Trouble Coping with School

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hi,
Thanks for taking the time to read and hopefully answer my question. I’m a freshman in high school and lately I literally have to be forced to get up and go. I am not bullied, and I have a good social life but I feel extremely stressed out. Due to my lack of attendance I have fallen really far behind. When I get home, I am so mentally exhausted that I don’t even want to touch my homework. I have a hard time focusing in school, and I get so anxious and upset when I think about going.

I have gotten to the point where I refuse to go to school, but I am not wanting to drop out. I have already lost credit in 4 of my classes because i have been absent so much. I wish I knew what is going on with me.

Do you suggest another alternative to school such as online schooling or do you think that there is an underlying issue that I should seek help for?
Thanks again!

A: Thank you so much for writing. Yes, I think there’s an underlying issue. In spite of being socially successful, you are feeling so stressed out that your body and mind are going on strike. That says there’s a problem that won’t necessarily be solved by changing schools. There’s a saying: “No matter where you go, there you are.” Unless you figure out the source of your stress, you are liable to bring it with you.

The transition to high school is often harder than people expect. Coursework and homework are often much more demanding than kids expect. In some schools, the competition for grades in order to get into good colleges is a constant undercurrent. On top of that, the social scene can be relentless. Even those who are doing okay feel the pressure. Some kids are better equipped to handle this than others. Others handle it in ways that are are self-destructive, such as getting involved with drugs and alcohol. Others, like you, handle it by not handling it. Sadly, most kids who are in distress feel like they are the only ones. They’re not.

If you have parents who care about you, please get them involved. If not, talk to your school guidance counselor about how to involve your parents. I’m sure it’s not new information that you are cutting school a lot. Ask for help locating a therapist who specializes in teen issues. You are not alone in this – not at all. An experienced counselor will be able to give you needed support so you can find that inner core of strength that knew enough to write your letter. Once you are feeling more in control, the two of you will be able to take on the practical problem of how to get you through high school in one piece.

You and your counselor can talk about whether there is a way to intervene with the school so you don’t end up repeating a grade. Summer classes or independent studies might be a more laidback way to recoup your credits. A reduced load for a semester might help you get back into the rhythm of school.

Your letter was an important first step in solving your problems. Now please follow through and ask for the help you need.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Apr 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Trouble Coping with School. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/04/04/trouble-coping-with-school/