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Hyperventilation: A Correlate and Predictor of Debilitating Performance Anxiety in Musicians

Suzanna Widmer, Ashley Conway, Stanley Cohen, Peter Davies
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 12 Number 4: Page 97 (December 1997)

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Abstract: The role of hyperventilation in musical performance has not previously been systematically assessed in musicians. Since hyperventilation is often a cofactor in anxiety problems or panic attacks, a positive correlation between hyperventilation in performance (HVP) and music performance anxiety (MPA) was hypothesized. A questionnaire study was therefore carried out with 141 musicians, composed of full-time music students (n = 70) and professional orchestra musicians (n = 71). MPA was determined by employing the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Personal Report of Confidence as a Performer; hyperventilation was assessed by the Nijmegen Questionnaire. As anticipated, a positive correlation between MPA and HVP could be found (r = 0.71). 30.5% of all the musicians were identified as hyperventilators in performance, implying that they reached crucial levels of HVP. In the highly anxious group, the proportion of hyperventilators in performance increased to 69.5%. Altogether, the females were about 3 times more likely than the males to suffer from a hyperventilation problem in a performance situation (HVP) or generally in life (HVG). The findings suggest that debilitating MPA seems often to be associated with an underlying hyperventilation disorder, particularly among female performers. Implications for the conceptualization of MPA are discussed

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