Music listening in the treatment of anxiety disorders: conceptualisation and proof of concept
Spaeth, Ellen Catherine
This thesis presents the development and implementation of a proof-of-concept study testing music listening’s capacity to reduce subjective and physiological symptoms of anxiety in a situation analogous to an anxiety disorder. This interdisciplinary thesis draws on both clinical psychology and music psychology literature to present a conceptualisation for music listening in the treatment of anxiety disorders. In preparation for the proof-of-concept study, criteria for optimal stimuli were synthesised from the music psychology literature, two optimal stimuli were selected, and an anxiety induction protocol was developed to model the worry-based nature of an anxiety disorder. The two stimuli selected were ‘The Swan’, from Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saëns, and a combination of ‘Dawn’ and ‘The Secret’, by Dario Marianelli, from the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice. In the anxiety induction protocol, participants were told that they would be asked to give a presentation in front of other participants and experimenters (whom they had not yet seen), and that this presentation would be assessed. While they awaited the presentation, participants were asked to do a mental visualisation exercise, which involved thinking about any previous public speaking experience that had made them feel nervous. Participants were given headphones with either music or white noise while they completed this exercise. The proof-of-concept study was conducted with a general population, with participants (n = 58) randomised to listen to either music or white noise during the anxiety induction protocol. Subjective anxiety (as per the short form of the state scale of the State Trait Anxiety Inventory, or STAI-SF) and physiological arousal (as per pulse rate and skin resistance) were measured. Physiological arousal measures were taken for one minute at baseline (time 1), for one minute when the participant had been introduced to the task and were reading through the mental visualisation exercise (time 2), and while the participants completed the mental visualisation exercise, and music or white noise was playing (time 3). Subjective anxiety scores were obtained immediately after each physiological time point. Results showed that subjective anxiety and physiological arousal rose significantly in response to the anxiety induction protocol, and that subjective anxiety and pulse rate decreased significantly in response to the music but remained the same for those who listened to white noise.
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