School fear or Didaskaleinophobia is the fear of school or going to school. It is known that almost 2 to 5% of children who attend school have this phobia. Didaskaleinophobia is derived from the Greek Didasko, which means to teach, and Phobos, which means aversion or fear. Another common term for fear of school is Scholionophobia, derived from the Latin socius for “to know.”
Children are often known to “skip class” or miss school. However, children who do so are not always afraid of school – anger or boredom are the most common reasons behind their behavior. Mark Twain’s famous character Tom Sawyer also played hooky at school but did not suffer from the fear of school phobia. Instead, he had ‘better things to do like finding outdoor adventures.
In the case of Didaskaleinophobes, the mere thought of going to school can trigger a panic attack. Most psychologists believe that such a phobia is typically more common in children ages 4 to 6. This is often since they are leaving the safety of their homes for the first time. Diagnosis of this phobia is often tricky as the young child cannot express his fears accurately.
Causes of school fear
As stated before, the diagnosis of Didaskaleinophobia often requires an in-depth analysis, as the young child may not fear school. Instead, it is the fear of bullies or riding the school bus, a skittish dog on the way to school, or a rigorous teacher that may be causing the problem.
- Children between the ages of 4 to 6 who suffer from a fear of school generally have separation anxiety.
- They fear that they will never see their mother (or a loved one) again after school.
- A negative or traumatic event (parental divorce, death, etc.) at this time can also reinforce the fear of school, where the mind recreates the phobic response over and over again as a defense mechanism against more traumatic news.
- Some high school kids (ages 13-15) may also have Didaskaleinophobia.
- This is when schoolwork tends to increase tremendously, and students often have to deal with complex subjects in math, science, etc. At the same time, their bodies are also undergoing changes associated with adolescence and puberty, and naturally, it can be complicated with their raging hormones.
- The general unsafe school environment (recent reports of children bringing weapons and other violent objects to school), bullying, or moving to a new school (called school refusal) are other factors that can trigger fear of violence—school phobia.
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- The fear of school phobia manifests itself in various physical and emotional symptoms.
- Younger children may cry, scream, or have an anxiety attack when they think they have to go to school.
- They pretend to be sick to avoid school.
- Some also tend to cry all night before.
- This can be very difficult and frustrating for parents, as they can often help the child relieve overwhelming anxiety.
- When at school, the child may have constant thoughts about death (especially the end of loved ones). This can make them too clingy, such that he/she can constantly follow / her parents around the house.
- Other phobias can also be seen in the child, including fear of being left alone, fear of the dark, fear of monsters/ghosts, etc.
- Dizziness, heart palpitations, dry mouth, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, and panic attack are other symptoms of Didaskaleinophobia.
- Teens may not talk about their phobia; however, they will display avoidance behavior such as making up false illnesses or excuses, etc. and are scared of school.
- Depression is a common symptom of phobia.
- The phobia can affect the whole family, not just the individual who suffers.
Superior to Didaskaleinophobia
- If you are a parent whose child is suffering from the fear of school phobia, rest assured that it is an entirely treatable condition.
- It can be extremely frustrating and overwhelming to see your child in distress every day but remember that younger children are more malleable than adults, so therapy is very likely to succeed.
- Medications provide much-needed relief from a child’s anxiety; however, these should be taken only under the guidance of experts and only in severe cases.
- On the other hand, it is essential to remember that the drugs do not overcome the phobia but only reduce the symptoms.
- It is vital that, as a parent, you support the child during this period.
- It is essential to find out why the child is afraid of school and, if necessary, even talk to the teacher or school nurse regarding the phobia.
- Positive visualization, music, deep breathing, and other relaxation tools are constructive (especially in teens) in coping with the fear of school phobia
Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.