Gephyrophobia (pronounced as Jeff-ee-ro-pho-bia) is a common specific phobia affecting many individuals. People with this phobia are afraid of crossing bridges or tunnels: driving over a bridge or even seeing one from afar or seeing photos/movies involving bridges can set off an anxiety attack in the sufferer.
Often the phobic realizes that his fear is unwarranted and irrational; but he is completely unable to overcome it. The fear of bridges or tunnels can thus affect one’s professional and personal life in that; one might refuse to drive or travel or will likely make career decisions that revolve around his fear. Drivers might swerve or brake dangerously upon seeing a bridge, thereby endangering one’s life as well as of those around. The fear of bridges phobia can thus be quite debilitating.
Causes of fear of bridges phobia
Most Gephyrophobics fear bridges that run over large water bodies. Their fear, like all other phobias, might have its roots embedded in the past. A negative or traumatic experience involving bridges might have set it off.
The fear is also linked to the fear of heights or Acrophobia. Most bridges run over large valleys or water bodies at a great height. Additionally, some bridges may be small or restricted leading to claustrophobia or the fear of small restricted spaces. An accident or death witnessed by the phobic over a bridge might lead to creation of a similar fear response over and over. The anxiety is the mind’s way of protecting the individual from ‘supposedly dangerous’ situations.
Many individuals fear that the bridge might collapse or that the driver might lose control of the vehicle and crash into the depths below. Such fear is valid and normal in most people; but in case of a Gephyrophobic it can lead to severe anxiety symptoms.
Movie scenes or news reports of accidents that have occurred over a bridge can also lead to this phobia especially in people who are already suffering from other anxiety disorders. Adrenal deficiency can sometimes play a role in triggering this phobia.
Symptoms of Gephyrophobia
Anxiety and panic attacks are common symptoms of the fear of bridges phobia.
- Shortness of breath when driving over a bridge.
- The phobic might squeeze his eyes shut, or experience rapid heart rate and sweaty palms.
- Numbness from head to toe, tingling sensation, shaking, trembling or feeling nauseated are some other symptoms of Gephyrophobia.
- Feelings and thoughts of death, crashing, experiencing violent or negative images or movie stills in the mind are a few psychological symptoms of this phobia.
Many Gephyrophobic individuals try to avoid bridges: seeing pictures, driving over them etc. They might use excuses, lie or avoid situations to avoid bridges.
Treating and overcoming the fear of bridges phobia
Breathing exercises and meditation are two powerful self help techniques recommended by phobics who have successfully overcome their Gephyrophobia. Upon arriving at a bridge, you must try to regulate your breathing and count slowly from 1-10 to ease your anxiety.
Gradual desensitization is one of the best methods of overcoming Gephyrophobia. Start by driving over smaller bridges or simply seeing movies or pictures involving bridges. Try to breathe deeply when doing so. This can help prepare you to cross larger bridges gradually.
Rationalizing negative thoughts by writing down positive thoughts is another self help technique to ease anxiety associated with Gephyrophobia. Friends and loved ones can also help during the process. They can drive you over smaller bridges so that you gradually conquer your fear and cross large bridges alone without experiencing anxiety and panic.
Talk therapy, psychiatric counseling, Hypnotherapy are other tried and tested therapies that can help you overcome Gephyrophobia once and for all.