What Is School Phobia? - Treatment, Symptoms & Interventions

Instructor: Chevette Alston

Dr. Alston has taught intro psychology, child psychology, and developmental psychology at 2-year and 4-year schools.

This lesson discusses school phobia, as well as its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. School phobia has a gradual onset, but can quickly become worse if not treated early.

What is School Phobia?

As a child, you may have had a few days when you didn't particularly want to go to school, maybe to avoid a particular classmate or a big homework assignment you failed to complete. This type of reluctance is different from school phobia, a condition wherein a child has a fear of attending school. For these students, walking into a school can be a frightening feeling, and they might be overwhelmed by the school's size, the number of people in it, or feeling lost. This disorder was given its name in 1941 and may also be known as school refusal.

Students with school phobia experience severe emotional distress when they think about attending school. Many are simply afraid to be away from home and experience high levels of anxiety when they are away from parents and/or home. Other symptoms include depression, temper tantrums, and somatic (physical) symptoms.

Empty Hallway

School Refusal

Children with school phobia will try to persuade their parents to allow them to stay home. They may also experience headaches, stomach problems, or other somatic symptoms that seem real but are actually a result of the high levels of anxiety or the level of depression they have.

Children with school phobia may be confused with children who are often truant. However, students who are truant do not have anxiety about school, hide school absences from their parents, and demonstrate antisocial behaviors such as being delinquent or disruptive. Truant students also refuse to do homework. Children with school phobia are the opposite. They would go to school if they could but believe they cannot.

School Refusal


The onset of school phobia is gradual, and symptoms usually begin to occur after an extended absence such as a vacation or being ill. It is the same reluctance some adults experience returning to work after a holiday away. Social events at school such as bullying can also cause children to refuse to go to school. Stressful interactions at home or school can also lead to social phobia. As the child becomes more fearful, their attendance can range from getting to school and needing to be picked up as the day goes along, or not being able to attend school at all.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account