Stage Fright

Stage Fright Meanings

Stage fright corresponds to a stressful situation before public appearances. The phenomenon can develop into anxiety disorders over time. If this happens, cognitive behavioral therapy helps to reassess the negatively perceived situation.

What is stage fright?

Patients with stage fright suffer from mental and physical symptoms. All stage fright is a temporary state of mind in anticipatory stress situations. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Stage Fright.

Stage fright can affect many different areas of life. In the extended definition, any kind of tension or stress before a public appearance, an exam or a dangerous situation is stage fright. Basically, stage fright is related to exam anxiety.

Other forms of stage fright include fear of the camera, fear of the microphone and fear of speaking. Since the professional reputation of performance artists in particular is repeatedly put to the test with their performance on stage, stage fright is particularly widespread among them. In this context, the basic form of stage fright is not considered a pathological condition, but is often even described as a favorable circumstance.

Stage fright creates a basic tension that many performance artists find motivating and performance-enhancing. However, as soon as stage fright with physical symptoms occurs more frequently, it can lead to social phobia. After unpleasant performance experiences, fear can arise that the fear will return.

This perpetuates a loop of fear of public judging as the sufferer will once again fail to perform well in fear of fear. The negative view of the situation can thus stabilize. Any kind of stage fright arises from the impression that one’s own performance is seen and evaluated by the public.


Stress is a natural response to imminent tasks of some complexity. In the course of evolution, the feeling of stress in dangerous situations should ensure survival and prepare for flight or fight with hormones such as adrenaline. Some stress symptoms of stage fright affect groups of artists more than others.

Stress -related dry mouth and throat, difficult swallowing or shortened breathing spans can weaken the voice of actors and singers in particular. In addition, pianists with sweaty hands from stress lose safe key access. In addition, the neuromuscular system can be affected by stress, which significantly reduces the quality of performance for instrumentalists, actors and athletes.

Instrumentalists suffer primarily from stress-related hand tremors, which reduces their performance quality. Even with fear of speaking before public, non-artistic performances such as a presentation, the perceived stress can have devastating consequences on performance. For example, the speaker can forget the text or experience a general blockage.

Once the perceived stress has led to an impairment in performance and a subsequent negative assessment by the observing public, a spiral of negative expectations of one’s own performance develops. Due to the selectivity of perception, those affected are henceforth reinforced in the negative assessment of their performance, since they only seem to accept criticism and hardly hear praise anymore. A social phobia develops.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Patients with stage fright suffer from mental and physical symptoms. All stage fright is a temporary state of mind in anticipatory stress situations. The sufferer’s body prepares itself to cope with the task at hand. The adrenaline level of those affected increases as a physiological reaction. Blood flow to the brain and muscles increases and the sufferer feels more alert. Reactivity increases.

The mental willingness to perform is activated. Clinically, acute stress sets in, which is accompanied by symptoms such as flushing, palpitations, tremors, irritability, tension and physical or emotional anxiety. In addition, stage fright can lead to a lack of concentration and forgetfulness.

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. For this reason, the symptoms of stage fright can differ from person to person. While some artists recognize the phenomenon as closely related to infatuation, others find it uncomfortable. As soon as stage fright develops into social phobia, other symptoms such as nausea, circulatory problems or abdominal pain often appear.

In extreme cases, stage fright can lead to fainting spells. In some places, the phenomenon has been likened to soldiers’ pre-battle cannon fever, known as a blood-hypertensive excitement of imminent danger.

Diagnosis & course of disease

Stage fright is clinically relevant only when it develops into a habitual occurrence, physically intolerable symptoms, or a social phobia.

It is also diagnostically relevant in the context of extreme fear of failure and depression, low self-esteem or a socially impairing anxiety disorder. The boundary between stage fright, which is perceived positively, and stage fright, which is perceived as negatively affecting, is fluid. Only the latter form has clinical relevance.


The complications associated with the so-called stage fright are, in the case of an expression outside the area of ​​​​a social phobic variant, at best of an embarrassing nature. Due to the increased heart rate and the perceived stress, body control can be lost, which can be seen in spontaneous erections, the uncontrolled loss of urine or poor speech.

These things often increase the stage fright and lead to a form of fear of performing or speaking in those affected. A complication arises from this only if this means for those affected that they can no longer fulfill their social or professional obligations as a result. If a fear of stage fright develops because of the expectation of failure or being exposed to high levels of stress in such situations, the problem is more serious.

This can lead to an impairment of self-perception, since the idea of ​​not satisfying the audience prevails in the mind of those affected. In some cases complexes can develop. Purely physical complications arise from substances used by people with stage fright to overcome it.

For example, excessive use of beta-blockers can lead to heart damage and depressive moods. Alcohol and other substances that may be habitually taken before performances have the potential for dependency and other complications.

When should you go to the doctor?

