Scolionophobia is an overwhelming fear of school. It is not a clinical diagnosis, but it's often a symptom of other anxiety disorders. School refusal is more likely to affect children during times of transition, such as starting middle school or high school. Children with school phobia often become physically ill at the thought of going to school.
Scolionophobia is an intense fear of school that stays with your child for a long time. It's not a clinical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). But some healthcare providers view it as similar to specific phobias.
Many children feel reluctant to go to school at some point. But children with scolionophobia feel insecure or anxious at the thought of going to school. They may even become physically ill. A child with scolionophobia often misses many days of school for vague or unknown reasons.
School phobia or school refusal is often associated with other anxiety disorders. Another name for school phobia is didaskaleinophobia.
Between 18 and 24 months, many children develop separation anxiety. They may cry, have tantrums or feel anxious when they are away from their caregiver. Usually, children grow out of this separation anxiety. If they don’t, they may develop scolionophobia.
Children are more likely to develop school phobia if they have a caregiver who tends to be overprotective. Some children are naturally more anxious than others. Children are also more likely to fear school if they are:
School phobia affects about 2% to 5% of children — in other words, up to 1 in every 20 children. It's most common in young children ages 5 to 6 or middle school-age children ages 10 to 11. You may also notice scolionophobia symptoms during transitional times, such as when your child enters high school.
Sometimes, there's no clear cause of scolionophobia. But problems at school or home can contribute to a child’s anxiety about school. At home, children who have scolionophobia may also struggle with:
At school, children may have scolionophobia after experiencing:
For many children, the primary symptoms of scolionophobia are physical. When they think about going to school, children may experience:
Children may also experience psychological symptoms, including:
Scolionophobia doesn't have specific diagnostic criteria. To understand the root of school refusal, a healthcare provider may ask you or your child:
Children with mild scolionophobia symptoms may work with a caregiver or teacher to overcome school-related fears. If symptoms are severe or related to another mental health diagnosis, children may benefit from:
Children with anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions are more likely to develop school refusal. Children with scolionophobia may also have:
With proper treatment, many children overcome the fear of school. For others, school-related anxiety never goes away completely.
Along with any formal treatment, children may learn coping strategies to lower anxiety. They may:
You may also want to ask your child's healthcare provider:
Yes. Some children have a crippling fear of completing schoolwork. The fear of homework is called devwahrphobia. If children with devwarhphobia feel like they have too much schoolwork to do, they may have a panic attack or other extreme anxiety symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Scolionophobia is the extreme fear of school. It's not a formal diagnosis, but many experts treat it like a specific phobia. Some children who have scolionophobia become physically ill at the thought of going to school. They may miss a significant amount of school for vague or unexplained reasons. Children with minor symptoms can work with a teacher or caregiver to decrease school-related anxiety. If symptoms are more extreme, therapy or medication can help these children.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/10/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.