Using CBT to deal with public speaking anxiety…


Are you afraid of public speaking?

Does that fear make you limit yourself in your professional and/or personal life with ‘avoidant behaviour’?

Does that fear affect your performance if you do find yourself in a situation where you have to do it, preventing you from preparing well and giving your best?

Cognitive behavioural training / therapy (CBT) can upskill you and help you to manage, or ideally dismantle, the fear – and to say yes and do it, and do it competently… read on to see how:

frightenedpublicspeakingartWhat is ‘public speaking anxiety’? It is the MOST common form of social phobia.

Most of us have a fear of any kind of ‘public’ speaking, or ‘social performance – from speaking up at work meetings or training sessions – to talking about ourselves to an interview panel – to giving a presentation even to our own colleagues or peers – to making a speech – or God forbid to being on TV or radio to promote a cause or business… and so on. This is a real diagnosable situational anxiety, and CBT has proven to be a very effective fast intervention therapy to help you to understand and manage it with effective and practical strategies – through ‘learning and doing’.


Click to open a new window a public speaking interview I did with TodayFM + a link to their site + a mindmap I created for the interview (look at it while you listen, and see if you can find the visual notes I pre-prepared and locked in to my brain with mind mapping).

How? This anxiety or phobia comes from a distorted’ irrational’ and exaggerated perception of a situation or event as a threat, which causes a panicky physiological response. And the physiological ‘fight or flight’ response is initially because of the perception of a threat, but then the response itself becomes the threat.

The sufferer believes the way they are explaining everything to themselves to be a totally rational evaluation of the situation, but in fact they are using emotional reasoning and memories of past bits and pieces of evidences and half truths and experiences. Emotional reasoning can be summed up as ‘it feels really bad so it is really bad’ – but feelings are not facts. They are the neurobiology of how your unreliable non-robot brain is processing data. And…. it’s entirely human, and there is a science behind it. And you can rewire annd change your fear conditioning.

 ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’ (CBT) literally teaches us the cognitive science behind how and why we think and feel and behave as we do. It gives us practical well being skills to help us to build awareness and management of our ‘attributional style’ (this is a psychology term for how we explain the world to ourselves), and awareness and management of the human species primal and pesky and unhelpful ‘pumping up’ threat response. (Click HERE to open a new window to my corporate training workshop).

Click here to play the interview I did on Public Speaking anxiety with TodayFM’s Neil Delamare for a fast fun explanation on the role that cognition and memory and these faulty human brains take in this situation :

CBT is superior personal and professional development, and helps us to handle any situational anxiety – either helping to control and minimise the strength of your emotional and physical response to the situation, or, ideally, eliminating it altogether by literally changing your response to the situation by examining and challenging and changing your ‘irrational thinking’ and ’emotional reasoning’- so that you instead have the proportional and manageable (even helpful!) response of mere butterflies and low to moderate adrenaline that successful speakers have. Change your mind change your mood. Feelings are not facts. Your thinking and perception can make you largely the cause of your own upset and self sabotaging behaviour.

The outcome? Imagine if you had new skills in self managment, and could change your view of public speaking so that it isn’t a scary awful threat? So that it would simply be a task you believe you have the resources to cope with and to do adequately – maybe even eventually viewing public speaking as an opportunity, or as exciting, as a challenge you want to meet, as something you want to do? Maybe understanding your adrenaline response and using the stress in a good way, feeling ‘buzzed and pumped up’ instead of freaked out by your own body. You can do all of this with CBT. It is attainable (entirely possible – I myself am proof of that) – but even if your goal is just to manage the situation and learn new coping skills so that you can do it occasionally, and do it competently, even if you don’t like it – well, that’s okay too. And it would put you in the mainstream of how most people who do it think and feel and behave.

You will find that understanding and applying CBT strategies and techniques will affect your whole life for the better, but… first things first – let’s take a look at the typical thoughts and beliefs around public speaking issues.

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld

publicspeakinganxietywomanWith CBT, we aim to teach you how to:

  • examine and understand and manage the four strands link between our thoughts & beliefs, our emotional response, our physical responses, and our behavioural response

  • and to learn strategies and techniques to change them if stress has become a disorder and caused a shift in thinking and a shift in feelings and a shift to self limiting and self defeating and self sabotaging behaviours.

Do any of these typical negative automatic thoughts about pubic speaking seem familiar to you?

  •  I’m going to make a show of myself
  • It’s going to be awful
  • I can’t cope
  • People will laugh at me
  • People will see my anxiety and think I’m weak and scared
  • People will see I’m a fraud
  • People will think I’m unattractive
  • I won’t be funny
  • I’ll be dull
  • I’ll be shaking
  • It’ll blow my reputation and future
  • I’m not able for it right now, I’ll do it in a few weeks, or months. Maybe.

When you visualise the scene, does it include any of these feelings and ‘fight or flight‘ physical symptoms?

