Isn’t it strange that whenever we are in a bad mood or frustrated, it feels as though everything is going wrong? Well, there just might be a good explanation for this phenomenon. Studies have shown that emotion has a substantial influence on the cognitive processes, including learning, memory, attention, reasoning and problem solving.

As an NILD Educational Therapist, I constantly experience that children who are upset, frustrated or sad, have difficulty focusing on the learning process. It is therefore often necessary to deal with the emotional “problem” first in order to be able to have an effective therapy session. Worry and fear are considered to be an aspect of normal development, but when worry and fear disrupt daily functioning, it may lead to impaired behaviour and learning.

Teachers, parents and educational therapists should be aware of the following symptoms:

  • somatic complaints
  • poor frustration tolerance
  • lethargy or listlessness
  • social isolation

The above-mentioned symptoms might indicate anxiety or depression.

According to psychologists, there are different forms of anxiety disorders:

  • Panic disorder is an intense fear in the absence of an actual threat.
  • Generalised anxiety can be described as “constantly worrisome”.
  • Specific phobia is a persistent fear of an identifiable object.
  • Social phobia is the anxious anticipation of being negatively evaluated.

In my practice, I definitely experience that many students struggle with generalised anxiety and social phobia.

The characteristics of depression are:

  • sadness
  • lack of energy
  • sleeping or eating problems
  • inconsistent school performance
  • social isolation
  • low self-esteem

According to studies, there are common behaviours in students with low self-esteem:

  • Quitting and avoidance: Students will often comment that they cannot perform the task at hand, or they will quickly try and change the subject.
  • Aggressiveness: Students can often behave aggressively due to high frustration levels when they feel they are incompetent.
  • Complaining of boredom is also quite common when a child feels pressurised to perform, but feels inadequate. They feel less vulnerable when saying they are bored, rather than admitting they cannot do a specific task or do nor have a particular skill.


Disorders like ADHD, learning difficulties and substance abuse commonly co-occur with depression.

Accepting students for who they are and helping them to develop a sense of responsibility are important factors for fostering self-esteem and resilience. In my opinion, it is crucial to increase students’ sense of ownership and establish self-discipline. We as parents, teachers and therapists, should provide positive feedback and teach students to cope with failure and mistakes.

It’s not what you are that is holding you back. It is what you think you are not.

           –  Anonymous