Gephyrophobia 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.
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.
Causes of Gephyrophobia.
As with many phobias, the root of the problem can be attributed to a variety of factors. The development of Gephyrophobiacan be induced from feelings of claustrophobia (a fear of being closed in) or acrophobia (a fear of heights). People with this phobia may have witnessed a traumatic accident, or may have had direct contact with someone who experienced an incident while driving across a bridge. When people with this fear drive over bridges, they may flash back to moments where they thought they were in impending danger. They may also feel that disaster could happen at any moment, maybe the bridge could collapse or the driver could lose control of the vehicle. All of these situations are valid and there are solutions to overcome this phobia.
Car and/or bridge accident. Getting back into the driver’s seat after an accident can be tough, with drivers often fearing they’ll be in another accident. Even a driver who has no accidents for decades can fall prey to this fear, remembering the single accident instead of the 20 years of safe driving.
Fear of panic attacks. Others fear they may have a panic attack while crossing the bridge, erroneously believing that panic attacks immediately result in total loss of control and inevitable doom.
Additional fears. Fear of hurting others, the bridge collapsing, severe weather hazards or any number of scenarios can fuel and feed fear in people’s minds. It doesn’t matter how logical or rational the fears may or may not be to instill a crippling 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.
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Treatment of Gephyrophobia.
Most cases of Gephyrophobia are self-diagnosed. There are many treatment options. The most common method is to face the actual fear. 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.
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.
Other treatment options for this phobia include talk therapy, hypnotherapy, cognitive therapy or desensitization therapy, self-help techniques, relaxation techniques, and anti-anxiety medication in severe cases. One of the most important things to remember is that when overcoming any phobia, it is imperative to surround yourself with others who are facing the fear. Support groups are one way to discuss your fears with others who suffer from the same phobia and they give you a chance to share different coping techniques and strategies. Overcoming a phobia can be a huge step in starting a new life. Talk with your doctor for the best referral and get your life back on track.