Separation anxiety and school phobia: Useful tips

Separation anxiety and school phobia: Useful tips

The separation anxiety and phobia school They are two of the most pressing problems that demand an effective solution. Luckily, there is much we can do to mitigate or permanently eliminate this problem. So, and notwithstanding the psychological treatment, we want to offer you some tips that can help you.


  • 1 Separation anxiety and school phobia
  • 2 School problems: it is very important to consider
  • 3 Useful and important considerations regarding separation anxiety and school phobia

Separation anxiety and school phobia

Next, we will begin by characterizing both phenomena. In this way we will have a broader idea about its causes and possible solutions. In any case, it is always advisable to go to your psychologist to treat these difficulties.

The case of separation anxiety

When we talk about separation anxiety we refer to that excessive and inappropriate anxiety, relative to the separation from home or from the people to whom the child is linked. In general, this type of anxiety usually appears in the early school stages (first experiences of separation).

But also It can appear as a result of a particularly stressful situation in the family context. For example, long illness, loss of a relative, divorce from parents, etc.

Also, they may appear in the school context (situations of helplessness before some classmates, lack of social skills to interact with classmates, excessive fear of teacher evaluation, etc.).

The case of school phobia

In the case of school phobia, this is a type of anxiety that is found especially related to rejection and avoidance behaviors of most activities related to the educational context.

In its extreme variant, the boy or girl refuses to go to school showing persistent symptoms of physical discomfort (headache, nausea, diarrhea, fever, etc.), as well as cognitive (negative thoughts and expectations, irrational fear, guilt , feelings of helplessness, etc.) and behavioral (anticipatory anxiety, muscle tremor, excessive agitation, tantrums, etc.).

Too, It can be triggered by some kind of stressful situation in the family or school context. Like, for example, a long illness, loss of a relative, divorce of parents, problems with classmates, with the teacher.

Likewise, can be favored by one's cognitions (attributions, feelings of self-efficacy, self-concept) that the person has about their competence in school activity.

School problems: it is very important to consider

In both cases, separation anxiety and school phobia, combined therapeutic programs of cognitive and behavioral techniques are also often used. Of course, graduated exposure to the feared situation is included. The main objective is to eliminate the anxiety reaction, with live exposure being the most widely used procedure.

Careful monitoring of the contingencies that maintain behavior is also usually done, both at school and at home.

So, the reinforcing value of the school situation must be increased. For example, encouraging the acceptance of classmates, the execution of tasks or the approval of parents and teachers.

Likewise, reduce possible reinforcements when the child remains at home during school hours. For example, parental attention or watching TV. At the same time, the negative cognitions that accompany the disorder must be modified.

Useful and important considerations regarding separation anxiety and school phobia

In addressing these cases of anxiety we must take into account some important issues:

  1. We must detect and treat the problem as quickly as possible. In the case of school phobia, it is particularly important to prevent it from staying avoidance behavior for a long time, not only because of the loss of academic class routine, but because it is a particularly persistent disorder
  2. We must seek the collaboration of parents and teachers. To the extent that the people around the child are involved in the treatment, the program will be more likely to succeed. The collaboration of teachers is very important so that the planning of the return to class is done with greater guarantees of success, avoiding comments in class about the lack of attendance or the reasons for these
  3. We must instruct parents to barely pay attention to somatic complaints of the child and subject them to an extinction program. This point is very important and especially difficult for parents. But once we have ruled out the existence of a disease in the previous evaluation, we must prevent the child from using these physical symptoms as an escape from the dreaded situation
  4. We must insist the child to go to school and stay in the classroom for progressively longer periods. This exhibition may be accompanied by an important person, provided that that person is prepared to deal with the complaints and supplications that will appear as the exposure time approaches
  5. We must reinforce the child after having spent the estimated time in school and encouraging him to move forward despite the fear


  • Amorós, M. O., Carrillo, F. X. M., Alcázar, A. I. R., & Saura, C. J. I. (2003). Cognitive-behavioral therapy in problems of generalized anxiety and separation anxiety: An analysis of its effectiveness.Annals of Psychology / Annals of Psychology19(2), 193-204.
  • García-Fernández, J. M., Martínez-Monteagudo, M. C., & Inglés, C. J. (2013). How does school anxiety relate to academic performance?Iberoamerican Journal of Psychology and Health4(1), 63-76.
  • Orgilés Amorós, M., Espada Sánchez, J. P., & Méndez Carrillo, X. (2008). Separation anxiety disorder in children of divorced parents.Psicothema (Oviedo)20(3), 383-388.
  • Santacruz, I., Orgilés, M., Rosa, A. I., Sánchez-Meca, J., Méndez, X., & Olivares, J. (2002). Generalized anxiety, separation anxiety and school phobia: the predominance of cognitive behavioral therapy.Behavioral psychology10(3), 503-521.