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Exam-related anxiety? Parents to blame

Tuesday, 6 May 2014 - 6:25am IST | Agency: DNA
At an age when they shouldn't be taking life seriously, children are taking their life. The reason: anxiety over their future. And parents, who instil this fear on these young minds, are to blame, say doctors
  • Prashant Chaugule DNA

A 17-year-old Std IX student committed suicide at his home in Mulund (W) last month after he failed in his final exams for a second time.

In the last four months, Mumbai saw many students committing suicide due to exam-related stress. While the number of such students hasn't seen any significant rise or fall, psychiatrists say helpline numbers have seen a three-fold jump.

Dr Arun John, executive president, Vandrevala Foundation, said: "On an average we get 35 calls a day. But during exam season, the number goes up to 95 plus."

According to Dr John, most of the students who make distress calls are very good academically, but are anxious. "Students are anxious about how they will perform, and also finding it difficult to cope with the ever-changing exam system and constant parental pressure."

What will be my future? Will I get the right questions? These are matters that generally worry students.

"We do not offer advice. We try getting them to talk, and thus relieve tension. We also encourage them to think logically," added Dr John.

Exam-related anxiety can lead to stomach aches, fever, etc. Dr Seema Hingorany, a child psychologist, said: "Over the years, I have not seen the level of anxiety and depression among students going down. They need counselling and should be handled with care."

Conversion disorder
Dr Fabian Almeida, a well known child psychiatrist, said the symptoms generated by exam-related anxiety are called conversion disorder, which most doctors fail to pick up. "In conversion disorder, anxiety is converted into bodily complaint. A child finds it easy to complain than telling parents that s/he is scared of exams. A psychiatrist can find out whether a child is faking the symptoms or they are psychological in nature," said Almeida.

According to city psychiatrists, this exam season the new trend among anxiety-ridden children is not studying and refusing to appear for exams. They also said these days it was the parents who were more anxious than children.

Dr Parul Tank, head, psychiatry department, Rajawadi Hospital, said: "Earlier, children used to approach us with anxiety problems. Now it's the parents who have such problems; children are now refusing to write exams."

In 75% of cases, the children are not prepared to appear for the exam, Dr Tank said. "And while counselling, we figure out that such children are not adequately prepared," said Dr Tank.

Romance, heartbreaks
According to doctors, children getting romantically involved and heartbreaks are also trendy these days, and 20% exam-fever cases can be attributed to these.

Doctors say parents have a crucial role in helping children face these problems. "It's very important that parents encourage a two-way communication. Instead of being dictators, parents should explain things," said Dr Harish Shetty, senior psychiatrist, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital.

To deal with exam-related anxiety, doctors also suggest devaluing the importance of exam. "It helps. One should not stress on exams being the key to one's success/future. This is a common mistake parents make, and this can lead to anxiety among children," said Dr Mundra, who added that during exams, it was important that children get good sleep, and are in a relaxed state of mind.


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