The IQ Answer: Myia and Faith

Test-Taking Terror

"My 17-year-old daughter, Myia, is a dedicated student. From the very beginning, she loved school, especially art classes. But now a test anxiety overwhelms Myia," says Faith. "She will come home crying because she froze during her test."

Myia explains how the anxiety starts. "When the test is handed to me, that's when the nerves kick in. I panic. I end up forgetting everything I studied. I can't focus. Letters scramble. I blank out. I feel overwhelmed by being judged by three sheets of paper," she recounts. "I feel like I'm not good enough, or smart enough like the other people in my class."

"I always had difficulty academically, and I wonder if she's inherited the learning disability from me," Faith says. "My fear is that she has given up hope in being accepted and going to college. I feel helpless."

Myia worries about her future as well. "I hate the fact that I'm struggling so much in school. I wish I can get better grades," she says.

"There's hope," Dr. Phil assures the teen. "How do you feel about your learning?"

"I feel confident," Myia replies. "I know all the information."

"When do you start getting anxiety when the test is coming?"


Myia replies, "Probably the day when we're going to have the test."

Dr. Phil tells Faith that, based on Myia's responses, she doesn't have a learning disability. "She's telling you, 'I can learn it. I'm not overwhelmed by the material. I can comprehend it. I got it. I can learn it, but I can't produce it in a performance environment,'" he observes. "I don't see any signs of a learning disability so you can cross that off your list."


Dr. Phil says that Myia needs to work on her internal dialogue. "What affect does that have on intellectual performance?" he asks Dr. Lawlis.


"Basically, it sets you up for failure," Dr. Lawlis replies. Turning to Myia, he says, "We also need to decrease your stress. The anticipatory anxiety that you're having about this, I know just watching you now, you don't breathe. And one of the things that happens when people get afraid is they stop breathing. Guess what happens when you stop breathing? It cuts off oxygen to your brain, and you can't remember your own name."

Dr. Phil elaborates. "Your brain has to have oxygen in order to function, and it's like a car running out of gas. You go in there and first off, you're distracting yourself because you have a voice in your head saying, 'I can't do this. I'm not as smart as everybody else,'" he tells the teen. "You're looking around at all the smart kids and you're sitting there saying, 'I'm going to fail. This is going to be so embarrassing. I'm not going to be able to go to college.' You got all of that going on. How do you think you function with all that noise going on in your ear?"

"Very negatively," Myia admits.


Handing Myia a piece of paper, Dr. Phil instructs her to read it.  As she is reading, he talks over her loudly: "'You're not as smart as everybody else. You think nobody's looking at you right now. That page is judging you. You're never going to go to college. There's no way you're going to be anything. You're not going to amount to anything. You're worthless. You're no good' ... That's what happens when you go to a test. How did that go?"

"Not well," she says.


"I just said it for you, and it's even worse when you're saying it for yourself," Dr. Phil points out.

"It's even worse with math. She's been tutored for a very long time, for various times, in math. She doesn't understand even when she's doing things correctly, how she's getting to those answers," Faith says.

"You may not have a lot of math aptitude, and that's OK," Dr. Phil tells the teen. "What if we could turn off the voices in your head? Do you think that would improve your functioning?"

"Yes," Myia replies.

"What if we could take away the anxiety response " the sweating, the hyperventilating, the nausea " what if we could take that away?" Dr. Phil inquires. 

"That would completely change the way I think," Myia says.

Dr. Lawlis expresses optimism. "It's very doable, and in a fairly short period of time," he tells Dr. Phil. 

Addressing Myia, Dr. Phil says, ‘We're going to teach you to relax yourself, calm your internal dialogue and change what you're doing. All of this is described in The IQ Answer, and all of this is included in a CD that Dr. Lawlis has created for people to control this internal process."