Gephyrophobia (Ge-fy-ro-phobia) is an intense fear of crossing bridges by vehicle or on foot. It is an anxiety disorder resulting in profound fear, anxiety or discomfort over the bridge collapsing when crossing the bridge.
In extreme cases, the phobia triggers symptoms explained below. The phobia can weaken a person’s lifestyle, as they will try to avoid situations involving crossing a bridge and limit activities and travel they can partake in.
Understanding gephyrophobia and seeking a diagnosis, management strategies and treatment can help us to come to terms with the anxiety symptoms.
Let’s focus on this condition being a phobia first. Phobias do have the same approach of producing phobia stimuli (fear and anxiety). The phobia with a specific fear of bridges, in this case, can paralyse people.2
Furthermore, the phobia tends to associate with each other. The phobia concept grows depending on a person, like in the tunnels and in the darkness.
All in all, phobias can be complex and inextricably linked.2
There is little data on gephyrophobia compared to other phobias. Undocumented makes it extremely difficult to pinpoint.
Phobias are common in individuals with other psychiatric conditions, particularly past traumas, depression and alcohol.3
Causes of gephyrophobia
Just like gephyrophobia, all complex phobias have a trail (what exactly makes us have phobias). Your phobia is different and manifests differently than others.
Traumatic experiences involving bridges can be a risk factor for developing gephyrophobia.
- Near-death experience on a bridge
- Past trauma
- Fear of heights, the person collapsing along with the bridge
- Panic attack
Additionally, although poorly understood, there is some theory that phobias can have a familial element. If a family member suffers from gephyrophobia, there is an elevated chance of developing gephyrophobia in an individual.
Finally, as we have mentioned, other psychiatric conditions3 can be linked to gephyrophobia. If an individual already suffers from other phobias;
- Agoraphobia (fear of open spaces)
Gephyrophobia may tie into these other conditions. Additionally, other psychiatric disorders generally, not simply phobias, may increase the chance of an individual developing gephyrophobia.
However, as mentioned, the origins of phobias generally are poorly understood, and gephyrophobia specifically has minimal research and literature as a condition, so it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause or basis of the phobia.1
What are the symptoms of gephyrophobia?
- Elevated heart rates
- Dry mouth
- Panic attacks
- Quickening breathing rates
- Tightness feeling in the throat or chest
- Tingling or pins and needles
- A need to use the bathroom
- A ringing in the ears
The person with this phobia is also likely to try to avoid high places or bridges. Therefore, with a range of physical and mental symptoms, we can start to gain an appreciation for how vulnerable it can be, especially if the affected individual lives in an area where heights and bridges are difficult to avoid.1
What diagnosis and assessment are done?
Some assessments depend on the type of phobia you have. But in this case, hypnotherapy will dive deep into what causes fear of crossing the bridge.
Hypnosis helps you when you bring out the inner thoughts behind the fear that the phobia represents in a traumatic environment or pre-childhood and then work with a therapist on how to control your fear.
Completing questionnaires, improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) or discussion surrounding symptoms and situations that bring them on, and determining the impact of the phobia on your day-to-day life.
The questionnaire is also partially to help to rule out other conditions, such as generalised anxiety disorders. These questions and discussions will help the assessor accurately determine a treatment path to get the person the best help possible moving forward.
What impact does gephyrophobia have on you?
Gephyrophobia, as discussed, can make the person who has the phobia avoid any routes with bridges or other high places that cause an onset of symptoms. This can be a difficult lifestyle.
It can restrict social outings, meaning the patient can’t travel, as well as professional and educational purposes. Additionally, it can have a great impact on the individual’s mental health; symptoms of anxiety can lead to a lowered quality of life and, in some cases, cause the individual to become withdrawn.
Additionally, since intense phobias are most prevalent in individuals who suffer from other psychiatric conditions, triggering gephyrophobia could have a knock-on effect, exacerbating other mental health conditions, which can further compound poor mental well-being.5
What are treatment options?
Several treatment strategies exist to help an individual overcome gephyrophobia.
Many of these treatment options are available for other phobias and, in some cases, other anxiety disorders.
