Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia: Fear of Long Words

  • Time to read: 5 min.

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How do you feel when someone talks to you about something that’s too challenging for your understanding? You may find yourself feeling angry, frustrated, or even embarrassed. It’s a common experience for many people. In fact, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), this is called “Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.”

This means fear of long words. And it’s not just an issue in English-speaking countries either–it can happen in any language if the speaker uses a word with lots of syllables and complex grammar rules.

Hippopotomosessquipidaliaphobia is also called “word aversion” because some people react so strongly they will refuse to hear more than one sentence from a person who speaks using long words. In some cases, it may even lead to physical reactions like sweating, increased heart rate, and dizziness.

What is Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia?

Do you ever worry that you’ll forget how to spell a word? Or that you’ll mispronounce it in front of others? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, there’s even a term for this fear: hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.

Though it may be hard to spell, the word is quite straightforward. Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia comes from the Greek words “hippos,” meaning horse, “potamos,” meaning river, “monstrosos,” meaning monster, and “sesquipedalis,” meaning long. When put together, these words form a literal translation of “fear of long words.”

While it may seem like a silly thing to be afraid of hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is a real phobia that can have a significant impact on a person’s life.

For many people, hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is more than just a fear of long words. It’s a fear of words in general. This can make it difficult for those with the condition to participate in conversations, read books, or even follow along in class.

The phobia can also make it hard to understand written instructions or directions. In severe cases, hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia can lead to social anxiety and isolation.

Symptoms of Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia

Symptoms of hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia include rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Often, just hearing a long word can trigger these symptoms. In severe cases, people may avoid situations where they might encounter long words, such as going to the doctor or reading the news.

If you think you might be suffering from hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, talk to your doctor or a therapist. Some treatments can help you overcome your fear and live a normal life, regardless of any OCD behaviors you might be experiencing.

How Common is the Fear of Long Words?

It’s hard to say how common the fear of long words is, but it’s definitely a thing. There are even some people who can’t bring themselves to say the word “antidisestablishmentarianism.” Can you imagine having to go through life avoiding words like that?

Personally, I don’t have a fear of long words, but I can understand why some people do. After all, they can be pretty intimidating. Most of us have had the experience of feeling like we’re not smart enough when we come across a word we don’t know (kind of like the fear of thinking – phronemophobia).

And when those words are really long, it can feel like we’re in way over our heads. So if you’re someone who gets a little anxious when you see a long word, you’re not alone.

Who is Most Likely to Experience Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia?

The condition is most commonly diagnosed in children, although adults can also suffer from the phobia. Studies suggest that the phobia is often caused by a traumatic experience, such as being ridiculed for not being able to pronounce a word correctly.

Children who are diagnosed with hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia typically have a higher than average IQ and tend to be very creative. The phobia can have a significant impact on a person’s life, making it difficult to participate in activities such as schooling or work.

Treatment for the condition typically involves exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

What Causes Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia?

One theory is that the fear of long words is linked to a fear of failure. When we see a long word, our brain immediately starts to feel overwhelmed and we think we won’t be able to pronounce it correctly.

This triggers a feeling of anxiety which can cause us to freeze up or avoid the word altogether. Another theory is that the phobia is a result of trauma. Perhaps you had a bad experience in school when you were trying to read a long word out loud and everyone laughed at you. This type of humiliation can be enough to cause a lasting fear.

How Can this Phobia be Treated or Managed?

This phobia can be treated in several ways. Some people may benefit from therapy, either alone or in a group setting. Here, they can discuss their fear and learn techniques for managing it.

Others may find relief through medication, such as beta-blockers, which can help to reduce anxiety. Some people may also find it helpful to gradually expose themselves to long words, either by reading them out loud or by looking them up in the dictionary.

What Phobias are related to Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia?

While Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is a very unique phobia, there are a few others that share some similarities. For example, people with logophobia (the fear of words) or lexigophobia (the fear of words that are difficult to pronounce) may also be afraid of long words.

In addition, people with graphophobia (the fear of writing) or dysgraphia (a learning disability that affects writing) may also have difficulty with long words.

Bottom Line

There are many theories as to why this phobia exists, but one of the most common is that it’s a way for our brains to protect us from feeling overwhelmed. When we hear a word that we don’t understand, our brains immediately go into “protection mode” and start looking for ways to simplify the situation.

This can lead to a feeling of anxiety or panic disorder because we feel like we’re not in control. If you think you might be suffering from hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, talk to your doctor or a therapist. Some treatments can help you manage your fear and live a normal life.