Gephyrophobia is a phobia based on the fear of bridges. In general, most people with this phobia have a distinct fear of crossing bridges. Gephyrophobia stems from the Greek words gephyra which means bridge and phobas which means fear. As with most types of phobias, individuals who fear bridges typically realize that the structures bear no real threat, although this does not lessen the perpetual fear of them. Many people with gephyrophobia will go to great lengths to prevent being faced with a bridge.
The cause of gephyrophobia may differ in each person. In many cases, the fear will occur as a result of something traumatic happening on a bridge. For example, a car accident that occurred on a bridge and led to a death or severe injury may cause someone to fear bridges. Younger children may fear the structures simply because a parent or older sibling does. It may not be uncommon for individuals who are afraid of heights to be afraid of bridges as well, as the structures are typically very high in stature.
Gephyrophobia, like all phobias, is a type of anxiety disorder. For this reason, the symptoms which may be provoked by coming into contact with a bridge are generally similar to those of a classic anxiety disorder. When approaching a bridge, an individual may start to panic. He or she may begin to hyperventilate, shake with fear and sweat profusely. In most cases, once the bridge has been crossed or is no longer in view, the fear subsides.
Most people with a fear of bridges will do anything possible to avoid coming into direct contact with them. When traveling, this may mean taking an extended route to avoid bridges. In the same matter, walking across bridges will generally be avoided whenever possible. In some cases, some people with this type of phobia may be more affected by certain bridges than others. For example, short bridges may be more bearable than extremely long bridges.
Simply avoiding bridges may be all of the treatment needed for individuals with gephyrophobia. This may not be a very difficult thing to do for individuals who seldom have to cross bridges. Unfortunately, simply avoiding the structures may be not be an option for an individual who must frequently come into contact with bridges. This may include people who live near bridges and individuals who must cross them to get to a frequently desired destination such as work, school or doctor appointments.
Sometimes, an individual with gephyrophobia may need to visit a therapist to help him or her overcome this fear. A therapist may conduct sessions to get to the root of why the person fears bridges. Addressing the root of the problem may be therapeutic in helping the person realize that bridges pose no realistic threat. In addition, exposure therapy may also be beneficial. An individual undergoing this type of treatment may be repeatedly exposed to bridges in a non-threatening manner until the fear eventually diminishes.