Severe Test Anxiety: What It Means and How to Get Help?


You studied hard, made sure you slept and ate well, and passed a few practice tests. But when you finally sit down to take the exam, your hands get sweaty, your heart starts pounding, your vision gets blurry, and you lose the ability to think.

You look at the first question. You know you know the answer. You have already answered the same question on a practice test. But you can’t remember the answer for a lifetime. You can’t even remember how to hold your pen properly. You may feel like you are dreaming, as if nothing is real, or as if you are looking at yourself from above.

Has something similar happened to you in the past? If so, you may have experienced something more than test jitters. You may have experienced severe performance anxiety.

Test Jitters vs Test Anxiety

The main difference between test jitters and test anxiety is that the jitters are normal, even healthy, and will not hinder your performance. Test anxiety, on the other hand, is unhealthy and can affect your ability to perform in important areas online courses of grade 12 or post-secondary level courses.

Test anxiety is a form of performance anxiety and can manifest itself in different ways. Students who already struggle with anxiety and students with perfectionist tendencies are more likely to experience performance anxiety, but just about anyone can experience it at some point in their life.

If you feel like you’re dreaming or that nothing is real when you take a test, you may be experiencing one of two extreme symptoms of performance anxiety: depersonalization or derealization.

Derealization vs Depersonalization

Derealization and depersonalization are both episodic in nature, meaning they tend to come and go.

when you experience the realization, you may feel that there is something wrong with reality, or that the world outside yourself is not real. Objects can suddenly seem fake or creepy. People, even people you know, may seem unfamiliar, alien. Sounds may be distorted or too loud. Time can feel sped up or slowed down.

If, on the other hand, you are experiencing depersonalization, you may feel like you are outside of yourself and looking down on your life. Your body and thoughts may seem unfamiliar, or you may feel like you are living in a dream.

During both experiences you never lose touch with reality. Instead, you are aware that you are experiencing something unusual or disturbing.

Please note that just because you are experiencing derealization or depersonalization does not necessarily mean you have derealization or depersonalization disorder, two types dissociative disorders

Help out

If you experience derealization or depersonalization when you take tests, it probably means that you are experiencing severe performance anxiety. Then seeking help is a good idea. Sever test anxiety is not only uncomfortable and disturbing, but it can interfere with your ability to perform tests.

It’s important that you don’t be afraid or embarrassed to speak up if you’re experiencing severe exam anxiety. This is the first step to getting help, feeling better and performing better on tests. If you speak with a doctor, your conversation will remain confidential and he or she can show you how to be treated.

There are several treatment options for severe test anxiety. Talk therapy and medication are just two.

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