What is Academic Anxiety?

Academic anxiety refers to the feelings of worry, tension, or dread that are associated with academic settings or tasks. This could be exams, assignments, subjects (math, reading, or science), social pressures related to schoolwork (parents, peers), or merely feeling uneasy about studying or working in groups in class.

It is common for all learners to feel some degree of nervousness about academic requirements or assignments. In fact, a low degree of anxiousness can actually be helpful in creating motivation to meet academic goals. This is called facilitative anxiety. However, when these feelings of anxiety become so intense that they become detrimental to academic success, learners should engage in coping strategies to manage their academic anxiety.

This website is designed to point learners and those who support learners toward resources that can help this process.

Types of Academic Anxiety Symptoms

The Academic Anxiety Cycle

Academic anxiety has a natural ebb and flow cycle—as the source of the worry (an exam, a presentation, etc.) becomes closer or more relevant, the level of anxiety also becomes more prevalent. After the stressor has passed, the anxiety will also lessen until another stressor becomes relevant, and then the cycle begins again. Because of this cycle, it is possible to manage this anxiety at its peak. Preventative measures can also reduce the degree of anxiety experienced, helping to make the anxiety more manageable in the moment.

Visit our “Managing Academic Anxiety” page for both preventative and reactive coping strategies.

Again, if you notice that your anxiety is constant, widespread, and does not exhibit this ebb and flow cycle, please seek help from a licensed counseling professional.

More Information

The causes of academic anxieties arise from many different sources, and are specific to each person. However, most research indicates that the symptoms can be described in the categories of: physiological, cognitive, behavioral, and (occasionally) social. Explore the types of academic anxiety here.

Researchers have explored and documented academic anxiety and test anxiety in great detail. Explore these links for more information about the specifics of academic anxiety: