Conquer Gephyrophobia One Bridge at a Time
Crossing over a vast body of water, walking over a rickety footbridge or just being very high off the ground can be frightening for most. Being fearful of bridges is not unheard of, in fact, it is normal. But if your anxiety levels skyrocket as you cross that bridge, then the fear isn’t normal. You could have something called gephyrophobia, which is the excessive fear of crossing bridges.
Do you experience overwhelming physiological symptoms as you approach a bridge? Does your heart begin to beat rapidly? Do you squeeze your eyes shut? Does the fear creep in so deep, your palms become sweaty? Fear like this can become all-encompassing and begin to take over certain aspects of your life.
It’s just a bridge, you tell yourself, but you are completely helpless when the phobia sets in. You start making decisions based on this fear. It dictates where you go and where you can’t go. In short, gephyrophobia now has a say over your life.
This phobia, like many others, can and must be conquered. It puts a strain on your freedom, and you need to rise above it. The first step is decoding the what and the why. Work to understand what it is exactly and why you have it.
What Is Gephyrophobia?
Gephyrophobia is an anxiety disorder or a phobia mainly associated with a fear of bridges or tunnels. People who suffer from this phobia avoid bridges whenever possible. When they encounter a bridge, they may feel overwhelming fear and stress. The fear may come from imagining being blown off the bridge by a gust of wind or that the bridge will break apart while crossing it. People with gephyrophobia could put themselves and others with them at considerable risk, especially if they happen to be driving over bridges. The fear could cause them to lose concentration while driving.
Whether it is fear of bridges over water, viaducts, or any kind of motorway bridge, people with this phobia react the same way. This phobia is similar to the fear of heights known as acrophobia. People who suffer from both phobias fear falling, and the danger is all too real for them, though some may think otherwise.
The cause of a fear of bridges, or gephyrophobia, is similar to most phobias in that it is difficult to identify a particular reason. Many factors can be attributed as probable causes. It can, however, develop from the fear of closed spaces, known as claustrophobia. It could also stem from acrophobia. People who have these phobias could have experienced some kind of traumatic experience while crossing bridges or know someone who has. The mind will replay the events, building them up until they are close to panic.
If you suffer from gephyrophobia, being on a bridge may cause you to think about the impending danger. You may feel you could lose control of the car while driving. If you’re not the one driving, you’ll still panic thinking that the driver could go over the railings. You may also have a fear of driving on highways and bridges. You may miss out on fun trips because you are afraid of crossing over bridges.
Phobias can also be inherited. Just like the way a child inherits a parent’s blue eyes or blonde hair, phobias can be passed on as well. A child can inherit a parent’s excessive anxiety and grow up to be extremely fearful of certain things or situations.
Also, when a family member is usually stressed, tensed, and anxious about a particular thing or situation around a child, the child learns it. Yes, fear, too, can be acquired.
Symptoms of Gephyrophobia
The symptoms of gephyrophobia are similar to those of other phobias. Almost all people exhibit fear the same way, regardless of what they’re afraid of. That said, every phobia might have some unique symptoms. Symptoms of gephyrophobia include:
- Staying away from all kinds of bridges
- Avoiding high places
- Getting short-tempered
- Headaches or migraines
- Feeling dizzy
- Dryness of the mouth
- Panic attacks
- Prickly pains like being poked with needles
- Loss of breath
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to relax
People with gephyrophobia find these symptoms uncontrollable, gripping them without warning, and leaving them helpless. If not addressed in time, gephyrophobia, like any other phobia, can take over a person’s thoughts and cause them to behave irrationally.
Ironically, the longing for safety only makes the phobia stronger. The stark terror that grips you squeezes tighter the more you try to find a way out.
The symptoms reinforce negative emotional experiences. These experiences can be linked either directly or indirectly to the object or situation.
How to Overcome a Fear of Bridges
If you’re wondering how gephyrophobia can be treated, you don’t have to search too far. You can overcome your fears no matter how unreasonable or irrational they might seem. It is all a matter of will power.
Helping Yourself Overcome Gephyrophobia
Sometimes just getting your mind under control might be all that is needed to rid yourself of fear. Face the fear while you hold the mind down. Tell it what you want it to know. The thoughts that come to mind might leave you helpless, but the power lies within you to push them out.
Constantly tell the mind it is just a bridge, and the fear of it is irrational. Let the mind know over and over again what you want it to know about bridges. Gradually, you will be able to overcome the phobia.
Helping yourself could also include some lifestyle changes. Lifestyle change could reduce symptoms of the phobia.
Some simple changes you can make include:
Relaxation is another great self-help technique. Breathing and relaxing is a great way of conquering anxiety.
Visualization can be combined with breathing and relaxation exercises. While you relax you visualize how you’ll conquer your fears. You picture yourself successfully crossing a bridge and having fun while you do it.
Self-help groups are an excellent way to meet others with gephyrophobia and share different ways of coping. They know exactly how you feel, can relate with you better, and can provide the support system you need to overcome your fear.
Professional Help for Gephyrophobia
While self-help methods might sound simple, seeking the expertise of a professional therapist still goes a long way.
Exposure therapy is one form of gephyrophobia treatment. It means exposing yourself to that very thing you’re afraid of. Looking at pictures of bridges, for example, might be the first step. Start slow; a glance in the beginning could be enough. Doing this successfully for a while means you can graduate to videos and subsequently try to approach bridges. Take care not to force it. Exposure therapy requires patience and should not be done alone.
Cognitive therapy also helps with the phobia. Therapists treat the phobia by dealing with your thinking. Unhelpful thinking only tends to strengthen gephyrophobia. Hypnosis can be another therapeutic tool you can consider, but ensure it is done by a trained therapist.
Therapists offer different ways to deal with this phobia, but treatment for each person will most certainly be tailored to your specific needs.
Coping with Gephyrophobia
As stated earlier, it is normal to be afraid of bridges. It crosses the bridge of normalcy only when it takes over your physical and psychological well-being. How you will overcome gephyrophobia is mainly up to you. Seek help, talk to people, and this ‘battle of the bridge’ will be one you’ll certainly win.
Bridges are thrilling. Your fear of them could affect your freedom. Some of the things you desire most could simply be waiting across the bridge. So next time you see the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, just breathe easy, and cross that bridge when you get to it.