While reading, you may occasionally come across a long word that causes you to pause. Being unfamiliar with a long word isn’t a big deal for some, but it may be a phobia for others. If you have the fear of long words, you may avoid them entirely.
What Is The Fear Of Long Words?
Sesquipedalophobia is a Latin term that means “long word”. This phobia involves a fear of encountering a long word while reading aloud. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the term used for the phobia of long words.
The American Psychological Association does not recognize it as an official phobia. It is considered a social phobia. Doctors use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to help them make diagnoses. According to DSM-5, when you have a social phobia, you experience disproportionate fear or anxiety about social situations in which a person may be examined, such as meeting new people or having a conversation. They may avoid the social situation and experience fear, anxiety, or avoidance as a result of clinical distress.
What Causes Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia?
Many factors are at play to lead to the fear of long words.
If you have a family member who has a social phobia, you are more likely to develop one as well.
Phobia can also manifest as a result of stressful or traumatic childhood experiences. People who struggled with learning difficult words in childhood may develop this phobia.
Observing others experiencing the feared situation or living with the phobia, including growing up in a household where an adult of significance, such as a parent, had a fear of long words.
Parental control or criticism can contribute to the development of a social phobia.
If you have a social phobia, you most likely have a neurotransmitter imbalance in your brain.
Symptoms of Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia
If you have this phobia and come across a long word, you may experience anxiety. You might either avoid the word entirely or shut down. You may also feel embarrassed or ridiculed if you are unable to read the long word.
Symptoms of hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia include:
- Avoidance of reading
- Dry mouth
- Lack of control
- Breathing difficulty
- Distressed with work involving long words
- Being aware that your phobia is unreasonable but feeling powerless to control it.
- Being unable to function normally due to the phobia.
How Do You Get It Diagnosed?
Individuals suffering from this phobia are unlikely to seek medical attention. People who have the phobia try to seek employment where they would not be exposed to long words and phrases.
If your symptoms become unbearable or other symptoms appear, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms to determine if you have a phobia or anxiety disorder.
Your doctor will go over your psychiatric, medical, family, and social history, and refer to the DSM-5.
Your fear of long words may be associated with other reading or writing fears. For example, the fear of long words may aggravate or cause bibliophobia (the fear of books). Mythophobia (fear of legends) may also be caused by apprehension about long, unfamiliar passages, particularly in older legends.
Metrophobia refers to the fear of poetry. It is another associated fear. Poetry, by definition, contains unfamiliar words and unusual phrasing that can frighten those who are sensitive to long words.
The fear of words in general is known as logophobia. This includes only words with specific sounds, suffixes, prefixes, and so on, or words in general.
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is not a diagnosable condition because mental health and medical associations do not officially recognize it as a phobia. But your doctor may be able to provide general information about phobias as well as treatment recommendations.
How Can You Treat It?
Various treatment options are available to help manage symptoms of the fear of long words, including, medications, psychotherapy, or both.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are antidepressants most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax (alprazolam), another antidepressant, may also be prescribed.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing the automatic negative thoughts that contribute to and exacerbate your emotional problems, depression, and anxiety. These impulsive negative thoughts also have a negative impact on your mood. CBT identifies, challenges, and replaces faulty thoughts with more realistic thoughts.
Exposure therapy treats phobias, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
It involves making you confront the cause of your fear in a secure environment. Exposure therapy aims to assist you in overcoming your fear so you can interact meaningfully with the thing, activity, or situation without feeling anxious.
Apart from treatment, you can also adopt several coping strategies to manage symptoms.
Practicing mindfulness, such as mindful breathing, listening, and observation allows you to identify your emotions as they occur and gives you the time you need to separate your emotions from what is going on around you, and from what is triggering your emotions.
Certain lifestyle changes can also help you manage your symptoms:
- Getting adequate sleep each night.
- Eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet.
- Avoid substances that can aggravate anxiety, such as caffeine.
- Confronting fearful and anxiety-inducing situations.
Join a support group.
Attend a support group to connect with people who share the same phobia so you have someone who can understand you and make you feel less alone.
Work on your vocabulary.
- Avoiding long words may help you cope, but it is not always possible. Try substituting a word that is lengthy with a term that is similar but shorter. For example, instead of writing “refrigerator,” write “fridge.” You could also try replacing a friend’s long name with their initials or a nickname if they agree.
- Break down words. When reading a long word, take your time. Breathe in and divide the word into parts, then syllables. For example, the word “semiautobiographical” is pronounced sem-i-au-to-bi-o-gra-phi-cal.
- Use technology computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices that have autocorrect and dictionaries available to assist with spelling. They may also assist with phonetic pronunciation if you need to learn how to pronounce a long word.
The Ending Note
Having a phobia can make daily life challenging. However, with the right care, you can get rid of your symptoms and live a much more comfortable life.
Contact a mental health professional for assistance if you have a severe fear of long words or any other phobia that is interfering with your daily activities, such as affecting your ability to eat, sleep, work, or attend school.