Fear Factor

September 08, 2008 1 min read

In Britain, doctors and psychologists are seeing a significant increase in school phobia, reports London weekly The Observer. Alternately known as “school refusal,” the disorder causes students to experience severe anxiety while at school, manifesting itself in physical symptoms like vomiting, headaches, fatigue, and panic attacks. One in every 20 students in the U.K. is estimated to suffer from the disorder.

Similar figures exist for students in the U.S.—between 2 and 5 percent of school-age children are affected by school phobia, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. The disorder is common at times of transition, according to the ADAA, often affecting students between 5 and 6 and 10 an 11. Disorder-inducing stressors include separation anxiety, concerns about academic performance, and fear of a teacher or bully.

“It’s like you are just frozen,” a student named Mark told The Observer. “I felt allergic to the building. I didn’t want to kill myself or anything, but I didn’t want to go to school. It’s like you just can’t, my legs wouldn’t work and it made me sick.”

Allowing students with school phobia to remain home only reinforces the behavior, according to The Houston Chronicle. The Texas paper offers a number of suggestions to help ease a child’s anxiety—morning routines, rewards for attending class, and therapy if the condition persists.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.