Abstract The present study was designed to investigate a possible relationship between “recursive anxiety” and paradoxical intention. Groups of subjects were chosen from among individuals with public speaking concerns, and for whom fear of fear or recursive anxiety clearly represented an important element, or was completely absent from the clinical profile. These subjects were offered a standard in vivo treatment program for public speaking phobia with inclusion or exclusion of paradoxical intention. A 2×2 factorial design was employed. Those whose public speaking anxiety was complicated by recursive anxiety experienced greater improvement when paradoxical intention was included in the treatment program than when it was not employed. In contrast, individuals reporting simple public speaking phobia demonstrated greater success with a treatment program in which paradoxical intention was absent. Wegner's hypothesis of “ironic” cognitive processing was used to explain the proposed relationship between paradoxical intention and fear of fear.