Xenoglossophobia (Fear of Foreign Languages)


Xenoglossophobia is the irrational fear of foreign languages. Someone experiencing this condition may find it extremely difficult to be around people who speak a different language than the one they speak. As a result of this, their anxiety may be so intrusive and abysmal that they may even experience full blown panic attacks which may only reassure them of their fear of foreign languages.

Someone suffering with xenoglossophobia does not also mean that they are xenophobic (fear of foreign people). They may simply be extremely fearful of someone who speaks a foreign language. This particular phobia is rare and is much less likely to be seen in someone than more common phobias such as achluphobia (fear of darkness), cynophobia (fear of dogs), or pupaphobia (fear of puppets).

Someone suffering with xenoglossophobia may find day to day life to be very difficult depending on the country and region they live in. For example, someone with xenoglossophobia living in Florida, U.S. may have difficulty coping in their day to day life seeing as how the state of Florida is very diverse with people speaking various languages such as English, Spanish, and French, among others.

In fact, someone may experience anxiety that is so abysmal that they may even choose to move to a different area of their city or country to be around people who speak their own language. People who do this are heavily motivated based on irrational premises. For example, they may believe that someone who speaks a different language then them is less than human or that they are “bad”.

Symptoms of Xenoglossophobia

People suffering from xenoglossophobia will experience a great deal of anxiety when around other people who speak different languages than them. They may believe that people who speak different languages than the one they speak are inherently bad or dangerous. Part of the anxiety they may experience from xenoglossophobia may be rooted in paranoia also as they may be fearful that others are talking negatively about them in a foreign language.

In some extreme instances, someone with xenoglossophobia may experience anxiety that is so intrusive and overpowering that they may even experience full blown panic attacks. Depending on the severity of their panic attack, they may need to be hospitalized. Though this may be a very rare occurrence for someone with this condition, it is still possible to occur.

The intense anxiety that they are likely to experience from their illness may force them to move to areas where everyone speaks the same language. This may mean traveling very long distances to ensure that the chances of them coming into contact with 7a foreign speaking person is very slim.

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

  • Anxiety when around foreign speaking people
  • Anxiety when thinking about foreign languages
  • Belief that their language is “better” than others
  • Avoiding people who speaking different languages
  • Unable to cope with very strong emotions
  • May experience full blown panic attacks

Causes of Xenoglossophobia

There is no known cause of xenoglossophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment are likely to play significant roles in the development of this condition. For instance, someone who has a family history of mental illness may have an increased chance of developing mental illness themselves. This may be due to them then having a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness.

If such a genetic predisposition were to exist in someone, then it may only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown xenoglossophobia. An example of a traumatic event that may cause someone to develop xenoglossophobia could be if someone were robbed or assaulted by a person who spoke a foreign language. Though this is irrational to paint every foreign speaking person in the same light, it is still plausible to conceive that such an experience may be painful enough for them to develop this mental illness.

Though we can look at several different factors that may cause someone to develop mental illness, we do not definitively know why. Be that as it may, there is a consensus among most mental health professionals that both genetics and one’s environment play crucial roles in the development of any given mental disorder, including xenoglossophobia.

So, if you are unsure as to whether or not you suffer from this mental illness, then looking at the mental health of your family, as well as your past and current environment may help you better understand. It may also be a good idea to talk to your doctor about your concerns as well.

Xenoglossophobia Treatments

There is no treatment that is specifically designed for xenoglossophobia. Nevertheless, there are some forms of treatment that are commonly used for people suffering from phobias. One of the most common forms of treatments for people suffering from this type of anxiety disorder is exposure therapy. This form of therapy works by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to their fear over a certain period of time.

Though this will likely give the patient a great deal of anxiety when exposed to their fear, doing so will also help them to desensitize them from their fear. It is very important for the therapist to be very adept at treating phobias due to the fact that if they were to expose the patient to too much too soon, then this may have a counterproductive effect on the patient.

Anti-anxiety medication may also be helpful for someone suffering from xenoglossophobia. However, merely taking medication alone may not be enough to truly improve the symptoms associated with this condition in the long run. Taking medication is typically much more effective when used with some sort of therapy, such as exposure therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), among others.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Xenoglossophobia

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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Xenoglossophobia

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 xenoglossophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.

Meditation for Xenoglossophobia

There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from xenoglossophobia. 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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia, 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 xenoglossophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.

Exposure Therapy for Xenoglossophobia

As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as xenoglossophobia. 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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their xenoglossophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with xenoglossophobia 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.

Exercise for Xenoglossophobia

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including xenoglossophobia. 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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia, 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 xenoglossophobia over time.

Yoga for Xenoglossophobia

There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from xenoglossophobia. 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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia.

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 xenoglossophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.

Reducing Caffeine for Xenoglossophobia

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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Xenoglossophobia

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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia. 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 xenoglossophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.

Psychiatric Medications for Xenoglossophobia

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 xenoglossophobia 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 xenoglossophobia 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.

Antidepressants

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 xenoglossophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of xenoglossophobia.

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 xenoglossophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.

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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