Stage fright
Stage fright or performance anxiety is the anxiety
Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by somatic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. The root meaning of the word anxiety is 'to vex or trouble'; in either presence or absence of psychological stress, anxiety can create feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness,...

, fear
Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger...

, or persistent phobia
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational...

 which may be aroused in an individual by the requirement to perform
A performance, in performing arts, generally comprises an event in which a performer or group of performers behave in a particular way for another group of people, the audience. Choral music and ballet are examples. Usually the performers participate in rehearsals beforehand. Afterwards audience...

 in front of an audience
An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art, literature , theatre, music or academics in any medium...

, whether actually or potentially (for example, when performing before a camera
A camera is a device that records and stores images. These images may be still photographs or moving images such as videos or movies. The term camera comes from the camera obscura , an early mechanism for projecting images...

). In the context of public speaking, this fear is termed glossophobia
Glossophobia or speech anxiety is the fear of public speaking. The word glossophobia comes from the Greek glōssa, meaning tongue, and φόβος phobos, fear or dread...

, one of the most common of phobias. Such anxiety may precede or accompany participation in any activity involving public self-presentation. In some cases stage fright may be a part of a larger pattern of social phobia
Social anxiety
Social anxiety is anxiety about social situations, interactions with others, and being evaluated or scrutinized by other people...

 or social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder , also known as social phobia, is an anxiety disorder characterized by intense fear in social situations causing considerable distress and impaired ability to function in at least some parts of daily life...

, but many people experience stage fright without any wider problems. Quite often, stage fright arises in a mere anticipation of a performance, often a long time ahead. It has numerous manifestations: fluttering or pounding heart, tremor
A tremor is an involuntary, somewhat rhythmic, muscle contraction and relaxation involving to-and-fro movements of one or more body parts. It is the most common of all involuntary movements and can affect the hands, arms, eyes, face, head, vocal folds, trunk, and legs. Most tremors occur in the...

 in the hands and legs, sweaty hands, diarrhea
Diarrhea , also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having three or more loose or liquid bowel movements per day. It is a common cause of death in developing countries and the second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide. The loss of fluids through diarrhea can cause dehydration and...

, facial nerve
Facial nerve
The facial nerve is the seventh of twelve paired cranial nerves. It emerges from the brainstem between the pons and the medulla, and controls the muscles of facial expression, and functions in the conveyance of taste sensations from the anterior two-thirds of the tongue and oral cavity...

A tic is a sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic, stereotyped motor movement or vocalization involving discrete muscle groups. Tics can be invisible to the observer, such as abdominal tensing or toe crunching. Common motor and phonic tics are, respectively, eye blinking and throat clearing...

s, dry mouth
Xerostomia is the medical term for the subjective complaint of dry mouth due to a lack of saliva. Xerostomia is sometimes colloquially called pasties, cottonmouth, drooth, or doughmouth. Several diseases, treatments, and medications can cause xerostomia. It can also be exacerbated by smoking or...

, erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual performance....

. Stage fright is most commonly seen in school situations, like stand up projects and and class speeches.

People and situations affected

Stage fright may be observed in people of all experience and background, from those completely new to being in front of an audience to those who have done so for years. It's commonly known among everyday people, which may, for example, affect one's confidence in job interview
Job interview
A job interview is a process in which a potential employee is evaluated by an employer for prospective employment in their company, organization, or firm. During this process, the employer hopes to determine whether or not the applicant is suitable for the job.-Role:A job interview typically...

s. It also affects actors, musicians, politicians, and athletes. Many people with no other problems can experience stage fright (also called 'performance anxiety'), but some people with chronic stage fright also have social anxiety
Social anxiety
Social anxiety is anxiety about social situations, interactions with others, and being evaluated or scrutinized by other people...

 or social phobia
Social phobia
Social phobia may refer to any of the following conditions:* Social anxiety disorder – a diagnosis referring to clinically excessive social anxiety...

 which are chronic feelings of high anxiety in any social situation.


