Stage Fright

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Stage Fright
Stage Fright
Video: Stage Fright
Video: STAGE FRIGHT | Season 1 | Ep. 1: “Crash” 2023, February

Stage Fright

A certain tension before a performance is part of it. Stage fright that is perceived as positive has the effect that the artist is wide awake on stage and motivated to give his / her best. It usually disappears at the beginning of a performance. Quite a few, however, suffer from severe fear of performance, which is felt to be deeply tormenting. It is a phenomenon from the spectrum of anxiety disorders that affects many, but is often taboo and hidden…


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The fear of performing is a constant, tormenting companion for many artists. It is estimated that every second musician suffers from severe stage fright. The demands on your own perfection are enormous - every wrong tone is perceived as embarrassment and a catastrophe. Actors generally suffer a little less from fear of performance - perhaps because they can usually improvise more easily when they fail and their ability does not depend on the smooth functioning of their fine motor skills - as is the case with most musicians.


The reasons for the development of fear of performing are manifold and often reinforce each other: Many performing artists were confronted with high demands of their parents even in childhood. They have developed into perfectionist, ambitious people - be it through parental pressure, be it due to their own disposition or a combination thereof. They are very strict with themselves and quarrel with every mistake - sometimes even after years. As a reflection of our social structure, the school system can play another important role in the development of fear of performance: In school, not only is knowledge imparted, but there is also a high level of test pressure, which can subsequently be a breeding ground for fear of failure.Achievement and rivalry thinking are part of a highly goal-oriented environment in which learning a healthy error culture is not on the curriculum. In addition, entrance examinations, exams and selection rounds in the artistic environment are often extremely demanding and there is high competitive pressure. All of this increases the fear of failure and - at least supposedly - embarrassment in front of the audience and colleagues. Stage fright can be so pronounced that live performances are avoided altogether or canceled at short notice.All of this increases the fear of failure and - at least supposedly - embarrassment in front of the audience and colleagues. Stage fright can be so pronounced that live performances can be avoided entirely or canceled at short notice.All of this increases the fear of failure and - at least supposedly - embarrassment in front of the audience and colleagues. Stage fright can be so pronounced that live performances are avoided altogether or canceled at short notice.

Furthermore, people who are classified as highly sensitive can be more affected by fear of performance, as they tend to overstimulate with loss of control due to their stimulus processing system.


Appearance anxiety manifests itself as acute stress with typical symptoms, e.g.

  • increased heart rate,
  • Blush,
  • Tremble,
  • Tension,
  • Irritability,
  • physical and emotional anxiety,
  • Lack of concentration,
  • Forgetfulness,
  • Diarrhea.

Some people suffer from panic attacks with rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, stomach pain and profuse sweating up to real fear of death. Every artist has his / her specific symptoms, for example: singers lose their voices, wind players suffer from dry mouth, violinists shake their bow hands, actors forget their text.

To make matters worse, severe stage fright is a big taboo subject that is rarely talked about openly. This means that those affected are often left alone with their situation.

Some artists get used to being on stage, with others, however, the stage fright gets worse over the years. Many resort to alcohol, drugs and beta-blockers, which are supposed to reduce the racing heart and calm you down. At some point the point may even be reached at which it becomes impossible to practice a profession.


First, as part of a detailed anamnesis, it is clarified whether the person concerned has physical problems related to the anxiety symptoms that need treatment. Subsequently, it is determined, among other things, whether relatives also suffered from anxiety in the past or whether there were depressive illnesses in the family.

The next step is to examine which negative thoughts and inner images trigger the fear in concrete terms. Often they are memories of unpleasant experiences far in the past, such as a botched assignment in the school orchestra. Often there is less fear of negative reactions from the audience than of criticism from colleagues.


Relaxation exercises, which can also be used or learned in psychotherapy, are a way to more serenity and inner peace. In addition, clinical-psychological advice and treatment can be used or other psychotherapeutic methods can make it easier to deal with fear as part of therapy. Behavioral therapeutic methods, mindfulness training and specific stress management techniques play a major role here. For example, we work with the patient to convert negative feelings and thoughts into positive energies. Above all, it is important to learn to be able to forgive yourself for mistakes. Training in self-esteem is helpful, for example with the help of a diary in which any positive response to the work is recorded.Special visualization exercises help to train appearances in the imagination and enable imaginary images to be actively positively changed. Regular practice of performances in front of an audience can also be helpful, for example on a small scale, so that the musician learns to deal with his / her symptoms and the body can better process stress-inducing factors by means of habituation effects.

See Stress and Recovery for more information.

Whom can I ask?

In the event of severe stage fright, the following contact points can offer support:

  • Resident specialist in psychiatry,
  • Cash outpatient clinic or hospital outpatient clinic for psychiatry,
  • Psychotherapist,
  • Doctor with advanced training in psychotherapeutic medicine,
  • clinical psychologist.

You can first contact your general practitioner and use them to find specific points of contact.

For more information, see Health Search.

How are the costs going to be covered?

When making use of psychotherapy, full cost coverage is possible in the health insurance institutions' own or contractually bound institutions, as well as in institutions that are subsidized by the public sector. In these cases, however, there is the option of paying a deductible.

Otherwise, you have the option of applying for a subsidy from the health insurance company if you are undergoing psychotherapy with a resident psychotherapist. If this is approved, the health insurance provider will reimburse you for part of the fee paid to the psychotherapist. However, the health insurance carriers only provide a subsidy if there is a so-called disease-related disorder. You can find out more about reimbursement on the website of the social security agency.

Clinical-psychological diagnosis is a service provided by social health insurance, the costs of which are borne by the health insurance providers. You have to bear the costs for treatment or advice from resident clinical psychologists, as this is not a benefit from health insurance. For more information about visiting a doctor, see Costs and Deductibles.

You can find further information on "Psychotherapy on sickness certificate", cost subsidies and addresses of resident psychotherapists under Services.

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