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Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (Fear of Long Words) : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Last Updated: Dec 26, 2020

What is Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia! No, wait you heard it right. It is one of the longest words in the dictionary. Ironically, Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words. The other term for this phobia is Sesquipedalophobia.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia or fear of words has not been given official recognition but it is considered as a social phobia. Some of the medical professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose this phobia or other social phobias. According to the DSM-5, the criteria for social phobias include:

  • Fear/ anxiety is disproportionate to the social situation
  • Anxiety or fear about social situations where a person has to meet or have a conversation with new people
  • Anxiety is persistent and the social situation is excessively avoided
  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinical distress

If you feel like you are suffering from any kind of social phobia or Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, you must consult your doctor immediately. Your health practitioner will make sure that there aren't any underlying conditions that cause anxiety or panic disorders.

Symptoms of Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

Symptoms for hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia can be caused when a person sees a long word, such as antidisestablishmentarianism. This phobia might cause a person to feel a great deal of fear and anxiety. Sometimes, people also avoid reading so that they do not come across long words.

Some researchers suggest that hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia can bring a situation of embarrassment or feelings of being mocked while pronouncing or reading long words.

Other symptoms of fear of long words include:

  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Trouble breathing
  • Avoiding reading of books
  • Feeling distressed over academics or work involving long words

There are also more general phobia symptoms that you could watch out for, including:

  • Being aware that your phobia is unreasonable, but feeling powerless to control your fear
  • Unable to function as you normally would because of your phobia
  • feeling nauseated

Common Causes of hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

There are not many known factors that cause hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Some of the factors include:

  • Negative event: As a child, a person can get a panic attack if it is hard to learn words or whenever they come across any kind of long words. Sometimes, this difficulty in learning words could be traumatic.
  • Genetics: This phobia can also be genetic as if a person has a family history of certain phobias, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, then there are chances that he/she might develop the same kind of phobia.
  • Environment: Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia can also be triggered by learned behavior. For example, hearing about negative experiences or traumatic experiences related to it.
  • Brain function: According to many studies, changes in your brain activity may also have an effect on developing any kind of phobia or Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.

How to Diagnosis Fear of Long Words?

Often, people suffering from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia do not seek medical help instead they avoid encountering situations where they might get exposed to long words and phrases.

If, however, symptoms get worse and become unbearable then you must take medical help. Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms in order to determine that you have developed a phobia or it is just an anxiety disorder. Your medical practitioner may also refer to the DSM-5.

It is to be mentioned that mental health and medical associations don’t officially recognize hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia as a phobia, therefore, it is not a diagnosable condition. Your health practitioner, however, will provide you general information about phobias and recommend treatment.


Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia Treatment:

Treatment options include the following:

  1. Exposure therapy: This therapy is one of the most common therapies used to treat phobias. Exposure therapy helps in changing your response to the object, situation, or word that causes fear and anxiety in you.
  2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): It is another common treatment which helps in managing hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. CBT helps you cope with your anxiety and fear.
  3. Medications: Taking medicines from time to time has helped in managing anxiety disorders. Consumption of medication, however, is not much effective in treating hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.

Other treatment option may help you to deal with your phobia:

  • Attending a support group to connect with other people facing the same or similar phobia.
  • Mindfulness strategies like listening, mindful breathing and observation to help you cope with anxiety
  • Talk therapy with a psychiatrist, counsellor or social worker.

One could also manage phoba symptoms by making certain lifestyle changes like:

  • Cutting out substances that can make anxiety worse like caffeine
  • Getting enough sleep each night
  • Facing fearful and anxiety-including situations head-on, as often as possible
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet.

When confronted with long words, you may find it helpful to:

  • TBreak words down: Take your time when reading a long word. Breathe in and break the word down into parts, then into syllables. For example, if you have a word like semiautobiographical read it as sem-i-au-to-bi-o-gra-phi-cal.
  • TSubstitute words: Avoiding long words may help you to cope, but it’s not necessarily possible all the time. If faced with a long word, try substituting it with an alike shorter term. For example, if you need to write refrigerator, use the fridge instead.
  • Take advantage of technology: Smartphones, computers, and other electronic devices have autocorrected and other versions of dictionaries available. This can help with spelling. They may also help with phonetic pronunciation in the event that you must learn to pronounce a long word.

How to Overcome From Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia Problem?

Not many people know about this phobia as it is not officially recognized. There are many pieces of research that need to understand what happens when a person suffers from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia or fear of long words.

You are advised to speak with your doctor or counselor if you experience any symptoms related to phobia. They will help you overcome your fear and understand your symptoms. Spending time with family and friends and taking therapy sessions also help you cope with your phobia.

Following are the effective strategies for putting this unwanted fear to rest once and for all so that those afflicted with it can reclaim their lives:

  • Strategy 1 - Face your head on: Realize that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Thousands of others face what you are facing every single day. You are not alone facing the fear of long words. Gradually build your exposure to make this strategy to be most effective. Then spend some time in the presence of the very thing that fuels your phobia. Start slow and small and gradually work your way up. Repetition and practice are the keys to this strategy.
  • Strategy 2 - Don’t let panic or setbacks paralyze you: Everyone has a bad day now and then but don’t get panic or setbacks paralyze you. The important thing is not to let your fear weaken you from moving forward. Although such days may make it feel like you’re not making any progress, they’re deceitful. On such occasions, step back and assess how far you’ve come with your fear. Eliminate all doubt and keep telling yourself, If I’ve come this far, I can keep going. I will prevail.
  • Strategy 3 - Keep a big picture perspective: This strategy is all about understanding what all opportunities you have lost. You’re afraid of long words but what is allowing your fear of long words to have a stranglehold over your causing you to miss out on? Don’t live with regrets or put off embracing major changes until it’s too late.
  • Strategy 4 - Treat fear as a call to action: Rather than taking it as the worst aspect of your personality, consider it a wake-up call. Write down a specific plan of the exact steps that you’ll take.
  • Strategy 5 - Rewire your brain: Take the support of a professional. Hypnotherapy is a very effective means of permanently rewiring the brain against hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Hynosis can be extremely cost-effective from the comfort and convenience.

Additional Information on Fear of Long words

Not only consulting with doctors will help in diminishing Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia but you also need to perform mindful breathing, listening, and observation to help you cope with anxiety. You are advised to also attend a support group to connect with other people facing the same or similar phobia.

You could also manage Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia symptoms by making some changes in your lifestyle:

  • Taking enough sleep at night
  • Consuming a healthy and balanced diet
  • Avoiding consuming substances that can worsen anxiety, like caffeine
  • Encountering fearful and anxiety-inducing situations

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Written ByDrx Hina FirdousPhD (Pharmacology) Pursuing, M.Pharma (Pharmacology), B.Pharma - Certificate in Nutrition and Child CarePharmacology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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