Testophobia (Fear of Tests)
Testophobia is the irrational fear of taking tests. Someone experiencing this condition may find it extremely difficult to take tests and may perform very poorly on them due to the intense anxiety and stress that they feel when taking them. The may have convinced themselves that they are “bad test takers”. Such a conviction may reinforce the fear they have about taking tests.
For instance, someone with testophobia may think to themselves, “Well, I always perform poorly on tests. So, tests are something that should be feared.” Believing this will more than likely worsen their testophobia and make it much more difficult for them to be able to cope with the intense emotions that are associated with this disorder.
They may feel paralyzed by their fear of taking tests and may convince themselves that they are doomed to taking up a job that has minimal responsibilities and minimal qualifications so they will have a limited chance of having to take tests or continuing education classes. Someone with testophobia may also believe that they are not intelligent due to their ineptness with taking tests when the truth is that some people are simply not good at taking tests. Test performance and intelligence are not always correlated.
Someone may be very knowledgeable about a certain topic, yet freeze up when it’s time for them to be tested on their knowledge. There are many reasons for such an occurrence. For example, one reason as to why intelligent people may perform poorly on tests is that they may overthink each question and read too much into it, thus choosing the incorrect answer.
Symptoms of Testophobia
There are many debilitating symptoms of testophobia that can greatly hinder one’s test taking performance, as well as leaving them with low confidence and low self-esteem. Someone suffering from severe testophobia may feel very inept and inadequate when it comes to their chosen field of study. Such convictions may also be accompanied with feelings of feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.
Due to the intense stress and anxiety associated with taking tests or even thinking of taking tests, someone with testophobia may do their best to avoid taking tests altogether. This may not be much of an issue for someone who is in their older years. However, this can be a very serious problem for a young adult who’s still in school. In most school systems, a student’s adeptness in any particular subject is often judged based on test results. This can be a nightmarish scenario for someone suffering from testophobia.
Though there are some schools that allow students who suffer from testophobia or from a learning disability of some sort to take their tests at a different time from their other classmates. In this scenario, they will often get to take their test in an empty classroom with much more time allotted to them. Such alterations are made in an attempt to make the test taking process much less anxiety provoking for the student, among other things.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of testophobia:
Intense anxiety when taking tests
Anxiety when thinking of taking tests
Avoiding taking tests
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
“Drawing a blank” (forgetting test info.)
Feeling inadequate and worthless
Causes of Testophobia
There are no known causes of testophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play significant roles in someone developing this disorder.
For instance, someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially with anxiety disorders and phobias may have a much greater chance of developing testophobia than someone who has no family history of mental illness. If this was this case and they also had a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness, then all that may be required for them to develop full-blown testophobia would be some sort of traumatic experience.
Such a traumatic experience that could lead someone to developing testophobia may be that they failed a very important test in the past or perhaps they failed an entire class due to their ineptness with taking tests.
Or, say they were in the middle of taking a test and they couldn’t figure out the answer to one of the questions and they panicked. They may have felt the pressure of the clock ticking, as well as everything that was at stake with regards to them passing the test with a certain grade. Such an experience may make some people have a full-blown panic attack in addition to developing testophobia.
They may have also experienced being ridiculed by their family or friends due to their unsatisfactory grades, thus decreasing the student’s confidence and vigor with regards to taking tests. If the student had the right genetic makeup, then being severely teased and mocked due to their test performance may be enough for them to develop testophobia.
Testophobia Treatments (abridged)
There are no known treatment methods that are specifically designed for testophobia. However, Talk therapy, exposure therapy, and anti-anxiety medication may be able to help reduce the symptoms associated with this disorder. Talk therapy may be very advantageous for someone with testophobia as it can be a way for the patient to get to the root of their fears, as well as to learn new and effective coping skills that they can implement in the midst of a panic attack.
One of the most common and effective methods for treating virtually any phobia is exposure therapy. This type of therapy works by slowly exposing the patient to that which they fear in an attempt to slowly desensitize them from it.
In the context of testophobia, the therapist may create a mock test for the patient to complete during the therapy session. The therapist may also time the test and even bring in other healthcare professionals to sit while the patient takes their test to make the scenario feel more real.
Anti-anxiety medication may also be quite effective at helping to minimize some of the symptoms associated with testophobia. However, taking medication alone may not be enough to minimize symptoms in the long term. In such a case, some sort of therapy may be needed in order to truly improve cognition over time. If you think you may have testophobia, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can get properly diagnosed and treated.
Psychiatric Medications for Testophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe testophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their testophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as testophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of testophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of testophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Testophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from testophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with testophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of testophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Meditation for Testophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from testophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from testophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with testophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of testophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with testophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Testophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as testophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with testophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with testophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their testophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with testophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
Yoga for Testophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from testophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with testophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with testophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with testophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of testophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Exercise for Testophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including testophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of testophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of testophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with testophobia over time.
Caffeine Reduction for Testophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with testophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with testophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Testophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like testophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with testophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with testophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with testophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your testophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Testophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with testophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with testophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with testophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with testophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.