Skip to main content
Sage Alliance Blog Post



School Phobia: What It Is and How to Treat It

School Phobia: What It Is and How to Treat It

We are all familiar with some of the phobias that exist: hydrophobia (fear of water), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), and other similar fears, yet many adults have trouble accepting that, for some teens, the object of their particular irrational fear may be school. In recent years, however, psychologists and researchers have been speaking out about a surprisingly large number of teens who suffer from a legitimate psychiatric fear of going to school. 

When teenagers suffer from school phobia, they are not simply avoiding going to class because of normal stress or incomplete homework. For those young adults, the thought of going to school causes an involuntary reaction of overwhelming fear and anxiety. If left untreated, school phobia can seriously damage students’ performance in school, or even their ability to graduate and learn necessary social skills. 

What Is School Phobia? 

The most important thing to remember about school phobia is that it is not a rational fear. Like any other phobia, school phobia causes an extreme fearful reaction in the person who suffers from it that is completely uncontrollable. A person cannot be cured of their phobia through scolding, punishment, or positive reinforcement, as those incentives do not address the issues that are causing the irrational fear. 

School phobia can be fear of attending school in general, or fear of a specific class or subject that a student is reflexively frightened of having to attend or complete work for. School phobia can manifest in several ways, including: 

  • A student claiming they are afraid of going to school. 

  • A student having an extreme negative emotional reaction when the time for school arrives. 

  • Withdrawal, anxiety, anger, or sadness at school, or when the topic of school or a specific subject is brought up. 

It bears repeating that school phobia goes beyond normal teenage anxieties and fears associated with attending class. School phobia is a fear of school so intense that a teen can no longer function normally when attending school, or which has seriously damaged his or her academic standing. 

What Can Be Done About School Phobia? 

The primary method of treating school phobia is to address the underlying fears or issues that have made the phobia manifest. It is important to remember, however, that the causes of school phobia may not be what seem like the most obvious answers. Many adults and teachers automatically assume that children’s fear of the classroom is caused by their inability to learn the material. In reality, a teen’s fear of school may be the manifestation of other issues, such as bullying at school, social anxiety, mental health issues, learning disorders, or other problems that a teen is failing to cope with, which then lead to an irrational fear of schooling. 

The first step in addressing the underlying issues that have resulted in school phobia is to find out what those issues are. Parents should speak with teachers and school administrators to see if they have noticed anything that might point to a deeper issue, as well as encourage them to find ways to accommodate the students so that they are more comfortable at school. While parents might also be able to find out this information from their son or daughter (or their friends), it is important to remember not to press the issue too hard or to challenge the fear. Instead, try asking simple questions that could lead them to reveal pertinent information about the matter. 

Most importantly, teens suffering from school phobia need professional treatment to help them learn to manage their fear, and to help treat the underlying issues. School counselors, psychologists, and other experts in behavioral therapy can help with this. If a regular school environment is too overwhelming for the student, it may also be time to transfer him or her to a therapeutic school that is better equipped to help them manage their fears. 

Sage Day therapeutic school specializes in providing an education to teens and children who struggle to succeed because of behavioral and/or psychological issues. Learn more by calling 877-887-8817 today. 


Want to be notified of new articles and resources from Sage Alliance? Click here to submit your email and opt into our newsletter.