Hypnotherapy and counselling are available to work through the root cause and understand the phobia. Especially the phobia triggered by a traumatic event. This can also be a useful option if the phobia is linked to other psychiatric conditions to aid in reducing and understanding the triggers of the symptoms.
Therapy and counselling options may include either cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or exposure therapy. CBT can be used for many psychiatric treatments – phobias included.4
Talking therapy looks specifically at altering patterns of thinking and behaving. It can be a powerful tool when led by a professional and can help to reduce symptoms of a phobia. It is a very effective tool to treat phobias. However, it is not 100% effective, so using this tool in conjunction with other options is likely to give the best outcomes against gephyrophobia.4
Exposure therapy, common to the treatment of phobias, involves increasingly exposing a patient to the trigger of the symptoms: bridges, in this case. But it will be handled carefully by a professional and is a tried-and-tested treatment for intense phobias.5
Tranquillisers can also help to control symptoms, as can medications such as beta-blockers; this can help to calm the bodily and symptomatic reaction to the trigger, bridges.
What are the coping strategies?
Patients work with techniques to help manage the symptoms when triggered by the phobia. This may involve relaxation and breathing techniques to slow the heart rate, breathing rate, palpitations and other symptoms related to anxiety and phobia response.
Desensitisation techniques can also help to reduce the severity of the response to bridges to aid the treatment of the condition alongside therapy.
Additionally, support systems are available where other patients with the same phobia can meet each other and learn strategies that work for them or even be around like-minded people who understand exactly what the patient is going through. This can be incredibly important for people struggling to feel understood and to learn more about the condition and how best to approach it.
Although gephyrophobia can be a scary and debilitating condition, there is definitely hope for you, as there have been many instances of phobic people overcoming their phobia and going on to live uninhibited lives.
Additionally, when seeking help, support groups are available, where individuals can talk to other people struggling with the phobia and hear strategies that helped them overcome their condition. Individuals struggling with gephyrophobia should know that they are not alone and that this condition can be well managed and overcome, restoring quality of life. Seeking help for this condition is the most important way to start the process of treatment and live a phobia-free life.
Gephyrophobia is an intense fear of bridges by crossing or having an extreme thought or prospect of bridges. The phobia develops physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms seen in other phobias and anxiety disorders.
Gephyrophobia does not currently have a great deal of research or literature dedicated to it, but seeking medical assessment for the condition can lead to a diagnosis and treatment for the condition.
The treatment for gephyrophobia is similar to treatment for other anxiety and phobia conditions, including therapy, counselling, medication, relaxation techniques, CBT and exposure therapy.
This can help with the overcoming of symptoms to help lead a normal life unaffected by the condition in the future. This is achievable! This is why seeking help and support can be so vital for you living with the phobia.
- Gephyrophobia(Fear of crossing bridges) [Internet]. Psych Times. [cited 2023 Nov 5]. Available from: https://psychtimes.com/gephyrophobia-fear-of-crossing-bridges/
- Oxford Reference [Internet]. [cited 2023 Nov 5]. Phobias and phobic stimuli. Available from:https://www.oxfordreference.com/display/10.1093/acref/9780199534067.001.0001/acref-9780199534067-appendix-0001
- Boyd JH, Rae DS, Thompson JW, Burns BJ, Bourdon K, Locke BZ, et al. Phobia: prevalence and risk factors. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol [Internet]. 1990 Nov 1 [cited 2023 Nov 5];25(6):314–23. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00782887
- Capriola NN, Booker JA, Ollendick TH. Profiles of temperament among youth with specific phobias: implications for cbt outcomes. J Abnorm Child Psychol [Internet]. 2017 Oct 1 [cited 2023 Nov 8];45(7):1449–59. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-016-0255-4
- Guitard T, Bouchard S, Bélanger C, Berthiaume M. Exposure to a standardized catastrophic scenario in virtual reality or a personalized scenario in imagination for generalized anxiety disorder. J Clin Med [Internet]. 2019 Mar 5 [cited 2023 Dec 11];8(3):309. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6463165/