What is Xenoglossophobia? (An Overview)

This blog post will give us an overview on the symptoms, causes and therapeutic intervention for Xenoglossophobia.

Xenoglossophobia is an irrational fear of foreign languages.

Xenoglossophobia is a state of the mind where the person fears the foreign languages and moreover would make drastic changes in his life to avoid being exposed to languages other than his own.

He goes through a full-blown panic attack when around people who speak foreign languages, not because he is scared of the people who speak, but because he is afraid of these languages.

The etiology may be varied but the effects it has on the sufferer remains the same throughout all the phobias.

They may even move around only in those areas where the language they are familiar with is spoken.

Xenoglossophobia is an intense fear of foreign languages because it affects his daily life, his academics where in school or university he may be studying with students from other parts of the country or the world.

This may also negatively affect his work life when he might be unable to perform as expected due to the presence of languages other than his own. 

If the person is living in a multiethnic city then he might need to change his city or move to another part of the country in order to evade what he fears.

Causes of Xenoglossophobia

Xenoglossophobia is caused due to many factors that seem viable considering the person suffers from immense apprehensive anxiety as well as intense anxiety. 

This fear may be slotted into three categories; 

  1. communication apprehension: occurs when the person faces apprehension while speaking to a person who speaks another language. This apprehension is so intense that the fear takes over and the symptoms of panic set is. Xenoglossophobia is developed because the person sees himself as inept somehow to understand that language or reply in it.  
  1. test anxiety: in this the person suffering from Xenoglossophobia may suffer because the only thing on his mind would be a fear of failing. 
  1. fear of negative evaluation: this is when the person suffering from Xenoglossophobia is always thinking that others are looking at hom or judging him or his performance when he will speak a foreign language or when he fails to understand what the other person is saying.

The feelings of ineptness and not coming upto the standards of others is a leading cause of developing Xenoglossophobia.

The person suffering from Xenoglossophobia may also be suffering from an identity crisis.

Xenoglossophobia may be caused due to the following factors:-

  1. Genetic Predisposition

Every person has a genetic tendency to contract a disease or go through a mental illness. This predisposition is embedded in our DNA and is handed down to us over the generations.

If the person’s ancestors suffered from anxiety disorders, phobias, mental illness or even Xenoglossophobia, then chances are higher for him/her to suffer from the same or from either of these.

Phobias are familial and most often than not run in families.

Their intensity may vary from person to person, from one relative to the other.

  1. Biological Cause

Hormones play an important role in causing anxiety disorders, specifically phobias as well.

Thyroid Stimulating Hormones (TSH) is directly related to the etiology of anxiety related problems that occur.

Symptoms that indicate a Thyroid malfunctioning are:

  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Nervous demeanor
  • Irritability
  • Losing or gaining weight 

Low levels of Testosterone (male hormone) can also lead to anxiety.

Serotonin, is also called a happy chemical and depletion of this hormone can also cause anxieties of varying levels. 

Dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical or neurotransmitter is involved in happiness and a state of elatedness.

When the levels of Dopamine drop anxiety and a feeling of dread become a common forte. 

Adrenaline rush is another biological factor that emanates the ‘flight or the fight’ response. This response is triggered when the brain suffers from a threat.

This threat may be caused by a stimulus that causes anxiety. This stimulus is the very stimulus that initiates a phobia fear.

In the case of Xenoglossophobia, this stimulus will be the high open places.

  1. Behavioral Cause

Children learn behaviors and attitudes from people around them.

These people may be their parents, siblings, extended family members like uncles or aunts, grandparents or any significant others they are attached to.

Learned behavior is one of the leading causes of developing phobias.

  1. Traumatic Incidence/s

xenoglossophobia may also be caused due to an incident or accident that was caused in a foreign land.

It could have been due to not understanding the local language of a place that could have caused disastrous effects on the person or the loss of a loved one.

 Symptoms of Xenoglossophobia

Different people display the symptoms of the same phobia differently; with varying degrees of severity.

There are two types of symptoms; Physical symptoms and Psychological symptoms.

The Physical Symptoms include those that involve changes in the bodily sensations and are felt by the sufferer. Examples are:-

  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • headaches
  • Sweating and trembling
  • dry mouth
  • raised blood pressure
  • nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling faint

 The Psychological Symptoms include those that impinge on the mind and are visible through a person’s behavior.

