Common School Phobia Causes In 2019

school phobia causes in a teenager

Common School Phobia Causes In 2019

The term “school phobia” was first coined in 1941 to describe a severe state of emotional distress that led to children’s absence from school. While it was thought of as a syndrome back then, school phobia is now thought of as a symptom of a deeper problem, usually related to anxiety.

School phobia is the fear that commonly prompts the behavior of school refusal when a child or teen avoids going to school entirely.

School Phobia Causes

So what causes school phobia? Some school phobia causes haven’t changed since the term was first recognized. But, as children and teens’ social interactions evolve alongside technology and education, some new causes have become more prevalent.

Changes In Home Life

A major shift in children’s family dynamics can cause school phobia. Divorce, death, or a move can create such a massive change that the prospect of going to school can incite a great amount of fear. Children might cling to the comfort of the parent at home or the small amount of stability that is left, fearing that they’ll lose it for good if they go to school.

Extended Breaks

It’s not unusual for an extended break, such as summer vacation, a long winter holiday, or even an absence due to a protracted illness, to cause school phobia. Children can become accustomed to the freedom and the connection to home and comfort, so the idea of returning to school might incite anxiety. 

Or, if children have been absent from school because of illness or injury, they could fear standing out or failing upon their return.


In recent years, bullying and cyberbullying have received increased national attention. 

The effects of bullying can lead to numerous mental health issues, including severe distress and anxiety, which can be associated with school phobia. Children or teens who are the victims of bullying might feel overwhelmed just thinking about encountering their bullies at school; as a result, they can sense extreme anxiety about attending school at all.

Learning Disabilities & Academic Pressure

A struggle to perform academically is a prime culprit of school phobia. But parents might learn that their children’s school phobia is caused by more than a fear about doing well on a test or acing a class; it might be about coping with a learning disability or managing a big workload. 

For example, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can often coexist with anxiety disorders, and it can be associated with school phobia. 

Additionally, mounting academic pressures to perform well in numerous AP classes, extracurricular activities and clubs can cause a young person to experience extreme self-doubt and fear that he or she will ever be able to meet the standard.

Anxiety Disorders

Many diagnosable anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or separation anxiety disorder (SAD), can be related to school phobia. 

These cause children and teens to have unreasonably high levels of worry and nervousness about certain things and situations, including their performance, interaction with others, separation from caregivers and more.

Symptoms Of School Phobia

Although some causes have evolved over time, symptoms of this intense fear have largely remained the same. If your child complains of these symptoms over a period, it’s best to consult a doctor to rule out any real illness.

However, if an illness is ruled out, and you notice that the sensations generally dissipate when children are allowed to stay at home, your child could be presenting symptoms of school phobia.

Symptoms of school phobia include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Headaches and backaches
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Panic attacks, including rapid pulse or difficulty breathing
  • Temper tantrums
  • Emotional outbursts

How Can My Child Overcome School Phobia?

School phobia, which itself can be a symptom of school refusal, can be overcome with the right strategies and support. As parents, you might be able to coach your child through the process at home, but you must work with your child’s school to help.

Depending on the severity of your child’s case, you might need to seek the support of a mental health professional. With this support, your child can get a full assessment, and together, you can learn the most effective way to overcome this obstacle in your child’s journey.

Learn More By Using Our School Refusal Assessment Scale