School Phobia

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr. Erdem Beyoglu, MD.

School phobia, also called school refusal or school avoidance, is a form of severe anxiety associated with going to school. School phobia is a complex syndrome that can be influenced by the child’s temperament, the situation at school, and the family situation.

School Phobia or School Refusal as an anxiety disorder related to separation anxiety. Children refuse to attend school because doing so causes uncomfortable feelings, stress, anxiety, or panic. Many children develop physical symptoms, such as dizziness, stomachache, or headache , when they are made to go to school. School avoidance is a milder form of refusal to attend school. With school avoidance, the child usually tries to avoid a particular situation, such as taking a test or changing clothes for physical education, rather than avoiding the school environment altogether.

About a third of all students facing school phobia have no other disorders. You can easily have school phobia even if you don’t feel overly anxious about any other life situation.

The causes of school phobia vary. Younger children might deeply crave the security of time spent with caregivers and suffer from separation anxiety. Adolescents might also suffer from separation anxiety.

School phobia commonly grows into school refusal, in which students’ anxieties and fears are so severe, that they refuse to attend school. The prospect of going to school might make students feel dizzy, sense back pains, or cry uncontrollably.

Anxieties can become so severe that they experience panic attacks or inflict harm upon themselves.


Some Tips for Parents

Treating school phobia as a mental health issue and not a passing phase is important to overcome it.

Parents can implement strategies at home and talk with a mental health professional to help their teens create a plan that works best for them.

Overcoming school phobia isn’t a hopeless endeavor, but it does require a team effort. If parents, teachers and mental health professionals work together methodically, Here are some tips for you;

  1. Have a non-threatening conversation
    A honest conversation can reveal things going on in school or other stressors that are causing severe anxieties. You should refrain from judging, and instead share your own experiences and sympathy, and discuss ways to deal with the issue.


  1. Practice relaxation exercises
    Meditation, deep breathing and visualization are excellent tools to reduce anxiety. Help your teenager find music, books, or guided meditations that they can listen to every day before school or even during school.


  1. Keep teens involved in activities
    Encourage them to stay involved in their weekly activity groups and other social activities.


  1. Communicate with teachers and administrators
    Be sure teachers and administrators know about the situation and communicate ways that they can be active supporters.


  1. Access help from a mental health professional
    Mental health professionals can help you evaluate and recommend the best course of treatment. A full evaluation by a mental health professional will also show whether or not teens are suffering from a greater mental health issue, such as social anxiety disorder. Finally, mental health professionals can help you, along with your teen’s school officials, create a re-entry plan for school, if necessary.