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Public Speaking Fear and Social Phobia in College Students

Public speaking refers to an act particular to oral communication, which brings together linguistic, cultural, physiological and psychological factors (Zaboski et al., 2019). Fundamentally, public speaking is one of the parameters used for determining professional success and a positive reputation. As such, communication does go beyond the function of conveying information. According to Desalegn et al. (2019), the rhythm, the voice, and the expressiveness of the entire speech are often valued in persuading or convincing the audience. Nonetheless, one of the stumbling blocks, particularly in this communication process, is the fear of public speaking. This paper looks at public speaking fear and social phobia in college students.

Many individuals who have since taken public speaking as a source of income, including business people, actors, and politicians, experience public speaking fear or anxiety (Desalegn et al., 2019). Some experienced public speakers feel somewhat nervous for a few moments before starting their presentations. However, speaking engagement allows such people to perform at their very best. Nonetheless, for some people, anxiety or fear becomes so intense that it interferes with their overall ability to perform.

To college students, fear or anxiety may result from a negative self-image, as previously mentioned. It could lead to students avoiding several majors or courses, particularly where oral presentations are needed. As a result of fear of anxiety, some college students do not speak in class and, in most cases, decide against some careers because they would be called upon to occasionally speak before a group (Mörtberg et al., 2018). Similarly, students who fear public speaking in class might sometimes stay clear from social events they would have loved to be part of or end up not talking to classmates.

Consequently, fear or anxiety revolves around speaking and listening. Notably, peaking in class is, in most cases, demanding or challenging for anxious students, although they do well at responding to a drill (Zaboski et al., 2019). Anxious college students may simultaneously have a challenging time, particularly when discriminating structures or sounds or getting their intended meaning. Students who experience public speaking anxiety say that they are concerned that the chances of embarrassment are very high should they partake in it. Such students also say that they are worried about making mistakes during the presentation, a phenomenon they posit will only make them look stupid or be judged harshly by others (Mörtberg et al., 2018). Another reason college students have anxiety is that some get upset, especially when thinking about others they consider to be looking at them, or they do not want to be the center of attention. In a nutshell, lack of confidence is the most common reason for anxiety and fear of public speaking because many college students appear to have a meek nature and feel uncomfortable, mainly when speaking in front of other students.

Owing to a lack of confidence, college students might begin feeling that they will not give a good speech as expected or excel in the presentation way before the actual task of presentation commences (Desalegn et al., 2019). Negative thoughts and ideas of failure and eventual rejection begin creeping in. The National Institute of Mental Health report shows that public speaking fear or anxiety affects nearly forty per cent of the population (Mörtberg et al., 2018). The report further adds that the underlying anxiety or fear is a negative evaluation of judgment by others.

Sweating, shaking, dry mouth, butterflies in the stomach, squeaky voice, and rapid heartbeats are some of the effects of public speaking fear or anxiety (Zaboski et al., 2019). Students can overcome public speaking anxiety by familiarizing themselves with the topic, getting organized, practising more, visualizing their success, and focusing on their materials, not their audience.

In conclusion, anxiety or fear of public speaking is a usual form or type of social phobia. Therefore, individuals having a problem speaking in public might find their career choices scaled down and platforms for promotion restricted, thus culminating in considerable individual frustration, distress, and depression. These people may achieve less at school or work due to anxiety and frequently stay clear from speaking in classroom circumstances. In worst scenarios, such students may drop out of school instead of confronting a feared circumstance, such as classes with compulsory oral reports, constituting a substantial proportion of the final grade. Public speaking is increasingly becoming an essential skill everyone should have, and as such, everyone should strive to have it. Everyone of goodwill should support this oral communication and encourage students to take it.


Desalegn, G. T., Getinet, W., & Tadie, G. (2019). The prevalence and correlates of social phobia among undergraduate health science students in Gondar, Gondar Ethiopia. BMC research notes, 12, 1-6.

Mörtberg, E., Jansson-Fröjmark, M., Pettersson, A., & Hennlid-Oredsson, T. (2018). Psychometric properties of the personal report of public speaking anxiety (PRPSA) in a sample of university students in Sweden. International journal of cognitive therapy, 11, 421-433.

Zaboski, B. A., Joyce‐Beaulieu, D., Kranzler, J. H., McNamara, J. P., Gayle, C., & MacInnes, J. (2019). Group exposure and response prevention for college students with social anxiety: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 75(9), 1489-1507.


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