Psychologist Questions Mental Health

My son is 16 years old and afraid of his exams. Should I send him to a psychologist?

My son is 16 years old and has many state exams this year. He is however extremely paranoid and scared to take his exams. Should I take him to a psychologist?

12 Answers

Feeling anxious and scared is very normal, especially when you are taking exams that are serious and that could affect your future goals. Try having him do some meditation, possibly see a therapist to help him cope with his anxiety, and to help him normalize feelings of being anxious.

I would encourage you to take him to a neuropsychologist, as his fear of exams could be due to a slower processing speed inhibiting him from retrieving learned information quickly. He could have developed secondary anxiety due to his inability to perform as well as he knows he should. It would be important to get him tested because if he does have a cognitive component present, he will need this documentation to allow accommodations to be placed to give him extra time for exams.

I hope this helps!

Brandi Buchanan, PhD
I would recommend starting with the school's psychologist who may be able to help. If not, get a referral from your family doctor for your son to see a psychologist.
It sounds like your son has test anxiety. I did my doctoral dissertation and a subsequent research project on the treatment of test anxiety. I have successfully treated hundred of students with test anxiety. It is best treated with a combination of desensitization therapy, test taking skills training and study skills training.

Dr. Bill Golden
I am not sure what you mean by paranoid – if you mean that he is very anxious and afraid of a negative result, that is certainly within normal; if he is imagining that people/spirits/voices are out to get him, that is an illness that certainly needs immediate treatment. I will assume you mean just anxious and pessimistic – if that is the case, you might want to find a psychologist/other mental health specialist who can teach him hypnosis for relieving the anxiety. People trained to use hypnosis for such purposes are certified by professional hypnosis organizations, such as ASCH, which has an online referral system filtered by specialty and geography. Test anxiety is a common issue, and hypnosis is very effective. I have used it with young people who are panicking during exam season, perhaps having even failed past exams because of panic attacks. Using hypnosis they have succeeded, to the extent of their ability and preparation (hypnosis doesn’t counteract not studying!).
Good luck to you and to him!


Marian Kaplun Shapiro
Your son appears to be suffering from anxiety. It would be wise to have him see a psychologist to treat his phobia and help him with his anxiety.
Test anxiety is not uncommon and should be addressed - yes go see a psychologist to help alleviate this issue.
There are many ways in which psychologists can help reduce text anxiety. There is no reason for you son to continue suffering with this.
Taking him to a psychologist could be a good option. A certain amount of anxiety isn’t necessarily “bad” but when it impacts functioning is what makes it concerning. Have you considered asking him about the root of his extreme anxiety? Do you notice whether you are unintentionally sending mixed signals regarding his performance on the test and other areas of his life? Help him to find balance between doing his best given the importance of the test as well as not being tied to one particular outcome. In other words, help him to give himself credit for his efforts and not only certain outcomes. His high school counselor is also another great resource.
Dear parent of scared exam taker,

Please bear in mind this answer is for informational purposes only and does not constitute treatment.

If your son has always been an anxious test taker, then perhaps this is not so unusual for him. As students get older, they often become more aware of the relative importance of high-stakes exams. He may just be talking about the exams more now that he is aware of them.

If, instead, this seems like a big change for him, then maybe something is up that needs your help. Your son may be aware he is academically struggling more recently and is concerned this will be highlighted by the exams. Some states have certain years that are exam-heavy, so this may be more intense than prior grades.

I would suggest you talk to your son and mention you noticed his worries and concerns. You can also contact his school and speak to his counselor, teachers (and maybe the school psychologist) to talk about his concerns. Ask them if they see indications whether he is likely to do well or have a hard time with the state exams. If your son or his teachers express serious concerns, then it could be time to look into having him talk with a psychologist about the worries. A psychologist that is experienced with teen anxiety and academic concerns would seem to be ideal. Licensed psychologists who are also certified school psychologists, or use NCSP as part of their credentials, are likely to be familiar with this area of practice.

You can also talk with his school about any supports they can put in place, like tutoring or academic coaching or groups for anxious students, to help him manage and overcome the fear. If his teachers have very significant concerns about his academic performance, then an educational evaluation from the school to better understand why he is struggling could also be very helpful.

Best wishes,
Dr. Koser
Yes, but only one that specializes in anxiety and has specific techniques and devices to help. Also one who likes teenagers; some do not.
No, he is afraid because he is afraid of failure. Let him overcome it himself, even if he does fail. This will help him change that in the future. Talk to him and let him know it is okay, life goes on and he has a long road ahead.