Didaskaleinophobia is the fear of school or fear of going to school. Nearly 2 to 5% of school going children is known to be inflicted with such phobia. The word Didaskaleinophobia is derived from Greek Didasko meaning to teach and phobos meaning aversion or fear. Another common term for the fear of school is Scholionophobia which is derived from Latin scius for ‘knowing’.
Kids are often known to “play truant” or skip school. However, the kids who do so aren’t always afraid of school- anger or boredom are the more common reasons behind their behavior. Mark Twain’s famous character Tom Sawyer also often played hooky from school but he was not suffering from the fear of school phobia. Rather, he simply had ‘better things to do’ like finding adventures in the great outdoors.
In case of Didaskaleinophobes, the mere thought of going to school can trigger a full blown panic attack. Most psychologists believe that such phobia is typically more common in preschool aged children of 4-6 years. This is often due to the fact that they are leaving the safety of their homes for the first time. Often, diagnosis of this phobia is difficult as the young child is unable to express his fears accurately.
Causes of Didaskaleinophobia
As stated before, diagnosis of Didaskaleinophobia often requires in-depth analysis as the young child might not fear school per se; rather it is the fear of bullies or riding on the school bus, or a scary dog encountered on the way to school, or a particularly strict teacher that may be causing the problem.
Children between the ages of 4-6 who suffer from fear of school phobia usually have separation anxiety. They fear they might not see their mother (or a loved one) again after going to school. A negative or traumatic event (divorce of parents, death etc) at this time can also reinforce the fear of school where the mind recreates the phobic response over and over as a defense mechanism against further traumatic news.
Some middle-school children (13 to 15 year olds) might also suffer from Didaskaleinophobia. This is the time when school work tends to increase tremendously, and students often have to deal with difficult topics in Math, Science etc. At the same time, their bodies are also undergoing changes associated with adolescence and puberty and naturally it can be a difficult time with their raging hormones.
Overall unsafe school environment, (recent reports of children bringing guns and other violent objects to school), bullying, or changing to a new school (which is termed as school refusal) are some other factors which can trigger the fear of school phobia.
Symptoms of fear of school phobia
The fear of school phobia manifests itself in the form of various physical and emotional symptoms.
- Younger children might cry, scream, or have a full blown anxiety attack at the thought of having to go to school. They pretend to be sick in order to avoid school. Some also tend to cry all night before. This can be very trying and frustrating for parents as they are often unable to help the child relieve the overwhelming anxiety.
- The child might have constant thoughts about death/dying (especially the death of the loved ones) when it is in school. This might make him/her overly clingy so much so that s/he might shadow its parents constantly around the house. Other phobias may also be seen in the child, including the fear of being left alone, the fear of the dark, the fear of monsters/ghosts etc.
- Dizziness, heart palpitations, dry mouth, excessive sweating, breathlessness, nausea, and full blown panic attack are few other symptoms of Didaskaleinophobia.
- Teenagers might not speak about their phobia- however, they will show avoidance behavior like coming up with fake illness or excuses etc to avoid going to school. Depression is a common symptom of the phobia.
Needless to say: the phobia can affect the entire family and not just the suffering individual.
If you are a parent whose child is suffering from the fear of school phobia, rest assured that it is a completely treatable condition. It can be extremely frustrating and overwhelming to see the child in distress each day, but remember that younger children are more malleable than adults so therapy is very likely to be successful.
Medications do provide much needed relief from anxiety suffered by the child; however, these should be taken only under the guidance of experts and only in very severe cases. Moreover, it is essential to note that drugs do not overcome the phobia; rather they only reduce the symptoms. It is vital that, as a parent, you are supportive to the child during this period. It is important to find out why the child is afraid of school and if needed, even speak to the teacher or the school nurse regarding the phobia.
Positive visualization, music, deep breathing and other relaxation tools are all known to be very helpful (especially in teenagers) when coping with fear of school phobia.
