What Is Fear of Long Words?

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Every so often while reading, you might come across a long word that makes you pause. It takes a second, or a few, to sound out the word. For some, being unfamiliar with a long word isn't a big deal, but it's a phobia for others. If you have a phobia of long words, you might avoid them altogether.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words. Ironic, isn't it? It's also referred to as sesquipedalophobia (a Latin term that means "long word"). When this phobia involves a fear of encountering a long word when reading aloud or in a social context, it can be considered a type of social phobia.

This article will cover the diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment options for social phobias like Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.

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Definition

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words. This condition is considered a social phobia. Fifteen million Americans live with a social phobia.

The fear of long words is very specific. Some people may fear long words with many syllables, while others fear obscure words. Some people might have an aversion to common words of moderate length.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

This is the fear of long words. Sesquipedalian means "long word" in Latin.

A social phobia is when you have an irrational fear of being judged or rejected by a specific social situation causing you debilitating anxiety. If you have a social phobia, you might avoid social situations altogether out of fear of seeming awkward or anxious.

You may also experience physical symptoms with a social phobia, such as nausea, rapid heart rate, or even a full-blown panic attack when confronted with your fear.

Symptoms

If you're living with this phobia and come across a long word, it might cause you anxiety. You may avoid the word altogether or shut down. It's possible you may also feel embarrassed if you're unable to read the word.

Symptoms of fear of long words include:

Diagnosis

Typically, you'll discuss this condition with your primary healthcare provider first. Your provider will then refer you to a licensed mental health professional.

During your first appointment, you'll answer some intake forms. The mental health provider will also ask you some questions regarding the reasons for your visit to establish a proper diagnosis.

Diagnostic Tools

The "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM-5) is used to diagnose social phobias. This manual outlines the specific symptoms that are aligned with the condition in question.

The diagnosis of a social phobia according to the DSM-5 includes the following:

  • The fear or anxiety is persistent, and the social situation is excessively avoided.
  • Fear, anxiety, or avoidance that causes clinical distress
  • Persistent, intense fear or anxiety regarding specific social situations because you believe you may be judged negatively, embarrassed, or humiliated
  • Excessive anxiety that's out of proportion to the situation
  • Anxiety or distress that interferes with your daily living

Causes

There are a number of factors that can cause a social phobia. They include the following:

  • Genetics: Having a family member with a social phobia puts you at an increased risk of developing one as well.
  • Environmental factors: Stressful or traumatic childhood experiences can contribute to the development of a social phobia.
  • Learned behavior: Seeing others experience 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.
  • Parenting style: Having controlling or critical parents can contribute to the development of a social phobia.
  • Brain function: If you have a social phobia, there's likely an imbalance of neurotransmitters in your brain.

Treatment Options

There are a number of treatment options to help decrease or cure the symptoms of a social phobia. Treatment depends on your specific diagnosis, your needs, and the severity of your symptoms. Some options include the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy). It involves identifying unhealthy or harmful thinking and behavior patterns and changing them into healthy ones.
  • Medication: Although they're not always necessary, certain drugs can help manage symptoms of a social phobia. Options include anti-anxiety medication, antidepressants, and beta-blockers.

Coping

Living with a social phobia can feel isolating, but there are ways to cope. Work along with a licensed mental health professional to find activities that help bring you joy and decrease the severity of your symptoms. Some coping techniques include the following:

Self-Care Tips for a Social Phobia

  • Practice stress-reducing activities such as exercise, deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.
  • Avoid or reduce foods and beverages such as alcohol and coffee.
  • Talk to a trusted friend. Opening up to someone you love about what you're experiencing can help you feel more supported and understood.
  • Join a support group. Connecting with people who understand what you're going through can help you feel less alone.

Summary

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words. It's considered a social phobia. When you have a social phobia, it's common to avoid social situations as a means to control your anxiety. You may also experience physical symptoms with a social phobia, such as nausea, rapid heart rate, or even a full-blown panic attack when confronted with your fear.

A social phobia can be caused by genetics, upbringing, brain function, and certain environmental factors. Treatment includes talk therapy and, in some instances, medication.

Joining a support group and keeping a healthy lifestyle can also help manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life.

A Word From Verywell

If you or someone you know is living with a social phobia, know that you're not alone. There's help and support. It's important to speak with your healthcare provider about your symptoms. They can refer you to a licensed mental health professional.

Know that treating a social phobia is a process. Be patient with yourself and your healing. Give yourself the time you need and know that getting help is a big celebratory step towards your healing.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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