In this article we will touch few topics:

What is meant by the fear of people

The context of public speaking leads us obligatorily to talk about another very frequent fear, which in some cases can create psychological discomfort which can result in specific disorders. When we talk about fear of people, we refer to a type of social phobia, classified within anxiety disorders, which is characterized by strong anxiety in interpersonal and public performance situations. It is clear that this condition is not the same for everyone and can be avoided through expedients and the help of the right people. 

The main characteristic of this major problem, which manifests itself in conjunction with the performance of having to speak in public, is the fear of being criticized; this fear stems from specific aspects of one’s character, shyness or insecurity, and from the expectations that each of us sets for ourselves (e.g., a strong desire to make a good impression).

Experiencing some degree of social anxiety in such situations is quite normal, but when it gets to too high levels of worry, debilitating behaviors can be enacted for the person: the most common is to avoid any or most interpersonal, or social situations. Understand well that this can become a major problem in our daily living and especially in the professional world.

But what can be the causes of the emergence of this disorder? First of all, our character: several people show shyness and shame since childhood. In addition to this, a phobia can result from experiences of social anxiety during the growing period (puberty and adolescence), such as in school or sports, in relationships with peers, and in all situations where one is exposed to the evaluation of adult people. Imagine that a person has had experiences as a boy in which he was laughed at by his peers after questioning in school; the constant recollection of these events can fuel avoidance behaviors to the point of escalating into a social phobia disorder.

This is not to say that if I have a negative history of the past in the context of public performance, then I will automatically develop a social anxiety problem because each pathway is subjective.

What to do to address people’s fears

So what can we do to prevent this from happening? 

First, there are prevention pathways in which young people are trained and guided about the appropriate behaviors to implement in such situations, such as in school social education and soft skills development courses. In cases where the disorder is already present, the best therapy in the psychological field is the cognitive-behavioral therapy of in vivo exposure, where the individual is gradually exposed to the anxiety-provoking situation.

Today very valuable support to this technique, is virtual reality, thanks to which specific training can be created for each situation. Think of public speaking, for example. The Vrainers team, building on the basic methodology of cognitive-behavioral therapy, has created virtual simulations of rooms with audiences in different contexts. The user is guided by an avatar on a path of personal growth in his or her communication skills and then has the opportunity to test himself or herself in the virtual halls.

In this way, the person will have the opportunity to undergo frequent exposure that is decided independently according to his or her own time and possibilities, so that he or she will be able to deal with the feared situations in a progressively smoother and more satisfying way. Simultaneously with this, the person will be stimulated and helped, by the avatar primarily through his or her feedback and by the team psychologist, to take back aspects of life that have been put aside (social relationships, passions, work, etc.).


Powers MB, Emmelkamp PM. Virtual reality exposure therapy for anxiety disorders: a meta-analysis. J Anxiety Disord (2008) 22(3):561–9.

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