Academic Anxiety

In order for one to understand the concept of academic anxiety, a few constructs must first be identified. Anxiety is defined by Putnam (2010) and others (see APA, 2000) as “a complex psychological condition that affects various cognitive, behavioral, and psychological states” (p. 60). Anxiety can then be separated into three classifications: state, an emotional condition that is temporary and initiated by a certain experience, trait, a stable aspect of one’s personality (Tohill & Holyoak, 2000), and situation-specific.

Academic anxiety thus, just as it sounds, is a form of anxiety consisting of cognitive, physical, and behavioral states related to educational contexts and events (Cassady, 2010). For instance, academic anxiety can manifest as concern regarding the potential negative consequences associated with failure within evaluative situations (e.g., test anxiety) or certain education subjects (e.g., math, science, reading & foreign language anxieties). Research has suggested – and repeatedly demonstrated – that the experience of academic anxiety is a substantial barrier to optimal academic performance (Hembree, 1988; Putman, 2010) and as such, it is vital that steps be taken to assist students suffering from all forms of academic anxiety.


American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., Text Revision). Washington, DC: Author.

Cassady, J. C. (Ed.). (2010). Anxiety in the schools: The causes, consequences, and solutions for academic anxieties. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Hembree, R. (1988). Correlates, causes, and treatment of test anxiety. Review of Educational Research, 58, 47-77.

Putman, S. M. (2010). The debilitative effects of anxiety on reading affect. In J. C. Cassady (Ed.), Anxiety in schools: The causes, consequences, and solutions for academic anxieties (pp. 59-79). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Tohill, J. M., & Holyoak, K. J. (2000). The impact of anxiety on analogical reasoning. Thinking and Reasoning, 6(1), 27-40