Fear of Words

It must be said right at the start that if a person has this fear they are probably not reading this article. So we will work to direct this article at the ones who love those who have Verbophobia – the profound fear of words.

It can be disheartening to observe someone who might otherwise be enriched by words finding instead that the very idea of words frighten them beyond their ability to understand. They may even rationally believe that words could be helpful, but they can’t bring themselves to actually allow their eyes to consume words.

What Causes Verbophobia?

There are so many potential causes and not one of them is exactly alike. Let me deal with three.

  • Those who never learned to read. The fear of words for this individual is  linked to what they do not know. They find the words fearful because it seems as if they are the only ones who cannot fathom the words. So they stay away perhaps from overwhelming embarrassment.
  • Those who fear where the words might take them. This can be caused by reading a book that instilled a frightening scenario or perhaps introduced ideas that contradicted what they had always been told were true. The ideas caused them to believe that they are destined to disappoint those around them by doing or believing things those closest to them would disapprove of – even if there is little actual probability this would happen.
  • Those who fear the words will make them responsible. Some believe that by reading words they may be held responsible for knowing the message or acting on the advise. This can seem too controlling and nearly suffocating.

The fear can be both learned from the behavior of others or derived from some personal experience that may not actually make much sense.

Symptoms of Verbophobia

Those who have this fear will likely never subscribe to newspapers or magazines. The will not have any books and may even struggle with watching television channels that consistently have words scrolling along the bottom. They will not review owner’s manuals for items they purchase and may actually remove those manuals from their home.

Other symptoms may also include…

  • Trembling
  • Air hunger
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Weeping
  • Crying
  • Panic attacks
  • An urge to flee

A person with this fear will become anxious in the presence of words. The fear usually does not extend to spoken words, but it can which creates a very difficult dynamic.

How to Overcome Verbophobia

A person with this fear will benefit from therapy. I think the truth is they long for meaningful communication, but feel that the written word holds inherent dangers they feel incapable of understanding and dealing with.

You can help this individual by learning and reciting a poem that they may find lovely and then helping them understand that those words of beauty were discovered by reading words. This may be a small way you can help arm the verbophobe with the knowledge that not all words are bad or evil.

The fear of words is also referred to as:

  • Word fear
  • Verbophobia
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