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Hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliofobia: the irrational fear of long words

Hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliofobia: the irrational fear of long words

June 25, 2024

In our article "The 15 rarest phobias that exist" we echoed the strangest phobias that may suffer some individuals. Definitely, one of the most atypical and curious phobias is the hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliofobia or phobia of long words . And is that people who suffer from this phobia should feel great discomfort just by hearing the name of the disorder they suffer.

As with all phobias, hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliofobia is an irrational fear, which causes great discomfort and causes those affected with this pathology tend to avoid situations in which they come into contact with the phobic stimulus, ie, long words.

A very strange phobia

The truth is that this phobia is rare, like other strange phobias such as arachibutyrophobia, which is the fear that peanut butter sticks to the palate, and may appear, for example, when a child is about to drown Eat some peanut butter toast.

This type of phobias, which are caused by specific stimuli, are called specific phobias. These include: fear of spiders or arachnophobia, fear of clowns or coulrophobia or fear of flying or aerophobia, among others.

  • There are other types of phobias that you can know in our article: "Types of phobias: exploring the disorders of fear"

Classical conditioning and its relationship with phobias

Fear is an emotion that can be adaptive just like anxiety; However, fear does not always have an objective and real cause, because people are capable of developing an irrational fear of practically everything that can be perceived or imagined: clowns, spiders, food, etc.

Phobias are usually learned, that is, unconsciously we can associate a stimulus (which originally did not produce fear) to a negative emotion. This may occur due to the intensity of the negative emotion, which converts that originally neutral stimulus into a phobic stimulus. If we suffer a phobia, every time we see the feared stimulus or imagine it we feel an intense discomfort, which is cause an associative learning called classical conditioning.

  • Related article: "Classical conditioning and its most important experiments"

Causes of hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliofobia

Generally, hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliofobia occurs in people who have suffered a childhood trauma related to long words . They may have had a bad experience in a spelling bee, or they may have spent a great deal of embarrassment in front of the class when they were asked to read a word they did not understand or could not pronounce well. A traumatic event like this is enough to start the development of a phobia.

Research makes it clear that associative learning is behind phobias, either directly or indirectly (for example, watching a movie about murderous clowns and developing clown phobia), although there are also those who claim that genes play a determining role, because some people are more prone than others to suffer from phobic disorders.


Phobias belong to the group of anxiety disorders, because irrational fear causes great discomfort and people suffering from these diseases suffer a lot. This suffering is such that they tend to avoid the feared situations, objects and thoughts.

Therefore, the symptomatology of phobias is characterized by great fear or panic, accompanied by a great feeling of anguish, anxiety and discomfort, which can make the person feel stomach pain, headache, rapid pulse, and so on. When the subject has to face a situation in which, for example, he has to pronounce a long word, he will try not to have to face that feared stimulus to avoid feeling bad.

The vast majority of phobias share physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms. In summary, they are the ones shown below:

  • Accelerated pulse and increased heart rate
  • Feeling short of breath and choking. Hyperventilation
  • Excess sweat
  • Anxiety and anguish
  • Dry mouth
  • Catastrophic thoughts
  • Loss of concentration and disorientation
  • Great fear or terror
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache and muscle tension
  • Avoidance of the feared stimulus


The treatment of this phobia is the same as that of other phobic disorders. Different methods can be used, for example, hypnosis or mindfulness, the latter to accept one's experience as a person suffering from a phobia and, in this way, reduce the intensity of the symptoms.However, the techniques most used for the treatment of phobias belong to cognitive behavioral therapy, which help cope with feared situations and substitute irrational thoughts for more adaptive ones.

Expository techniques are the most used, specifically systematic desensitization . This method consists of the patient being exposed gradually to the phobic stimulus and, at the same time, acquiring more useful coping skills. Thanks to the different therapeutic sessions, the patient is facing the phobic stimulus, and little by little he can pronounce those words that previously caused him great anxiety.

Other fundamental techniques of treatment are relaxation and breathing techniques. In addition, those people who suffer more severe cases can consume some drugs (if so advised by a therapist or psychiatrist) to reduce anxiety, but always in combination with psychological therapy.

New technologies applied to the treatment of phobic disorders

Cognitive behavioral techniques have been applied for several decades to treat phobias , but the new technologies also begin to have prominence as psychological therapy. Virtual reality and augmented reality have proved to be very effective for the treatment of phobias, since they allow to simulate those phobic stimuli that patients fear. Virtual reality, for example, can be useful for the patient to be in a room where larger spiders appear every time, which would belong to the exhibition therapy.

In recent years, in addition, applications for mobile phones aimed at the treatment of phobias are appearing. You can learn more about these apps in our article: "8 apps to treat phobias and fears from your smartphone"

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