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Gephyrophobia: How to Cope with a Fear of Bridges

Crossing a bridge may seem easy for some people, but for those affected by gephyrophobia, or a phobia of bridges, this fear can be very real. If you get scared driving over water or have a fear of bridges, read on for information about how to cope with gephyrophobia.

A phobia is an irrational or overwhelming fear of a particular object. Different phobias are given different names to make a diagnosis and find ways to treat that particular fear. Gephyrophobia is a fear of crossing bridges.

There are a few things that contribute to a phobia of bridges. The person may be afraid of driving off the bridge or that a gust of wind will sweep them off. Others with a bridge phobia may be afraid of the bridge collapsing. When an incident like this appears in the news, it can reinforce that fear and cause the person to justify their fear of driving over bridges and overpasses.

One of the more obvious signs of a bridge phobia is avoiding crossing a bridge. People with this condition may choose a daily commute that goes around a bridge or refuse to travel across bridges when vacationing.

If they have to cross a bridge, the person with gephyrophobia may experience symptoms of anxiety, such as shortness of breath, tightly gripping the steering wheel, racing heartbeat, heart palpitations, and crying.

Gephyrophobia may be an isolated phobia or part of a cluster of anxiety-related conditions. People who have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or who experience panic attacks may have gephyrophobia in addition to other phobias.

One way that some cities help people with a fear of crossing bridges is by having a government employee drive the person’s car across a bridge once a year. Transit authorities in New York, Maryland, and Michigan offer this service in certain cities. Demonstrating the safety of crossing a bridge, especially in the person’s own car, may help reduce some of their anxiety. However, finding a cure for a fear of driving over bridges may be more complex. 

Because many phobias are linked to generalized anxiety, treating the underlying cause of the phobia may be the best first step in managing it. Some phobias can lead to mood disorders, substance abuse, and feelings of helplessness.

Other ways to manage a phobia can include learning stress management techniques. Daily meditation can reduce your overall stress levels, allowing you to center your mind to find peace. Many people who regularly meditate find that they can direct their minds to this peaceful state when under stress, helping them control the fear and work through the situation.

Regular exercise and a good night’s sleep also help reduce overall stress levels and may make it easier for you to talk yourself through your bridge phobia when you’re frightened. Exercise helps regulate your mood and decreases stress while also boosting the production of dopamine, the hormone responsible for lifting your mood. Sleep is essential for your health. If you’re overtired, it can be harder to manage your anxiety and phobia.

If gephyrophobia is taking over your everyday life — for example, if you’re going out of your way to avoid driving over bridges or you can’t visit friends because you have to cross a bridge to get there — then seeking professional treatment can help. If this phobia is associated with GAD or other phobias, then treating the entire cluster can have a significant effect on your overall mental health.

Some phobias can lead to phobophobia, a fear of your phobia. This “fear of fear” can trickle into your everyday life, even when you aren’t crossing bridges. Worrying about having a panic attack can affect how you feel in general. Prolonged anxiety can have adverse effects on your mental and physical health.

Some people with gephyrophobia benefit from anxiety-reducing medication. Others benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on discovering troublesome thought patterns that lead to the phobia and providing conscious cues to redirect thoughts in a healthier way.

If your phobia is causing you problems outside the physical act of crossing a bridge, then speak with a professional counselor or your health care provider.

Although others might not experience the phobia, it is very serious to the person affected by it. Gephyrophobia is a very real medical condition and may be linked to other types of anxiety disorders. If you feel nervous crossing bridges, especially if it’s causing you stress in your daily life, there are treatment options available for you in a safe, nonjudgmental environment.

https://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/08/nyregion/08bridge.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=all

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/08/10/eveningnews/main3156354.shtml

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181128/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/specific-phobias/symptoms-causes/syc-20355156

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9536-anxiety-disorders/management-and-treatment

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