Examples are:-

  • feelings of dread when hears foreign languages 
  • fear of dying 
  • fear of losing control
  • fear of harm
  • fear of ineptness
  • Low self esteem
  • Fear of being judges/ evaluated negatively
  • feeling of helplessness
  • confusion
  • anger
  • irritability
  • mood swings

Therapeutic Interventions for Xenoglossophobia

Phobias can be treated through a variety of therapeutic interventions. a) Systematic Desensitization b) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) c)  Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP) d) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) d) meditation e) medication

  1. Systematic Desensitization

This is one of the most common therapies used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the person suffering from phobia.

In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the stimulus gradually with varying degrees of severity, varying durations of time.

The degree of severity is hierarchical,ranging from low to high. Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.

In Xenoglossophobia the client is exposed to images of feared stimulus first.

For the fear to be invoked during therapy, the patient must be exposed to an intense stimulus (one that is feared).

The aim of Systematic Desensitization is to remove the ‘feared stimulus’ and substitute it with a ‘relaxation response.’

Initially a relaxation technique that involves deep breathing is taught to the client.

Then the client is asked to present a list that has a hierarchical presentation of his fears, starting from the least fear evoking situation to the most. 

The therapist takes the client through these situations via two methods:

a)     In vitro – where the feared stimulus is made to imagine

b)    In vivo – where the client visits the the feared place in reality

The exposure to the phobic stimulus is of varying durations, where the client exercises relaxation techniques and can revert to a previous non-threatening situation any time.

  1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved.

This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.

The therapist separates the problem into parts. These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions. 

The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought and behavior that follows.

This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels.

CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation. 

Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.

Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior.

Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis.

According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is what subjective perspective is. 

c) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP)

In this therapy the client is asked to 

  • Access the phobia in a safe environment.
  • Help them to replay the phobia along with happy emotions.
  • Disassociate from the phobia.

d) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment.

We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us.

We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions. 

In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!


Alters the emotional attachment one has to his/her thoughts.

This attachment is actually the root cause of Xenoglossophobia and other phobias as well. Meditation helps to disconnect  is by far the quickest, most effective way to do this.

Meditation helps one to detach their thoughts from the emotional content of the phobia. 

Meditation helps you to alleviate all irrational thoughts.

Relaxation and maintaining focus gives one the strength to press into the phobic fear and gain access so that it can be eroded, session by session.

e) Group Therapy

Group Therapy is one of the most effective treatments available for phobias. In this the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.

These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias or anxieties.

They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping mechanisms. This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering. 

These groups are a great support system for the person who suffers from anxiety.

Knowing that there are others like him gives a great relief and the encouragement that is received from these groups is unsurmountable. 

f) Routine Modification

The person suffering from phobias is advised to alter his daily routine and bring about a change.

The change is always considered to be a healthy way of dealing with stress and phobias in particular.

  • Adopt a walking regimen
  • Induct exercise on a daily basis
  • Alter eating and drinking habits
  • Improving the sleep cycle

g) Medication

There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of  Xenoglossophobia are severe and hinder the daily activities of the sufferer.

  1. Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)

These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.

  1. Antidepressants 

These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of  Xenoglossophobia as well as other phobias.

Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you overcome language anxiety?

Language anxiety can be overcome by first coming to terms with the nature of the anxiety, then trying to understand that if it is not gone then it will have a negative impact on your life.

You can even try to practice the language that seems difficult, 

What is English speaking anxiety?

When English is a second language to someone they will suffer from anxiety if they have to speak it or listen to it.

This anxiety will interfere with their academic and occupational life.

English is an international language and essential now in every country.

How anxiety affects second language acquisition?

Anxiety will interfere with the person’s ability to learn English, there will be low concentration and  lack of retention.

What does Xenoglossophobia mean?

Xenoglossophobia is an irrational fear of foreign languages.

Xenoglossophobia is a state of the mind where the person fears the foreign languages and moreover would make drastic changes in his life to avoid being exposed to languages other than his own.


  • www.psychtimes.com 
  • www.amazon.com
  • www.psychologytoday.com

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