Mr. DM Ruiters says
I’m a teacher. I am very impressed by this article and comments. Thank you.
I’m studying Childcare in High School and I’ve decided to do this phobia for it. I’m the only one in my class who knows what it is. In my opinion, I think more people should be aware of this as it can impact people in different ways. Many people don’t know about this and blame it on laziness or idleness, but that isn’t the case. I’m glad I researched about this fear and topic as it has made me more aware of the impact it can have on people and how severe someone can have it. I think many people should learn about this as it does have a big impact.
This is scary because I had this fear and would constantly have panic attacks and cry and make up so many excuses to not go to school. I wanted to skip school so badly that I tried to break my bones or poison myself or hide my books. My mom didn’t take it lightly and would always put me down for it. I did enjoy studying tho, I enjoyed hanging out with my friends, but it got worse and I ended up being suicidal and depressed and staying up all night every day preparing myself for school or either thinking of ways to get out of it. I dropped out because I couldn’t take it anymore and even then, I felt incredibly guilty because of my mom and cried a lot. I honestly wished I got help at least but my family just called me lazy and I never really thought much about it.
Blessed up buddy.. god is great.
I have a severe case of this, and I only wish I could go back in time and skip more school. I regret going to school with every fibre of my being.
I wasn’t a bad student, around a high B low A student, especially in music, but this didn’t make me happy.
I was a good kid. Never skipped school no matter how much I wanted to. I just sucked it up so I wouldn’t get yelled at or have the things that make me happy taken away from me.
Of course, all of that sucking up of emotions came out in a near-suicide attempt when I was 10 years old. Nobody knows about it.
I wish I could go back in time and rebel endlessly. It would get my parents to notice my extreme disdain for school and how unhealthy it was for me mentally. Dropping out of school was the best thing to happen to me.
I agree. School = bad. Boring. I have to write a report about it. This website was helpful.
I love school.
You could have done homeschooling. My son, 13 years old at the time had the same issue and after having to pick him up from school at least twice a week, I looked into homeschooling him. I work full time and since he is smart, he is homeschooling himself pretty much on his own. You could always go back and get your GED or online high school diploma. Now my son is extremely happy. Sorry about all that you went through and hope you feel better than before.
Oh my God.
Totally A. Realname says
I developed a phobia of school in elementary school. I’d much rather not go into the specifics, but it was extraordinarily difficult. For those of you who have too much fear to go each day, NEVER drop out of school! Instead, consider looking into distance education. I was in distance education for my middle school years and those years flew by so fast, it was amazing. Just remember to stay in school, kids :)
My daughter has been suffering from this for a year and shows all the symptoms of this but our family doctor says that there is no such thing and refuses to refer her to a psychiatrist.
Erin Church says
This phobia is very real. I suffered from it starting at age 12, 13, 14 and 15. I am now 31. Even just the thought of going to school made me cringe, sick to my stomach and panic. I can remember no one understanding this at that time, but my mother getting into trouble for me missing so much school. I was treated by a psychiatrist and medicated while pushed and passed through 6, 7, 8 and 9th grade. But when I reached 9th grade I turned 16 and dropped out. Never becoming comfortable with even the idea of school until I was in my 20’s taking GED classes. I was also bullied through some of these school years and that played a large part in my phobia nevertheless even with friends and my twin sister who was popular, I still couldn’t fathom the thought or idea of entering into that brick building they called school. I suggest if your daughter is still having anxiety about school that you try to raise her self confidence in any way you are able talk to her and figure out if bullying is a playing part as well. Try to understand her and let her know that you are trying to understand her. I wish you luck.
I feel what you feel now. I am 16 years and I am so frustrated.
I feel the same now as what you have felt.
I also feel the same. I don’t know what it is, just the idea of being in a classroom makes me sick. I hate speaking in front of the class when picked to answer questions. I dread school everyday and I still have another 3-4 years of it. I don’t think I’ll be able to do the work when it comes to my GCSE’s. I’m gonna panic.
