Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the irrational fear, or phobia, of long or improbable-sounding words. Although there have been no documented cases involving this particular phobia, experts have identified it as a type of anxiety disorder. As a result, treatment is readily available for individuals who suffer from the affliction.
While this disorder may be less common than other phobias, individuals who suffer from it experience the same sense of panic as those who suffer from acrophobia (fear of heights), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), or any other well-known phobia. Rather than spiders or heights, however, the hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobic experiences an overall feeling of dread or fear whenever he or she comes in contact with a particularly long word. Despite the realization that they pose no damage to the individual, sufferers may experience symptoms like shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and nausea whenever this happens.
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia literally means the hippopotamus and monster-related fear of very long words. As a 15-syllable word, the term itself is likely to panic those who suffer from the disorder. As a result, many experts have challenged its use, arguing that the term mocks its sufferers. Therefore, the term sesquipedaliophobia, or the fear of many syllables, is often used instead.
Identifying this phobia is relatively simple, as individuals who suffer from the disorder will experience a persistent and unwarranted fear when they come into contact with long words. Clammy hands, elevated heartbeat, and dry mouth are some of the most common physical symptoms of the disorder.
One of the most effective ways to relieve any type of phobia, including hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, is to replace the sufferer’s negative associations with positive ones. To accomplish this, treatment may include anti-anxiety medication or therapy. Regardless of how it is treated, however, it is important to determine the source of the fear before it can be successfully alleviated. Unfortunately, experts are unable to explain exactly why individuals suffer from this phobia, but such fears are most often caused by family members or friends, past experiences, or even biological triggers.
While phobias themselves are relatively common — studies indicate approximately 5% of the world population currently suffers from one or more — since it was first defined in 2008, there have been no known cases involving hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Nevertheless, as a defined phobia, treatment is readily available for individuals who become panicked at the sight of long words. Individuals who suspect they may suffer from the disorder should discuss their symptoms with a physician or therapist to determine the best course of action for them.