age of 20.
Famous people who have suffered a fear of public speaking have included: Donny Osmond (wrote a book about his life and his performance anxiety), Barbara Streisand (whose fear of performing famously prevented her from singing in public for 20 years), Sir Laurence Olivier (who recounted in his autobiography that he suffered a social phobia for five years), Susie O' Neill (in 1998 she spoke of how her anxiety impacted on her ability to perform as a swimmer), Rebecca Gibney (in an interview in 1996 she revealed her debilitating panic attacks and fear of forgetting her lines on the set of Halifax FP and the 1996 Logie Awards) and Gary McDonald (Gary is a frequent speaker about his anxiety disorder and his nervous breakdown).
(ADAATC - Anxiety Disorders Assistance and Treatment Centre, Melbourne)
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For more information, take a look through Help Yourself: an A-Z of natural cures for common complaints by Mim Beim and Jan Castorina. It's published by Doubleday and is available through all good bookstores.