The irrational and excessive fear of bridges is called gephyrophobia. It’s not a fear of the structure itself but of having to cross it. This phobia can therefore represent a major problem as, let’s face it, bridges are pretty commonplace and hence, very often, completely unavoidable.
Gephyrophobia is actually quite a common phobia which affects many people, in different ways and to different extremes. People with this condition will experience irrational and extreme levels of fear and anxiety when faced with having to cross a bridge in any way. This could mean walking, driving or public transport. Some are more affected by high bridges, some by those spanning water, some by the length of the bridge and others if the bridge is narrow, if it is moving or if they feel restricted in any way. The phobia is aften also linked to tunnels too.
For some the fear goes even deeper too. The mere thought of a possibility of having to cross a bridge or even just seeing one in a picture or movie can cause anxiety and panic.
The vast majority of bridges are architectural designed structures that are constructed with safety in mind. They should cause no fear to anyone using them and there should be no real risk. But Gephyrophobia is an irrational and persistent fear of all types of bridges – no matter how well they’ve been designed and constructed and no matter how safe they may be. It’s so very different to a natural concern that most of us will feel when having to cross an unstable looking bridge where there may be a slight but genuine risk.
Gephyrophobia is closely related to other phobias such as fear of heights (acrophobia), and fear of unsafe situations (agoraphobia). Likewise, it’s related to claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces).
To some the fear of bridges is about them potentially collapsing, to others it’s about falling from them. To the sufferer the fear is real and intense. It can trigger a variety of symptoms which we will examine shortly. These include extreme anxiety and even panic to the point where they simply cannot cross any bridge.
Whilst there may be an occasional instance when this fear is justified in the vast majority of cases it’s a completely irrational fear. And, as with any phobia, you weren’t born with it – it’s somehow been picked up along the way.
The fear may therefore stem from some event or multiple events, involving a bridge or it may have been inherited from peer behaviour – often in childhood. Common specific triggers of Gephyrophobia include:
Whilst, like all phobias, it is irrational and all in the mind an adrenal deficiency can occasionally act as a trigger.
Of course, the fear can be, and often is, closely related to other phobias. For example, anyone afraid of heights is going to struggle crossing a bridge but in this case is it acrophobia or gephyrophobia that’s causing the issue? It can also relate to a fear of water, or claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces.
Let’s not forget, we’re not talking about a little apprehension about going over a dodgy looking bridge. To a sufferer gephyrophobia is a real, intense and persistent fear that results in physical symptoms which can often include some of the following:
The physical symptoms are in addition to the thoughts of disaster or death which trigger feelings of extreme anxiety which can often lead to panic and full-blown panic attacks.
The result is that the sufferer will go out of their way to avoid a bridge at all costs. This could involve a lengthy detour on a journey, avoiding a trip because of the need to cross a bridge or even avoiding public transport in case a bridge is involved. We’ve even known people to not move to a certain area because of the number of bridges there or talking a ne job because it means crossing bridges to get there each day.
As mentioned previously, it’s not uncommon to experience these symptoms at the mere thought or sight of a bridge – even if there is no requirement for going over it.
There’s been no specific research on Gephyrophobia, therefore official number of sufferers are not known. But the problem is so real that many of most scary looking bridges (Chesapeake Bay Bridge for example) provide driver services to drive your car for free across the bridge. According to Wikipedia some 1000 gephyrophobics take advantage of this service each year on the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan alone. Whilst that may seem a very small percentage it doesn’t take into account all the other cases when another friend or family member will take over the driving or the cases when driving across a bridge has been avoided completely.
There’s a really interesting article that featured in the New York Times which gives an insight into just how common this phobia actually is and how it affects lives.
Gephyrophobia is no different to any other phobia in as much as it has an initial trigger from which it will gradually develop and the fear will become greater in intensity if left unchecked.
Therefore, if your fear of bridges is causing you a problem or is negatively affecting your life in any way you should take action. Equally though, if you feel the fear getting worse then you should address it without delay because eth earlier you tackle it the easier it will be to overcome the fear of bridges. And … there’s plenty of treatment options out there that work and work well!
If you’ve not considered hypnotherapy as a treatment for a fear of bridges or any other phobia before then you should do so now. It’s proven, time and time again, to be a highly effective treatment option which works be “re-programming” the subconscious to produce a rational response to a bridge … the natural response you were born with. Find Out More >
Quite daunting at first but effective. This therapy involves gradually exposing yourself to the fear at increasing levels of intensity until you are comfortable with it at any level. Takes time and patience but it does work well.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the big one that you’ll hear talked about as a treatment for Gephyrophobia or any other fear. It’s a talking therapy where the therapist listens to the way the fear f bridges makes you feel and hence react and works with you to change your thoughts so that you feel differently to bridges moving forwards and hence react and behave differently to them. Find Out More >
If the mere sight of a bridge fills you with fear and terror (let alone the thought of having to go over it) then take a look at one of our recommended, self-help treatment programs that are all guaranteed, proven and effective.