Bridge phobia or gephyrophobia is very curable through good psychotherapy 80-90% of the time.

After the shock of seeing the scenes from the Minneapolis bridge and the collapsed bridge in an ancient part of China recently on television, many ordinary folks who drive regularily across the local Chesapeake Bay Bridge have begun to express apprehension. People who are already phobic or paralyzed by the thought of crossing bridges may experience terror just by the television images or thoughts of doing so. The “It-could-have-been-me-” factor sets in. Bridge phobia or gephyrophobia is generally an irrational or excessive fear. It can be disruptive life’s daily process but is very curable through good psychotherapy 80-90% of the time.

The treatment approaches used are cognitive behavioral therapy combined with medication (some of the time) During cognitive therapy, the phobic person learns how to correct his/her distorted thinking while retraining the thought process instead of fighting or fearing the fear itself. The behavioral component involves learning to calm the troubling physical sensations. Shortness of breath, rapid heart beat and lightheadedness can be alleviated through breathing techniques, muscle relaxation techniques and distraction. While distracting the thoughts to something else, breathe in– to the count of four, hold a few seconds and breathe out to the count of 8 several times, while tensing the muscles and relaxing the same muscle group repeatedly. This gets most people through any phobic moment.

Talk therapy which uncovers the source of the original fear is generally not enough to reduce the anxiety sufficiently. Other therapies include hypnosis and various acupressure techniques which rely on stimulating various acupuncture related meridians involved with different emotions such as anxiety and fear. This can have the effect of clearing the emotions that interfere with normal functioning while someone is around whatever arouses great anxiety.

People with phobias tend to be more sensitive and reactive to things, have a strong need to have things perfect or feel approved of by others. Often they keep strong emotions such as anger or sadness to themselves. They need to learn to go with the flow, focus on something else when in a fear state and face the fear itself (with competent help) by approaching it in small steps at a time. Part of therapy is to expose the phobic person to the object or social situation (in the case of social anxiety), in gradually increasing doses. When it is not practical such as in the case of flying on a plane, there is computer technology with software available to simulate the real thing so that the person can accommodate in a safe place. Remember— help is available and can be readily accessed with out re-experiencing the fear and being too uncomfortable.

Mary Lee Zetter, LCSW-C Arundel Mind Body Institute