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What is the Phobia for Long Words Called?

Phobias come in all shapes and sizes. From the fear of heights to the fear of spiders, phobias can range from the common to the downright obscure. But what about the fear of long words? Yes, it exists, and yes, its name is ironically long. In this blog, we'll explore various phobias, their symptoms and causes, and discuss effective treatments and coping strategies.

What Phobia is the Fear of Long Words?

Brace yourself.

The fear of long words is called hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, or just sesquippedaliophobia. While many people may face fear or anxiety at the sight of long, complex words, this ironically named phobia is not recognized as a clinical condition. Instead, a fear of long words is considered a social phobia, and usually makes up just one component of a wider social anxiety.

Social phobias are clinically termed social anxiety disorder (SAD) and are characterized by an intense fear of social situations where individuals fear judgment or scrutiny by others. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), social anxiety disorders occurr when:

  • a fear or anxiety about social situations where a person may be examined, like meeting new people or having a conversation.

  • the fear or anxiety is disproportionate to the social situation.

  • the fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinical distress.

Sesquippedaliophobia can occur in these settings, where encountering a long word and having to read it out, or not understanding what it means when others discuss it, causes disproportionate anxiety. Nobody likes feeling stupid, but equally, nobody expects you to be able to pronounce otorhinolaryngology! Your fear of judgement is due to social anxiety rather than objective fact.

What are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety?

Recognizing the symptoms of social anxiety is important in contextualizing your feelings, managing your responses and seeking effective treatment. Social phobia symptoms can vary in intensity but always have a huge impact on your ability to feel safe and comfortable in social settings.

Social anxiety can include physical, emotional, and cognitive manifestations. Physically, individuals may experience symptoms such as. Emotionally, there may be overwhelming feelings of fear, embarrassment, or humiliation. Cognitive symptoms may include negative self-talk, excessive worry about social interactions, and fear of being judged. Common symptoms include:

  • Intense anxiety or fear in social situations

  • Avoidance of social situations or enduring them with extreme distress

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Nausea

  • Panic attacks

  • Fear of judgment or scrutiny by others

  • Feelings of embarrassment or humiliation

  • Negative thoughts or a critical internal monologue 

  • Difficulty speaking or feeling self-conscious in social settings

With sesquippedaliophobia playing a role in your social anxiety, you may find yourself avoiding reading, evading public presentations or feeling excessive anxiety in academic settings.

What Causes Phobias?

Phobias can stem from a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Traumatic experiences, learned behaviours, and genetic predispositions can all contribute to the development of phobias and an imbalance in neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine may play a role in the onset of anxiety disorders [1], including phobias.

Social anxiety plays a trick on you: it makes you think that it’s your fault you feel that way. You’re not charismatic or funny enough, or smart enough to keep up with the conversation and understand the long words. But there are always other factors at play: whatever the cause of your social anxiety, it’s important to remember it can be treated. 

How to Treat Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety can be hugely debilitating and isolating, preventing you from enjoying friendships, pursuing your career or experiencing the world. Fortunately, proven treatment paths can help you overcome your fears.

Cognitive behavioural therapy: CBT aims to identify and challenge irrational thoughts and beliefs associated with phobias.

Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing individuals to their feared objects or situations in a controlled environment. While this may seem scary, virtual reality exposure therapy makes stressful scenarios approachable: you start small, and work your way up.

Medication: such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or benzodiazepines may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of anxiety associated with phobias. Medication may accompany other treatments, but shouldn’t replace it altogether as it masks the symptoms without treating the cause.

Additionally, having coping strategies can mitigate the day-to-day effects of a phobia while you seek treatment. This may include:

  • deep breathing exercises

  • mindfulness techniques

  • progressive muscle relaxation

  • building a support network of friends and family

  • practising self-compassion and reframing negative thoughts 

  • prioritizing good sleep

  • eating a healthy diet

  • partaking in more exercise

oVRcome’s Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Social Anxiety

oVRcome was built to provide affordable, accessible treatment for social anxiety and specific phobias to everyone: all you need is a smartphone and an internet connection. We’ll send you a VR headset to begin challenging your fears.

Our clinically proven [2] programs combine gold-standard treatments: a course of self-guided psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy prepares you for graded virtual reality exposure therapy, all taking place in the safety of your own home, without stigma or expensive therapist fees 

Wrapping Up

Phobias, whether they involve social situations, specific objects, or even long words, can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. Understanding the nature of phobias, recognizing their symptoms, and exploring effective treatment options are crucial steps in overcoming these debilitating fears. By utilizing therapeutic interventions, adopting healthy coping strategies, and seeking support when needed, individuals can regain control over their lives and navigate the world with greater confidence and resilience.

Try oVRcome’s program for social anxiety today.


  1. Kyriakoulis P, Kyrios M. Biological and cognitive theories explaining panic disorder: A narrative review. Front Psychiatry. 2023 Jan 30;14:957515. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2023.957515. PMID: 36793941; PMCID: PMC9924294.

  1. Lacey, C., Frampton, C., & Beaglehole, B. (2022). OVRcome – Self-guided virtual reality for specific phobias: A randomised controlled trial. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

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