Testophobia (phobia of tests and exams): symptoms, causes and treatment

Testophobia is the intense and persistent fear of exams. It is a specific situational type phobia related to the negative experience of being assessed. Although testophobia usually begins in early adulthood, it can also be generated during childhood, as it is fear of a common practice in our societies today.

Then we will see in more detail what testophobia isWhat are some of its causes and how it can be treated.

    Testophobia: fear of exams

    The term testophobia takes on the one hand the word “test”, which in English means “test” or “examination”, and on the other hand, the word “phobia”, which comes from the Greek “phobos” (“fear”). . Thus, “testophobia” means fear of exams and assessment tests.

    Testophobia is not recognized as a particular clinical picture by specialists in psychology and psychiatry. However, the term is generally used in familiar literature to describe the experience of persistent fear in assessments.

    In this sense, testophobia could be considered a specific phobia. Specific phobias, on the other hand, are characterized by an intense and persistent fear, excessive or irrational, which is triggered by the presence or anticipation of specific objects or situations (Bados, 2005). These objects or situations can range from animals to the need to take an exam, as is the case here.

    Likewise, specific phobias can be situational in nature, when fear is induced by specific situations. In this case, it would be the situations related to the application of evidence. In contrast, testophobia is related to social phobia, as it involves a lingering fear of situations involving exposure to the evaluation of others.

    In other words, while the application of tests and exams is itself a potentially stressful situation; Testophobia occurs when this situation is experienced with a fear that goes beyond rational justification and generates a series of behaviors and physiological reactions related to anxiety. This irrationality of fear is even recognized by the person who experiences it.


      As we have said, testophobia can be characterized by the presence of physiological reactions associated with anxiety states, Triggered by situations involving the application of an exam (which can be in the school context, but also in the sport or recreational context, or everything related to high performance, to the logic of pass-fail and to competition). The latter is a situation perceived as harmful, which causes the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and generates a series of involuntary motor reactions.

      These reactions are for example, tachycardia, palpitations, increased blood pressure, suffocation, dizziness, Sweating, decreased gastrointestinal activity, etc. Additionally, because an anxiety reaction kicks in immediately, specific phobias often trigger panic attacks.

      As with other phobias, testophobia can lead to other secondary behaviors, which, like the experience of anxiety, are not easily observed, but negatively impact the daily activities of those who experience them.

      These are, for example, fears related to anything related to the presentation of evidenceOr it can also include behaviors such as avoidance in the same circumstance, otherwise experienced as intense discomfort.

      Likewise, testophobia can be one of the manifestations of anxiety disorders or some other type of more complex and profound experiences,

      Possible causes and development of this phobia

      The fear that characterizes phobias is related to the possibility of harm; regardless of whether the damage has occurred before, and without necessarily taking into account the actual likelihood of it occurring. On the other hand, this fear can be caused by a previous experience where the damage actually occurred.

      In this sense, testophobia may well generate the direct negative consequences of failing previous exams or tests; or, it may be caused by the meanings associated with the experience of evaluation and failure, even though previous results have been mostly positive.

      The latter can also be linked to expectations and demands generated by the immediate environment, And it does not necessarily correspond to the performance, abilities or interests of the person.

      On the other hand, specific situational-type phobias usually develop in early adulthood, although in some cases they occur during childhood. It also happens that the fear of the situation is presented in a rational but persistent way during childhood, but do not trigger a phobia until adulthood.

      Bados (2005) tells us that in some studies it has been reported that more than 9 years can elapse between the onset of fear and the onset of the phobia. Also, specific phobias are more common in women (three women per man), although this may vary depending on the specific situation in question.


      As with other phobias, there are different strategies that can help decrease the experience of discomfort related to the stressful situation. These strategies range from analyzing and modifying the meanings attributed to the stress-generating stimulus (in this case, the experience of being assessed by an exam), to relearning styles of emotional coping in the same situation.

      In the specific case of testophobia, it is important to ensure that the situations surrounding the application of a test (i.e. what happens before and after the time to present it), generate experiences of tranquility and not just stress.

      In other words, it is important to compensate for the tensions caused by the excessive need for studies, with other activities or experiences that provide relaxation. Of equal importance confidently manage test results, Especially when it comes to unexpected or unsatisfactory results.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Testophobia (2017). Common phobias. Retrieved August 31. Available at http://common-phobias.com/testo/phobia.htm.
      • Bados, A. (2005). Specific phobias. Faculty of Psychology, University of Barcelona. Accessed August 31, 2018.Available at http://diposit.ub.edu/dspace/bitstream/2445/360/1/113.pdf.
      • Talha, M. (2004). Phobia. A selective annotated bibliography. Thesis for the award of the Master in Library Science and Documentation. Muslim University of Aligarh (India). Accessed August 31, 2018.Available at http://ir.amu.ac.in/7550/1/DS%203365.pdf.
      • Testophobia-Fear of taking the test (S / A). Source of phobia. Accessed August 31, 2018.Available at http://www.phobiasource.com/testophobia-fear-of-taking-tests/.

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