The fear of driving over bridges is also referred to as gephyrophobia. Having an exaggerated or irrational fear of driving over or crossing a bridge can present some challenges in your daily life as you travel to where you need to go. It’s also not always practical to avoid all bridges. Fortunately, there are some treatments available that could help you overcome this fear.
Symptoms and Causes
If you have a fear of driving over bridges, you likely develop a sudden heightening sense of anxiety when approach a bridge. Some people have only mild instances of this fear while others may experience a feeling of panic, terror, or dread. Symptoms associated with gephyrophobia could also include:
• Shortness of breath
• Rapid/fast heartbeat
As for what causes gephyrophobia, there is no one definite reason for this fear to develop. Some individuals may have been affected by stories about bridge collapses, and others could have excessive concerns about bridges lacking proper structural integrity. It’s also possible to have witnessed or personally experienced an issue with an unstable bridge in the past that triggered this fear. This phobia could be related to fears of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) or heights (acrophobia).
Making a Diagnosis
Most cases of a fear of driving over bridges are self-diagnosed. However, if you discuss it with your doctor, you might be asked about other instances of stress and anxiety in your life. You may also be referred to a psychologist or other specialist if this fear is having a big impact on your daily life.
Treatment for a fear of driving over bridges will depend on the extent of your excessive anxiety. Some people see improvements with behavior therapy combined with the use of anti-anxiety medication*. Treatment may also involve:
• Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
• Changing your way of thinking about your fear (cognitive-behavioral therapy)
• Deep breathing, visualization, and other relaxation techniques
*The purpose of medication is to treat your anxiety. However, there is no evidence any type of medication can specifically treat phobias.
Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy
If your issues with gephyrophobia are severe, you may be a good candidate for virtual reality treatment. This is a form of exposure therapy that involves wearing specially designed headgear that recreates the act of driving over a bridge in a safe, controlled environment.
Over time, your fear of driving over actual bridges may subside to the point where you are able to reasonably control your anxiety. If you respond well to VR therapy, you’ll eventually work your way up to driving over real-life bridges in a way that does not affect you as much.
Gephyrophobia is sometimes misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder, a sleep-related problem, depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If you do have this fear, be specific about your symptoms and how you are personally affected, but also be open to the possibility that an underlying health issue could be contributing to your hesitation to drive over bridges as well. Doing so increases your odds of benefiting from the treatments recommended for you.