Many children enjoy going to school, studying, and spending time with their friends. There are also children who do not enjoy the educational aspect of school life, but generally do well. They may just need a little encouragement and help with their studies. However, there are also children who are terrified of going to school. The mere thought of going there paralyzes them and leads to many health problems. It may be a symptom of social anxiety disorder. Learn more about what school phobia is!

However, it is important to mention that fear in schoolchildren is a more complex problem. For example, school phobia cannot be confused with separation anxiety, although separation anxiety as a separate problem can trigger school phobia.


School phobia is an anxiety disorder that belongs to the category of social phobias, which are classified as neurotic disorders. The colloquial term for this disorder in children is school neurosis. This term can be interpreted as an anxiety disorder manifested by somatic symptoms, not just school phobia.

This phobia is characterized by fear of going to school or of certain situations that occur there, such as social interactions with other students or speaking in front of the class. It can lead to avoidance behavior, such as truancy.

In severe cases, school phobia can have a significant impact on a child’s academic performance and social development. Treatment for school phobia typically involves psychological counseling and behavioral therapy. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed. With proper treatment, most children with school phobia will eventually be able to return to school and normal life.

What 'School Refusal' Means and How to Fix It - WSJ


The causes of school phobia can be very diverse. It can be a complicated problem where it is very difficult to determine specific reasons at first glance. Sometimes, they are very complex issues and are composed of deeper problems – for the child and for those in the family.

A child takes cues from their family, and if those cues are unhealthy or incorrect, the child will absorb them as well. After all, there is no other comparison. Children observe their immediate environment and mimic the behavior of their parents. Therefore, when dealing with a child with social anxiety disorder, it is often necessary to work through family problems that have grown and had a negative impact on the child and other family members.

However, what are the specific reasons why a child begins to suffer from school phobia?

Social anxiety in children

School phobia can be a result of social anxiety. This anxiety in children can arise before the age of six – although it can develop later under the influence of various events in the child’s life. A child who suffers from social anxiety disorder may have a good, even great, relationship with their family and loved ones whom they often see at home. However, people outside this inner circle can cause anxiety and fear in the child. The child has reduced social skills, which sets them apart from their peers in this regard.

New social situations, the need to talk to someone, spending time with peers, or in places with many other people can cause a child to cry, be a source of enormous stress and unpleasant somatic symptoms. The child may experience stomach or headache pains, shortness of breath, tremors in their voice and hands, flushing or dizziness.

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety in children develops in early childhood, and its manifestations are often dramatic, as many parents can confirm. It can start to show as early as two years old, although statistically it is most common when a child starts kindergarten or school. The child does not want to be separated from their parents, and the most common fear is the prospect of being separated from their mother.

This is more than just ordinary anxiety. It is a strong, paralyzing fear of separation. It can even lead to the onset of very strong, intense panic attacks. Separation anxiety can be a very serious reason why a child develops school phobia. School or kindergarten will be associated with children with stress, loneliness, and a lot of negative emotions.

Separation anxiety can also be caused by parents. Excessive control, excessive protection, or fighting with various anxiety disorders can be the cause.

Other reasons

There are many other causes of school phobia in children. Sometimes a child may be afraid of school. The school may begin to appear as a terrible place where they only go as a punishment.

School phobia can also be the result of too high demands placed on the child. If they are punished for lower academic performance, it can cause a lot of mental health problems as well as low self-esteem. The demands on the child must be realistic. Encourage your child to develop their interests and help them if they have problems with learning.

School phobia can also be triggered when a child has problems at school. They may be rejected by peers because of their appearance or disability, be a victim of social persecution, or ostracism.


School phobia is a specific phobia. This means that anxiety comes to the forefront when the child has to go to school. It also happens that fear of school begins in the child on Sunday because they are stressed and frightened by the prospect of Monday and the need to go to school. On Sunday, they may complain of various ailments to avoid going to school the next day.

What are the symptoms a child may experience with school phobia?



-panic attacks

-enormous increase in anxiety and stress at the thought of going to school



-stomach pain


-shortness of breath



-muscle twitching


-loss of appetite

-excessive appetite – eating out of stress

Somatic symptoms can be very serious and severe. However, school phobia is not just about these types of symptoms. A child with school phobia may isolate themselves in school, unable to make connections with other students or engage in conversation.


The treatment of school phobia usually involves psychotherapy aimed at identifying and changing the patient’s faulty thoughts and judgments, as well as their behavior and reactions. Relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, relaxation visualizations, and Jacobson’s muscle relaxation training are also used in therapy.

Therapy for school phobia should always take into account the child, family, and school, and family system therapy is often carried out. The role of the family is crucial, but the cooperation and assistance of the school should not be underestimated.

It is worth alerting teachers to the child’s problems. Rebuilt confidence can be shaken by illness or other difficulties, so it is good if the family and school can provide constant support to the child. Even after therapy is completed, it is good for the child to have someone to talk to about their concerns.

It also happens that in the case of a child with very severe symptoms of school phobia, pharmacotherapy is used. Its purpose is to help calm the symptoms to a level where treatment can begin.