Think about home education. My daughter started with this phobia. I now homeschool – we started on GCSE and couldn’t cope. Her dad died age 51. Then we now do functional skills, have a tutor level 1 and hopefully level 2 English and maths – then if we pass we will continue with an Apprenticeship in a different way – part time and I will pay for the Apprenticeship so she can do it less hours. We went to the best schools for paying. And kind nice friends. No bullying and teachers were great – she had a bad toe, poorly eye, sore ear etc. Every day it would start the night before and go on and on. As a mother I could not believe it!
Aw, I hope she’s ok.
Fearing school is not just boredom. it’s a deep rooted fear of school. Mine was rooted when I was 10 when I was humiliated by a teacher who seemed to take a lot of pleasure in humiliating me. I was shy before and hated speaking in class but she formed the basis of what my life would be. Feared school since then. I was also anxious about being stupid, and being perfect. I am just a fearful person and feel uncomfortable around other people. Skipped school just because I couldn’t engage in classes – the accent was always on talking in front of class of groups, answering questions and i always (quite rightly) felt that I was going to be humiliated, embarrassed, put down and bullied. Got “treated” in a residential unit, which consisted of me having to talk in group “therapy” and the “therapists” encouraging the other inmates to beat me up because I couldn’t express myself properly, and of course they weren’t interested in how i felt and my experiences. They just thought that I must have been sexually abused because there was no other reason for me to be the way I was. So of course ended up with no qualifications. School phobia is not boredom. I have ended up, because there was no one willing to listen to me and not see my reasons to go to school, in very boring jobs. I thought school was boring but believe me nothing compares to the boredom of working in jobs that don’t challenge you. Schoolwork is fascinating in comparison. It may not always be presented like that but you have to make an effort to see it. So please don’t say you can’t go to school because it’s boring. That is not what school phobia is. Maybe you are an anxious person and find it hard to cope but NOW is the time to be tackling that. I am 45 and the options you have as younger people were not available to me then, through official means or support through the internet so if you have a problem please make use of them. If you are bored it may be a symptom of depression and that may need looking into but please do not throw your life away because you’re bored now. You’ve got your life in front of you.
For me it’s that in 5th grade they barely had homework, where now in 6th grade, the work is overloading me so much to the point where I dont have time for self care.
The school decided to have a home visit and found that teacher had been stressing me so much that my white boards said keep doing your work! Etc. My bathroom had dust on it because I didnt use it. My laundry was piled because I didnt have time to do my laundry. Whenever I went to a friends house I would bring homework because it NEEDED to be done. Everytime I went into her class I would have a panic attack. People would come up to me and ask if I’m okay. When they told the teacher, SHE DID NOTHING ABOUT IT. She said “shes just being a drama queen. Get over yourself would ya?” Because of this one teacher I developed this fear of school. I never had lunch because I worked through it. I was always starving because I denied myself food until I got my work done, and if I did no work, no food. I never slept because I stayed up late doing my work. I was always miserable, and I still am. I’m with the same teacher, same school, nothing changed. My friends told me their stories and after hearing the same thing over and over again, I scheduled an appointment with the teacher and told her these things. She did nothing about. It overall sucks and I’ve almost committed suicide before because of it. My simply request is to just not follow my footsteps.
I’ve had a similar experience. I wasn’t ready for 8th Grade, as they suddenly piled so much work on top of me without any warning or preparation. I was working all the time, too, and I as well seriously contemplated suicide because of it. I was able to get my classes switched to easier classes after my parents found out what it was doing to me, but now I can’t even work on anything without fear, sadness, and exhaustion automatically pouring over me because of the memories. It’s a horrible thing. Please, if anyone else ends up being piled with work like this, it’s not worth it. Keep your happiness as your first priority. It isn’t worth sacrificing it for your grades.
saffi wang says
Oh my gosh. I am in year six and my teachers are annoying. Today I got detention for not tidying. I feel the same for you. I am so sad right now because two of my close (and only) friends are leaving school forever and I do not know how I am going to cope without them.
