Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, or fear of long words, is ironically – long.
While there are so many known phobias that people know exist, there are very few who are familiar with Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia or sesquipedalophobia, which is the shorter version of the word. So in this article, we will just use the word sesquipedalophobia, to shorten a long word, that some unfortunate people, are very frightened of.
While the fear of sesquipedalophobia is often considered fiction, it is actually real and some people do fear long words. People who suffer from this condition usually experience anxiety or stress. So what are its symptoms?
Signs and Symptoms of Sesquipedalophobia
When a person sees a long word, such as “Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis”, his symptoms may be triggered. This can make a person with sesquipedalophobia to feel distressed and anxious. They may soon quit reading altogether, so as not to encounter any long words that will make them uncomfortable, or worse, panic.
Every person is different and this is true with his or her symptoms of sesquipedalophobia. Mostly the symptoms of sesquipedalophobia may be emotional, mental, or physical. Those suffering from this condition feel agitated, and some even experience panic attacks at the thought or sight of long words.
But phobias generally exhibit the same signs and symptoms which are:
- A feeling of intense fear, anxiety, and panic
- Awareness that your fears are unreasonable but you’re powerless to control them
- Worsening anxiety as the situation, or objects get closer to you in time, or in a sesquipedalophobic's case, is the sight of the long word
- Doing everything to avoid the object or situation
- Enduring the object or situation with anxiety or fear
- Not being able to function normally because of fear
- Physical reactions such as sweating, palpitations, tight chest, or difficulty breathing
- Feeling nauseated or dizzy
Causes and Common Triggers of Sesquipedalophobia
Most phobias are caused by a past event, or series of events, that are deemed unpleasant, or terrifying. Fear of long words or sesquipedalophobia, is not as understood as other common phobias, like acrophobia. No one is born with this phobia. They may have learned it from an unpleasant experience. Most people wouldn’t even remember how their irrational fear came about.
Perhaps the person with this condition was humiliated, or embarrassed at one point in his or her life, when reading or pronouncing long words. They are sort of traumatized by the experience, that their mind continues to play the incident, triggering their negative reaction to it.
Treatments of Sesquipedalophobia
For most phobias, exposure therapy is said to be the most successful. There are several studies conducted about treatments of phobias using imaginal exposure. This means for people with Sesquipedalophobia, they will be gradually exposed to images of the thing that they fear, which are long words. Based on the same studies, 90% of subjected to the treatment exhibited a considerable fear reduction. And around 65% no longer experienced any symptoms of their phobias.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This is another form of treatment for persons with phobias. It is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. What it does is it helps the patient to challenge or change their thoughts or beliefs in addressing their problems. This treatment was originally meant to treat depression, but has since been expanded to treat other conditions including anxiety, which is exhibited by most phobic people. This treatment can also apply to persons suffering from sesquipedalophobia since they experience anxiety and distress whenever they encounter long words.
Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)
In this type of therapy, the patient is given a simulated experience using computer programs and artificially created environments. They use Virtual Reality gadgets to provide the patient a controlled stimuli as part of the treatment. They then monitor the patient’s reaction. It’s a series of VR-based treatment where it involves adjusting the virtual environment. Sometimes smell or adding vibrations allow the clinician to determine the level of the patient's reaction to the stimuli. Replaying virtual scenes multiple times with or without adjustment depending on the patient's reaction. In the case of a sesquipedalophobic, the clinician may set up a virtual environment where long words are shown to the patient.
Societal and Cultural Impact of Sesquipedalophobia
Most phobias have the same societal and cultural impact on an individual. While people with Sesquipedalophobia are rare compared to other phobias, we can safely infer that if their condition worsens their personal and work life may be affected.
People with phobias tend to avoid situations where they will be exposed to their irrational fear of the situation or object. In this case, a person suffering from sesquipedalophobia may avoid reading altogether for fear of encountering what he or she dreads.
He or she may also avoid watching movies or listening to radio since the sight and sound of a long word will trigger anxiety and panic in extreme cases. Persons with phobias generally keep to themselves feeling that nobody can understand what they are going through.
How Common Is Sesquipedalophobia?
There are no available data to find out how many people suffer from this condition. However, this is one of the rare forms of phobias in the world. That could be one reason why some experts, just like the fear of holes or trypophobia, still do not recognize it as a real phobia like fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of spiders, and other phobias more commonly known and accepted.
What Should You Do If You Have Sesquipedalophobia?
As in any other form of phobias, the best thing to do if you have this condition is to seek professional and medical help. You should not feel embarrassed to go and seek professional help such as going to a psychiatrist for proper evaluation of your condition. The treatment that is being given to people with different types of phobia, seem to be based on a general type of treatment such as the Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and the Virtual Reality Therapy. One of these may be able to help you with your fear of long words.
Sesquipedalophobia is not a common phobia and is not yet fully understood. But like any phobia, it is based on irrational fear of something that in itself is harmless. That's why it's always prudent to seek medical help when you or a person you know exhibit symptoms of being fearful of long words.