Exam stress or test anxiety involves a combination of excessively negative feelings, worry and dread about test performance and often interferes with normal learning and lowers exam performance. It is prevalent amongst students all over the world. The words ‘pressure’ and ‘stress’ are often used interchangeably, but in fact they are quite different.
Pressure can be positive and useful to complete deadlines or to help somebody avoid danger. However, when pressure is prolonged, it can be negative, and depending on how the individual perceives it and reacts to it, it can lead to the development of stress.
Exam stress is a natural reaction to too much pressure and can come from a number of sources, viz., young people themselves, comparisons with others, wanting to reach over-ambitious goals, pressure to excel in an exam from family members and peer pressure or pressure from teachers.
Symptoms of exam stress or test anxiety
Some people feel pressure and develop stress symptoms more readily than others. When someone is faced with increased pressure (in this case at exam time) their body can go into a response which releases increased amounts of stress chemicals in the body. This can lead to various symptoms including:
- Feeling cranky and irritable.
- Feeling inadequate and negative self-talk.
- Problems sleeping or waking up from sleep.
Dr Avinash De Sousa is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist based in Mumbai. He is the Founder of the Global Society for Digital Psychology and the Founder-Trustee of the Desousa Foundation.