I think I actually have a phobia of teachers and school; today I had to have two friends stand next to me to support me while asking a teacher to get my ball back (she took it away because “it is distracting you from your work”).
I hope you don’t end up like me.
Not your fault in any way, we now have thousands of children who suffer linked to Autism and PDA, it causes terrible anxiety.
Worth looking at Pathological demand avoidance.
Jannah Vincent Loves Pandas says
Im 11 years old and in my last year of elementary school. I wasn’t scared of school until I watched a video. Which was called “Top 10 Dangerous Children” and one of them murdered a classmate since that classmate commented on her weight. I have the fear of death, and so…
I do have anxiety and I don’t like to go to school. I don’t like the environment, there is lots of pressure. I am 16 now and I still haven’t adapted the school habit. Because of this I consider myself worse and that effects my studies and future. I do have friends but not close enough, and I cry over it and prefer sleeping and I like to stay home and study rather than going to school and pretending that I understand everything. It’s been months and now I have been irregular. I am disappointing everyone and I don’t know why I am doing this. I consider myself as the worst kid now.
Mary Parker says
I have had this phobia since I can remember. I don’t know what it was and thought it was just me.
I still have it even on medication, I am 21, I dropped out of school then once I got help I tried going back when I was 19 to finish and still haven’t graduated.
Hello. I am 15. I have fear of school since a young age. And its worse now. I feel nauseous whenever i think about school. I can’t help it. I dont know a specific reason. i always end up crying whenever i think about school. I just want to cure this problem. I want to end this!
Brooke Marchant says
Hi, my son has had the same phobia right from Kindy through to high school, he is 15 now too, and the school has finally recognised it is in his best interest to pursue other avenues of learning to go into the work force, so he is now entering into a transition to work program, recommended to me by the school, where they will teach him more relevant training for entering the work force, or an apprenticeship etc, something he may be interested in and work towards other than the school environment. Perhaps that is something for you to consider also. My son is very bright but has never liked going to school. Hated the environment always, having anxiety attacks at the mere thought of having to go into school the next day. There are many people going through this now days. Mainstream schooling is not for everyone. Some people may find it easier to learn as an adult entry student instead as you can re enter at University as an adult entry student, if over 18yrs old, to finish schooling and further your education at any time. I think society places too much pressure on young people today, I understand how hard it can be. Anyway, best of luck, . Warm regards BM
I always get the same feeling when I think about school, and I don’t feel like I can express it to my parents. I always say I’m sick or I “threw up” that night because I can’t stand the thought of going to school. I’m 13 and this has started since last year, when I started middle school. It’s too complicated to explain the stress and anxiety I have against school, and I don’t know if I need help or not.
Same. Every time I think about school I feel like crying. I feel sick almost every morning before school and it really makes me hate my life.
Scorpio rising says
I have a fear of school. I’m always angry at school, always finding ways to leave. My attendance at my job is perfect, only called in once for almost a whole year… But my attendance at school is horrible. I don’t know what my deal is. I hate all of the teachers and all of the students. I’m just waiting to graduate so then I’ll never have to worry about going to school ever again.. I’m 17. I also get really extreme anxiety at school to the point where I can’t stop thinking of ways to get out of the school, sometimes even start hyperventilating. I think that also has to do with me being diagnosed with IBS, I have a fear of using the school’s toilets as well. I wish it would all end.
Brak Oboma says
It helped with a book I am writing, thanks for publishing it.
I have this phobia and the reason is boredom, I am 18 years old.
You do not suffer from this if you skip school out of boredom. Out of boredom is just being an average teen.
lol times infinity
Antonio Carrillo says
I would like to know when this article was published and your full name for reference and citations in my research. Thank you.