  1. Considering the possibility of visible failure at a task, resulting in embarrassment.
  2. Feeling a need to do well to avoid failure.
  3. Feeling uncertain about whether one can do well. Uncertainty plays a major role in experiencing many forms of anxiety. It could be helpful to keep in mind that one cannot control others' reactions or judgements, but only one’s own performance.
  4. Focusing on behavior and appearance.

An important component of performance anxiety is an acute awareness of one’s own behavior and/or appearance. When experiencing performance anxiety, one focuses one’s attention on the visible appearance of the performance. A possible way of reducing performance anxiety would be to increase one’s awareness of others, without considering them as judges. An attitude of service to others (focusing on helping or serving the audience, instead of oneself), can help one to shift out of performance anxiety (or any kind of social anxiety
Social anxiety
Social anxiety is anxiety about social situations, interactions with others, and being evaluated or scrutinized by other people...


Effects of stage fright

When someone starts to feel the sensation of being scared or nervous they start to experience anxiety. According to a Harvard Mental Health Letter, "Anxiety usually has physical symptoms that may include a racing heart, a dry mouth, a shaky voice, blushing
Blushing refers to the involuntary reddening of a person's face due to embarrassment or emotional stress, though it has been known to come from being lovestruck, or from some kind of romantic stimulation. It is thought that blushing is the result of an overactive sympathetic nervous system...

, trembling, sweating
Perspiration is the production of a fluid consisting primarily of water as well as various dissolved solids , that is excreted by the sweat glands in the skin of mammals...

, and nausea
Nausea , is a sensation of unease and discomfort in the upper stomach with an involuntary urge to vomit. It often, but not always, precedes vomiting...

" (Beyond Shyness). It triggers the body to activate its sympathetic nervous system
Sympathetic nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system is one of the three parts of the autonomic nervous system, along with the enteric and parasympathetic systems. Its general action is to mobilize the body's nervous system fight-or-flight response...

. This process takes place when the body releases adrenaline into the blood stream causing a chain of reactions to occur. This bodily response is known as the "fight or flight
Fight or Flight
Fight or Flight may refer to:* Fight-or-flight response, the biological response of animals to acute stress* "Fight or Flight!" , a song off the album Aneurythm by the American hard rock band Living Syndication...

" syndrome, a naturally occurring process in the body done to protect itself from harm. “...The neck muscles contract, bringing the head down and shoulders up, while the back muscles draw the spine into a concave curve. This, in turn, pushes the pelvis forward and pulls the genitals up, slumping the body into a classic fetal position
Fetal position
Fetal position is a medical term used to describe the positioning of the body of a prenatal fetus as it develops...

" (Cyphert).

In trying to resist this position, the body will begin to shake in places such as the legs and hands. Several other things happen besides this. Muscles in the body contract causing them to be tense and ready to attack. Second, "blood vessels in the extremities constrict" (Cyphert). This can leave a person with the feeling of cold fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Constricted blood vessels also gives the body extra blood flow to the vital organs.

In addition, those experiencing stage fright will have an increase in blood pressure, which supplies the body with more nutrients and oxygen in response to the "fight or flight" instincts. This, in return, causes the body to overheat and sweat. Breathing will increase so that the body can obtain the desired amount of oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 for the muscles and organs. Pupils will dilate giving someone the inability to view any notes they have in close proximity, however, long range vision is improved making the speaker more aware of their audience's facial expressions and non verbal cues in response to the speaker's performance. Lastly, the digestive system shuts down to prepare for producing energy for an immediate emergency response. This can leave the body with the effects of dry mouth, nausea, or butterflies (Cyphert).