  • Shaky voice
  • Trembling
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling sick
  • Talking too fast
  • Mind going blank
  • Panicking
  • Embarrassment
  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • FEAR

Do you practice ‘avoidance behaviour’

  • avoiding opportunities if they involve public speaking
  • even if that is self limiting and stops you getting what you want

You can see yourself in the above thinking, feeling and behaviour? Great! That means you’re a prime candidate for CBT.

CBT theory
: this kind of overdramatic negative automatic thinking bias causes:

-> extreme emotional upsettness
-> fight or flight (the bodies physiological response to danger)
-> sabotaging/avoidant behaviour

– showing us that public speaking anxiety has the same genesis and manifestation as any typical anxiety disorder – and that it is a real thing, it is not just ‘how it is’ or ‘how you are’, and it can be managed in fast and effective ways.

So – what to do? Click through on the following links to begin your theory learning and application homework. It’s a science, believe it…


fofwidgetimage badthinkinghabitsforehead

Click to learn about brain design flaw that has us pumping up for social threats instead of cooling down…

Click to learn about ‘fight or flight’, the science term for our physiological response to threats…

Click to learn about the classic Bad Thinking Habits we develop when stress becomes a disorder…


Did you get it and like it? Science is beautiful. Click through the highlight links here (or wander through this self help free resource blog at your leisure) for more theory and application of cognitive behavioural therapy, the science of THINKING AND FEELING AND BEHAVING, so that you can understand and build awareness of negative automatic thoughts that stifle your life, and learn strategies to analyse them for evidence, to deconstruct them and take them apart if they are distorted – and to replace with healthy evidence based alternative thinking. Change your mind, change your life. And learn how to Mindmap – how to organise and store information in your brain for easy recall.

(FREE: DOWNLOAD the  ViciousCirclePublicSpeakingTemplate – where I filled in a hypothetical CBT thought form for you)

More on where you can learn how to use CBT for your particular anxiety?

You might choose best practice self help ‘bibliotherapy‘, which is simply the use of CBT books to learn and apply to the psycho-educational model to yourself by yourself.

Or – you can google to find online CCBT (computerised cognitive behavioural therapy).

seaofsmiliesOr you might try blogiotherapy (okay, yes, I made that up) – using my blog here as a free self-help guide – clicking through the posts and printing and completing the downloads – learning the theory and applying the principles and strategies to yourself and your particular situational anxiety.

publicspeakinganxiousconfidentOr – you can attend private one to one low intensity CBT sessions with me – click HERE for my Irish website with details of the 30 Wicklow Street Dublin practice, or email and/or call 086 8113031 for more information.

Or – you can contact your GP for advice and referrals to recommended therapists.

PLUS – I really recommend that you learn how to Mind Map – more brainskills!: to learn how to gather and learn and store and recall data easily in a way that your brain design loves.

COMPANIES: Contact me, Veronica Walsh, at or at Ireland 0868113031 to request information and/or a quotation for a bespoke presentation or training workshop.


Quick tips when you’re in fight or flight mode :

Deep breathing: because so many symptoms are caused by an overload of oxygen (‘oxygen stimulus’) through the bodies fight or flight response to threats, breathing control exercises are hugely helpful in calming the body and cooling yourself down while you reframe thinking. Link to my breathing exercise:

Physical exercise is key in managing anxiety and fight or flight symptoms – click the ‘Oh God, I’m shaking..’ post for more information. Link to an audio podcast of Exercise and Mental Health.

Mindfulness and visualisation can be very powerful tools to distract and ground and calm us. Link to a 10 minute audio of Mindfulness Practice. Link to free mindfulness resources.   My 15 minute muscle and body relaxation and guided imagery for confidence audio:

Regular deliberate relaxation – set regular routines where you do something you find relaxing (a movie, a book, candles and music, a walk in the park or on the beach, whatever you truly enjoy) – the body has a ‘relaxation’ physical response, which releases chemicals that reduce stress hormones, this slows your heart rate and lowers blood pressure and relaxes muscles, returning you homeostasis (balance). Free resource link: UK MENTAL HEALTH FOUNDATION PODCAST LIST

Caveman and Tiger


Click on this cartoon to watch a short video explaining your bodies Fight or Flight response to public speaking (needs flash so doesn’t work on Apple mobile devices, sorry).


~~~ CBT and Feeling Good, promoting psychological health and wellbeing ~~~

Contact details:
CBT and Feeling Good, 30 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2, Ireland

Private sessions take place in the Wicklow Street office, public/group sessions are on company/organisations premises unless otherwise booked.

12 thoughts on “Using CBT to deal with public speaking anxiety…

  1. Pingback: Cbt Anxiety | Crossed Connections

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  10. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is talking therapy which helps to manage problems by changing the thinking. It is best anxiety treatment. It treats problems and gives us happiness and modifies our thoughts. It also develops our skills and thoughts. Thanks for sharing this article.


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