Eleven-year-old Dimpi Shah* starts perspiring at the thought of her impending social studies paper. She fears that she will not be able to memorise the gamut of facts and figures. Her fear has intensified to such an extent that she experiences blackouts, shivers and even caught a fever just two days before the exam.
Shah’s parents are surprised because she excels in all the other subjects. “We noticed that she used to avoid studying social studies until the very last minute. She starts panicking before that paper, while she is confident about the others,” said her father.
Payosha Singhania’s daughter suffers from a phobia too. “My daughter suffers from a type of learning disability called discalcula — she struggles with maths. And with the new form of assessment, there is a new project every day. This has put pressure on her, and there are days when she refuses to go to school,” she said.
Psychologists say that with the semester exams underway in schools and colleges, students like Dimpi are in the grips of what is commonly known as “study fever”. Psychologists say they are seeing a rising number of cases of students developing phobias of individual subjects such as maths, science or social studies before the exams.
“When a child is weak in a particular subject, it means he/she has trouble with calculating numbers or rote learning or understanding diagrams. The fear is exaggerated to such levels in the child’s mind that the child actually falls sick,” explained clinical psychologist Nita Mehta.
Experts are surprised to see such cases during semester exams. Psychologist Seema Hingorrany said that she has seen 6-7 such cases every week in the last two months alone.
“This is surprising as students generally suffer such high levels of panic only during make-or-break exams such as the board exams or competitive exams. I am even getting cases of students in classes 6 and 7 going through such a crisis. It can be attributed to rising peer and parental pressure,’’ she said.
She added that such phobias are more exaggerated in students who are toppers in other subjects. “One of my patients scored above 80 in all subjects except science. Its especially difficult for such students as they feel guilty for ‘letting parents down’,” Hingorrany added. “If parents see such signs in their children, they should immediately seek professional help.”
*Name changed to protect identity