Thursday, August 26, 2010

School-A-Phobia Part II

Note to readers: If you've not yet read "He Had Yellow Eyes!", you may want to do so before reading this entry.

First thing this morning I got a phone call from Sally, who immediately burst into laughter. She got a huge kick out of School-A-Phobia. All day we sent little emails about it and it just got funnier as the day went on. I told Sally that the best part was that the story was true; you can't make stuff like that up! By this afternoon we were even clowning around with "WORK-A-Phobia"! But then, an odd thing happened. Sally emailed me this article she found online. I edited it a bit for content, and I'll discuss it in the next journal entry. I need some time to digest it first:

School Phobia (Didaskaleinophobia) is itself a symptom of anxiety disorder in childhood. It is also known as separation anxiety, which is an inappropriate fear of leaving their parents, a person or place of trust or home for example.

Most children find going to school exciting and enjoyable although of course nearly all children have times when they don't want to go. This happens commonly at ages where children are faced with tougher school activities or exams or may have fallen out with friends. All of this is a normal part of growing up.

Children who develop school phobia, however, become terrified, trying every avoidance tactic in order to stay away from school. Parents should be aware if their child regularly say that they are too sick to go to school, they could be doing so in order to avoid anxious feelings.

School phobia can present itself in a number of ways:

Constant thoughts and fears about safety of self and parents
Refusing to go to school
Frequent stomach aches and other physical complaints
Extreme worries about sleeping away from home
Overly clingy
Panic or tantrums at times of separation from parents
Feeling unsafe staying in a room by themselves
Clinging behavior
Displaying excessive worry and fear about parents or about harm to themselves
Shadowing the mother or father around the house
Difficulty going to sleep
Having nightmares
Exaggerated, unrealistic fears of animals, monster, burglars
Fear of being alone in the dark
Severe tantrums when forced to go to school
This period of a child's life is not only disturbing and scary for the child but also frustrating and worrying for the child's parents.

What Causes School Phobia?
School phobia develops in much the same way as an adult anxiety disorder. It is always difficult for a child to break away from home after an extended period of being at home, such as the school holidays or time off sick.

Factors such as moving to a new area, a divorce or a bereavement can cause immense stress to a child and set off disturbed, anxious behavior that can escalate into school phobia.

Additionally the child's family often unintentionally reinforces school phobic symptoms. When a family undergoes a major stress such as moving house or a bereavement it is common for a child to express mild refusal to leave the primary caregiver (who may also be anxious, distressed, depressed.)

This can escalate if the child is not firmly encouraged to leave the caregiver; in fact, they are often inadvertently rewarded with extra attention from their parents. The child's anxiety about leaving is reinforced and the child doesn't have the opportunity to develop ways to cope with the separation.

At the age of about 13, I went through a period of what my doctor called 'school phobia'. I became irrationally anxious, depressed and scared. I would regularly seek the assistance of the school nurse, call my mother to collect me and sit alone somewhere, hiding.

Feeling that way at such a young age is dreadful, it is not only scary but confusing too The psyche of a child is very superficial until this age and the sudden realization that life is not all about play and fun and in fact quite daunting, challenging and delicate, comes as quite a shock to a child.

Children discover their mortality a varying ages but this realization too, can cause a child immense distress if not handled correctly by parents or guardians.

Will My Child's School Phobia continue into Adulthood?
The extended implications of school phobia can be far reaching. In the very long term, it can lead to anxiety and panic disorders in adulthood, as in my case, although there is little evidence that these children are more susceptible to serious mental illness.

Research suggests that much more effective treatment is required for school phobia to prevent problems in later life.

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