Ordinary stage fright, which many people experience in appropriate situations, is not a reason for a doctor’s visit. The reason for this is that a slight tension, possible inhibitions and other symptoms do not necessarily lead to failure. Instead, most people still manage to master exam and performance situations – even though they may feel uncomfortable before and during them. Those affected are still fully functional despite their slight fear.

The situation is different when stage fright severely restricts the person concerned. This is the case, for example, when the symptoms make themselves felt physically, stage fright really prevents you from carrying out an activity, or there is a fear of fear. The last case means a heavy burden for the person concerned. The sole fear of the symptoms of stage fright leads to a very stressful state and fear of failure. Accordingly, the transition to sociophobia is fluid, which can mean additional restrictions.

As the likelihood of consuming addictive substances to compensate increases with increasing fear, a visit to the doctor is advisable at this point at the latest. Depending on the fact that it is an anxiety disorder, psychotherapists or other psychologically trained people are the right place to go.

Treatment & Therapy

Patients with stage fright have a major advantage when it comes to treatment compared to patients with most other anxiety disorders. While the primary cause for most other anxiety patients is obscure and has to be therapeutically unearthed, the primary cause of stage fright is already known. There are numerous coping strategies available.

The patients should evaluate their tension and all related changes as positive and as meaningful and beneficial. This can be done using cognitive behavioral therapy, which gives the patient a new way of evaluating their previous experiences. Psychotherapeutic or psychologically accompanied therapy in connection with stage fright is only necessary if the condition causes blockages and triggers actual fear.

As long as stage fright does not become pathological, stage artists in particular can compensate for it by enjoying their work and expecting admiration. Through self-reflective techniques, mental techniques and body-oriented procedures as well as breathing and relaxation methods, stage fright among artists can usually be overcome without therapy, for example with the Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais Method.

On the other hand, fear of exams can often be countered by efficient management, for example by frequent confrontation with competitions, competitive situations, tests of courage. A systematic audit organization also makes sense in this context. In the case of stage fright before sports situations, the greatest attention should be paid to risk management.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis for stage fright and test anxiety depends on several factors. Particularly noteworthy is the aspect of whether you are being treated professionally or not. If this is the case, the chance of permanently overcoming stage fright is relatively good. However, there is no guarantee that you will be free from test anxiety forever. Relapses are possible and unsuccessful therapies also occur.

But even without therapy, there are chances of recovery. This is where women have an advantage over men. Women are more likely to talk about their problems than men. Men often find it difficult to admit personal problems to themselves and to others. This suppresses the problem and stage fright can even worsen. In any case, it is helpful to talk to others about exam anxiety and possibly also to exchange ideas with those who are also affected. As a result, coping strategies are exchanged and emotional crises are dealt with more quickly.

Stage fright is a condition that rarely goes away suddenly. The prognosis improves with every situation that is dealt with, because it is an ongoing learning process, both for the psyche and for the body.


Trying to prevent stage fright completely makes little sense. Instead, stage fright should be recognized and used as an opportunity to improve performance.


Successful therapy against stage fright does not mean that it cannot occur again and again. Then it is important to always have mentally present the elements of the treatment of stage fright that have already been used. In this way, stage fright is effectively combated again.

These measures usually have different effects depending on the individual. These include certain rituals that usually require very little mental effort to get used to. In any case, these should be trained so intensively that they are available at any time. This is particularly the case in situations that have recently been perceived as stressful and that may be linked to stage fright.

The knowledge of how to relax the mind and body, acquired in training against this ailment, should also be readily available. This includes conscious and relaxation-promoting breathing. This is highly advisable in the area of ​​aftercare for stage fright, as it can be used again with minimal effort.

Appropriate preparation for the fact that the use of ways of aftercare for stage fright can become necessary at any time is therefore advisable. Techniques developed individually in advance are also included, and they can vary greatly from one another. Furthermore, when it comes to aftercare for stage fright, the top priority is that all measures must be well trained.

You can do that yourself

Stage fright is quite normal in certain situations and can even be seen as positive if it doesn’t get out of hand and thus affect performance. Allowing yourself to feel nervous can be the first step in overcoming it. Those affected should be aware that their fellow human beings usually hardly notice small insecurities and rarely perceive them as negative.

Many people feel safer before a public appearance or an exam if they replay the feared situation several times in their minds beforehand. This pictorial idea, also called visualization, is repeated until the positive process has been completely internalized and the exercise can be ended with a positive feeling. Relaxation and breathing exercises immediately before the event help to reduce nervousness to a tolerable level. Bach flowers or homeopathic remedies can help to achieve inner peace. From alcoholHowever, it is not recommended as an anti-anxiety agent: Even small amounts reduce concentration, and excessive amounts can result in a complete loss of control.

Stress and hectic can also increase stage fright: Before the performance, enough time should be planned for final preparations and relaxation exercises. If you are very nervous, a short walk in the fresh air can be useful. In the long run, positive self-talk helps build self – confidence.

Stage Fright