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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Test Taking Anxiety

10/24/2005

Question:

My 10 year old son has recently developed test anxiety. It has gotten so bad that he has these uncontrollable melt downs in his class. The teacher has to remove him from the class. He always asks to call me or my husband to "calm him down". It has gotten to the point that his therapist suggested that he not be allowed to call us anymore. Any suggestions?

Answer:

This certainly sounds more than the typical "test taking anxiety" which is becoming more common as "high stakes tests" are not just college entrance exams, but occur as young as kindergarten or fist grade with standardized testing becoming a common occurrence.  The standard advice for test taking anxiety will probably be insufficient for your child.  This advice includes things like:

Allow enough time for studying so "cramming" doesn't add to stress.

Learn deep breathing and relaxation techniques, including things as simple as "Four deep breaths with eyes shut and mind quiet" before beginning a test.

Learn test taking skills, such as perusing the entire test to find the easiest questions first to devise pacing schemes.

Have plenty of rest at night, eat well balanced foods, and avoid excess sugar and caffeine.

However, your child appears to have more significant problems, as you mention he has a "therapist."  Without knowing more about his other emotional or mental problems, it impossible to give advice over the internet.  Some things to discuss with his therapist and/or physician (if not already done include):  --Does my child have a learning disorder?  Is dyslexia or another problem leading to the increase in anxiety?  --Does my child have depression or anxiety, including panic disorder or PTSD?  If so, specific behavioral therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy) and medication may help.  --Does my child have the early signs of another mental illness that might be interfering with his ability to cope in difficult situations?

Good Luck

 

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati