Exam phobia in schoolchildren | Daily News

Exam phobia in schoolchildren

A large number of schoolchildren undergo exam related fears. Sometimes these fears are overwhelming. It can cause low performance and failure in exams. As a matter of fact, most of the children who are shattered by exam phobia have a good IQ and positive motivation. They show favourable performances in the classroom. But when they go to the exam these students become highly stressed, have fear and they are unable to face the exam with confidence.

Students with exam phobia feel extremely fearful and unsure. Following the increased fear they are unable to grasp the theoretical material and find it difficult to remember. Exam phobia is a form of anxiety condition which is common among schoolchildren. On the verge of the exam, the fear increases and some manifest psychosomatic ailments such as abdominal pains, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, tremors, etc, which have no apparent medical basis. Some students with exam phobia manifest following anxiety related features during the exam period.

* Unable to relax
* Dizzy or lightheaded
* Heart pounding or racing
* Unsteadiness
* Feelings of choking
* Hands trembling
* Fear of losing control
* Difficulty breathing or chest pain
* Indigestion or discomfort in the stomach
* Feeling faintish
* Feelings of unreality or disorientation
* Amnesia or difficulty in remembering studied material

Self revealed story by Miss H

When I was doing my O/L exam I had an unexplainable fear and anxiety. I was not a mediocre of course. I worked very hard at school and at home. I could understand the study material when the teacher was explaining. My teachers and parents thought that I was a bright student who would perform well on the exam. But one month before the exam I had headaches and loose motions. My memory was fading. I could not memorize the material that I had learned. I was extremely afraid of facing the exam. At nights I could not sleep. I was weeping and thinking of giving a medical certificate without doing the exam.

Master L and his fear

Two days before my A/L Chemistry paper I was confused. I could not recall the stuff that I had studied for the exam. I was frightened and helpless. The chemistry formulas were roaming my mind. It was an unpleasant intrusion. I thought my life was over. Two years hard work and all the hopes my parents had about me would go for nothing if I had failed the exam. I was blank, totally blank. I did not know what to do.

How Miss K fought her fear

Miss K was a bright student who had lots of hopes for the A/L exam. Her parents and the school teachers were so sure of her that she would enter the university at the first attempt. This premature hope for her became a big burden for her. Sometimes she had irrational feelings about her destiny. She often asked herself what my parents and the teachers would say if I get a lower grade on the exam. This very feeling gave her fear and anxiety. Miss K had low appetite, suffered from headaches and experienced many sleepless nights. Sometimes she was unable to recall the studied material and write correct answers to the past papers. Eventually, her fear was liquidated via counselling and psychotherapy. Imagery techniques helped her to simulate the artificial examination room atmosphere and build more and more confidence. Relaxation therapies reduced her outpouring anxiety. Miss K was able to pass the exam with excellent marks and today she is a Medical student.

Treatment of exam phobia

Counselling and psychotherapy are indicated in treating exam phobia. Counsellors who work with children and adolescents who suffer from exam phobia may be required to use effective counselling strategies to help them. These interventions may be required to allow the students to achieve a greater academic autonomous functioning ability and face the exam with confidence. Empathetic listing to the student would ease his difficulties and create a growth promoting atmosphere. The client will begin to trust his abilities and challenge the fright.

In psychotherapy, it is necessary to establish a positive and functioning relationship with the therapist. The therapist should help the client to become consciously aware and able to express their anxiety and fear about exam and performance situations. The therapist should direct the client to fight his fear. Hence the student gets more confidence to face the exam. Simulating exam atmosphere in therapeutic sessions the fears and stresses can be reduced gradually. Implementation of positive self-talk to reduce or eliminate the anxiety is vital. Instead of negative coping skills (avoidance of the exam, expressing self-directed anger, blaming others) healthy coping skills must be taught. While working with the student the therapist must increase client’s participation in educational activities, combating fear and building confidence. Appropriate relaxation and diversion activities would decrease anxiety levels.

Therefore relaxation techniques (especially breathing techniques) are indicated in exam phobia. To enhance the therapeutic purpose parents/guardians and teachers support should be taken.

Some therapists perform Hypnotherapy to reduce the fear. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness and heightened responsiveness to suggestions. During the hypnotic sessions, positive suggestions are given to build confidence and illuminate the exam fear. The modern research indicates that EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing are one of the effective modes of psychotherapy that can treat phobias successfully. These therapies should be performed by qualified and trained professionals.

Role of medication

Some children who suffer from exam phobia go into depression. Depression can cause negative self-image, low motivation, difficulty in concentrating and remembering things that would affect the learning process. Therefore depression must be managed effectively. Sometimes depression and anxiety go hand in hand and students find difficult to cope. If the anxiety level is high and difficult to control anti-anxiolytic or antidepressants are prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner. These medications combined with psychological interventions accelerate the recovery process.

Exam phobia is a self-damaging factor which negatively affects the students and their performances. The student is unable to give is maximum productivity and the end result would be critical. Usually, exam phobia is a slowly developing factor and sometimes early signs of physical and mental fatigue, irritability; difficulty in concentrating and negative self-talk can be detected by the teachers and parents. School counsellors can do a lot to help the students with exam phobia. Counselling and building confidence, educational therapy help the student to gather more strength and accomplish the exam.


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