One possible solution to performance anxiety could be that of reducing the significance of the other person(s). While experiencing performance anxiety, we often invest the others with imagined power, especially in their ability to affect us through their evaluation of our performance. Ways to reduce this imagined power is to increase the sense of one’s own power, to perceive the vulnerability of others and to accept oneself. Another possible solution to performance anxiety would be to eliminate the imagination of negative possibilities. A negative outcome is always possible, but that does not justify worrying about it before it occurs. Focusing one’s attention on the present, rather than the future, is much more productive. A way to do this is monitoring our own performance. A third solution to performance anxiety is holding the performance in perspective by seeing its outcome as insignificant in relation to the totality of one’s life. By realizing that nothing catastrophic is likely to occur, the need to avoid failure may decrease and switch to a more positive goal. An example of a positive goal would be to provide others with pleasure. Furthermore, it is helpful to focus on the process, the moment-to-moment experience, rather than the results of a performance. Additionally, it is important to concentrate on the enjoyable aspect of the process. The stage fear in children can be cured by the following points:
  • give more confidence by showing them the items
  • don't make them panic
  • show them how others are performing it

There are many ideas on how to improve the effects of stage fright. One would be as simple as being prepared. According to Lybi Ma with Psychology Today, “Being prepared is your first line of attack. You should be anxious if you haven’t done your homework” (Ma). Dr. Dale Cyphert gives many other types of solutions on how to relieve anxiety. First, he recommends going for a brisk walk, doing jumping jacks, or performing any other brisk movements to get the energy and excitement out of one's system. After that, he suggests doing moderate stretching to try and calm and relax the muscles to release tension. Second, he suggests taking deep breaths. Cyphert states that "as you force yourself to take a deep breath, the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance is restored, and the body interprets the big sigh as an "all clear" signal" (Cyphert). This will cause the body to slow down and decrease stress levels. Third, he recommends practicing any movements that one is aware of when nervous. Anything one can do to make their body more aware of these nervous tendencies the less likely they will be to repeat them when on the spot (Cyphert).

One ongoing debate on how to treat stage fright is the use of beta blockers
Beta blocker
Beta blockers or beta-adrenergic blocking agents, beta-adrenergic antagonists, beta-adrenoreceptor antagonists or beta antagonists, are a class of drugs used for various indications. They are particularly for the management of cardiac arrhythmias, cardioprotection after myocardial infarction ,...

. Beta Blockers are a type of drug used to decrease the effects of stage fright. “Beta blockers fit chemically into beta receptors present in the heart, lungs, arteries, brain, and uterus” (Bryce). This, in return, diminishes the effects on the sympathetic nervous system by blocking out adrenaline canceling out the effects of the "fight or flight" symptoms. According to one study, "beta blockade significantly inhibited an increase in heart rate when performance was before an audience" (Klaus). The study used two groups of musicians: one group was given a placebo, and the other a beta blocker. Beta blockers work best in the time window of one to two hours after consumption. According to Suzanne Bryce at Vanderbilt University, “The FDA has never approved the usage of beta blockers for stage anxiety or fright” (Bryce). The FDA's hesitancy in approving the use of beta blockers has to do with the many side effects associated with their use, such as hallucinations, dizziness, nightmares, and drowsiness. Beta blockers should always be prescribed by a licensed physician (Bryce).

Many singers often alleviate stage fright by performing barefoot.

A house concert
House concert
A house concert or home concert is a musical concert or performance art that is presented in someone's home or apartment, or a nearby small private space such as a barn, apartment rec room, lawn, or back yard....

can be a useful step for curing a musician's performance anxiety.:

Other sources

  • "Beyond shyness and stage fright: Social anxiety disorder." Harvard Mental Health Letter 20.4 (2003): 1-4. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 4 April. 2010.
  • Bryce, Suzanne. "Beta Blockers as Treatment for Stage Fright" Health Psychology Home Page. Vanderbilt University. Web. 8 April 2010
  • Cyphert, Dale. Managing Stage Fright. 2005
  • Ma, Lybi. Psychology Today. "Fighting Stage Fright". Sussex Publishers. 6 December 2005. Web. 24 March 2010.
  • Neftel, Klaus A. "Stage Fright in Musicians: A Model Illustrating the Effect of Beta Blockers". Elsevier Science Publishing Co. November 1982. Web. 4 April 2010.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.