Sesquipedalophobia (Fear of Long Words)

Sesquipedalophobia is the fear of long words. The irony is clear as the word itself is ridiculously long. People who suffer from sesquipedalophobia may find it very difficult to read articles, novels, or even be out in public due to the chances of them seeing a very long word displayed on a billboard or sign somewhere. In fact, This illness was actually the inspiration for the well known funny song titled “Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” by Bryant Oden.

This is a very rare phobia and is not among the more common phobias like achluphobia (fear of the dark), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), or cynophobia (fear of dogs) for instance. Those suffering from sesquipedalophobia may find it very difficult to live their day to day lives due to their phobia causing heightened amounts of fear and worry.

Though they may realize that their condition is irrational, they are still unable to see or read long words without experiencing painstaking anxiety.

People with sesquipedalophobia may purposely avoid putting themselves in situations where they will be forced to read long words. So, they may ensure that their day job requires little to no reading or writing. However, such symptoms will vary greatly from person to person.

Sesquipedalophobia Symptoms

Those suffering from sesquipedalophobia may experience a great deal of difficulty going through their day to day life trying to avoid long words. They may refuse to read restaurant menus, billboards, signs, or other forms of text in an attempt to help “protect” themselves from the anxiety that long words will give them.

Using the tool of avoidance will probably be used often as they may make conscious decisions to not read things or to look away when and if they are in the presence of some sort of text. Upon seeing a very large word, you can expect someone with sesquipedalophobia to experience high amounts of anxiety and stress. Their body may experience physiological changes such as an increased heart rate, increased body temperature, muscle tension, dry mouth, shaking, etc. Essentially, their body may react as if they were actually in the presence of a real threat.

Below, you will see some more common symptoms of this phobia:

  • Unable to read long words without anxiety
  • Avoidance of reading
  • Avoiding going out to public places where long words may be displayed
  • Irrational resistance to broaden their vocabulary
  • Feelings of dread when looking at or thinking about a long word

Causes of Sesquipedalophobia

The exact causes of sesquipedalophobia are not known. However, one’s environment and genetics may play a significant role in someone developing this condition. People who have a family history of mental illness, especially anxiety disorders and phobias may have a greater chance to develop sesquipedalophobia. However, the specificity of this phobia renders it more probable that it is a combination of genetics and environment.

It is probable that someone who suffers from dislexia or some other learning disability may develop sesquipedalophobia if they are genetically predisposed to develop mental illness. Their fear may be due to a deep insecurity of spelling or reading clearly. Such an insecurity, with the addition of the right genetics may be a cause for someone developing sesquipedalophobia. Also, with the right genetics, someone may also be able to develop a fear of long words due to experiencing some sort of traumatizing event or events in their life.

It should also not be ruled out that someone who already has an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) may have a greater risk for developing sesquipedalophobia than people who don’t already suffer from such illnesses. However, the occurrence of one or more anxiety disorders does not mean that someone may develop a fear of long words. It merely means that they may have a higher risk of developing it as opposed to the average person.

Sesquipedalophobia Treatments

There is no specific treatment method for sesquipedalophobia. However, like most phobia treatments, exposure therapy may be able to help minimize the symptoms of this mental illness insurmountably. In this context, exposure therapy would work by slowly exposing the person to long words.

The therapist may first start off by showing the patient four syllable words and then overtime building up to five, six, and seven syllable words. Or they may have them read words no less than 10 letters long and slowly build up to longer words. Regardless of the specific methodology, the end goal would be to try and desensitize the patient from their irrational fear of long words. Thus, minimizing their symptoms of sesquipedalophobia.

Talk therapy may also be able to help treat sesquipedalophobia. This type of therapy is often practiced by a psychologist, therapist, or a social worker. There are many different types of therapists who specialize in a plethora of different areas such as primarily working with personality disorders to practicing sex therapy. So, it may be in your best interest if you could find a therapist who specializes in treating phobias or at least someone who has experience with treating anxiety disorders.

Medications such as anti-anxiety or anti-depressants may be helpful to treat sesquipedalophobia as well by minimizing the intensity of your symptoms. However, though medication may be able to help reduce symptoms of sesquipedalophobia, one should be cognizant they will often come with unwanted side effects, as well as the reality that you will still need to learn how to change your behavior. This is where therapy comes in.

Psychiatric Medications for Sesquipedalophobia

Anti-anxiety meds

These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe sesquipedalophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.

These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their sesquipedalophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.


These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as sesquipedalophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of sesquipedalophobia.

These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of sesquipedalophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Sesquipedalophobia

MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from sesquipedalophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with sesquipedalophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.

Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of sesquipedalophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.

Meditation for Sesquipedalophobia

There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from sesquipedalophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.

Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from sesquipedalophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.

For someone with sesquipedalophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.

To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of sesquipedalophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.

Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with sesquipedalophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.

Exposure Therapy for Sesquipedalophobia

As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as sesquipedalophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with sesquipedalophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.

The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with sesquipedalophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their sesquipedalophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with sesquipedalophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.

Yoga for Sesquipedalophobia

There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from sesquipedalophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with sesquipedalophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.

There are many different types of yoga that someone with sesquipedalophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with sesquipedalophobia.

If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of sesquipedalophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.

Exercise for Sesquipedalophobia

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including sesquipedalophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.

According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of sesquipedalophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.

There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of sesquipedalophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with sesquipedalophobia over time.

Caffeine Reduction for Sesquipedalophobia

It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with sesquipedalophobia to experience panic attacks.

So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.

Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with sesquipedalophobia.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Sesquipedalophobia

DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like sesquipedalophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.

One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with sesquipedalophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.

Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with sesquipedalophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.

Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with sesquipedalophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your sesquipedalophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Sesquipedalophobia

CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with sesquipedalophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.

CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with sesquipedalophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with sesquipedalophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.

Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with sesquipedalophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.

If you think you may be suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you may benefit from therapy. Feel free to reach out to your doctor or local mental health clinic to see what your available options are and to see if there is any sort of discount or promo code available to help you with the costs of treatment, as well as if your health insurance will cover treatment costs.

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