Gefirofobia (extreme fear of bridges): symptoms, causes and treatment
Gephirophobia is the irrational or excessive fear of bridges . It is a phobia that has been described and studied in relation to other types of phobia (not as a particular clinical picture). When dealing with a fear of structures that are especially commonplace in large cities, gefirophobia can represent a significant experience of discomfort for those who present it.
Next we will see what gefirofobia is, what are some of its manifestations and possible causes, as well as strategies that could counteract this fear of bridges.
- Related article: "Types of phobias: exploring the disorders of fear"
Gefirofobia: the fear of bridges
In Greek, the word gefura (γέφῡρᾰ) means "bridge" and "fobos" (φόβος) means fear. Hence, the term "gefirophobia" is used to designate the fear of bridges. As with the phobias described in psychopathology, to be considered in such a way must be a fear that is considered irrational, because causes clinically significant discomfort that can not be justified by the cultural codes where it is presented.
In other words, gefirophobia is the irrational fear of bridges, which is irrational because it occurs in contexts where bridges are objects of daily use and do not have a quality of their own that potentially means some kind of risk. For this reason, they are architectural structures that do not usually cause fear to those who cross them on a daily basis.
Being a fear that causes clinically significant discomfort, phobias can represent a major obstacle to perform the most ordinary and apparently simple activities. In the case of gefirofobia, It can happen that the person avoids at all costs the routes that involve crossing bridges , especially when it comes to large bridges that need to be crossed by car.
Otherwise, that is, when exposed to a situation in which it is necessary to go through a bridge, the person can experience the typical manifestations of specific phobias. These manifestations include the physiological response spectrum characteristic of anxiety: dizziness, agitation, hyperventilation, accelerated heart rate, and even panic attacks.
Gefirofobia is characterized by ideas or thoughts on different scenarios associated with the fall of or from bridges , which generates fear.
These thoughts may be due to a previous experience of danger associated with a bridge; or they may be related to having witnessed a high-risk incident related to the same, either in person or indirectly through the press, the cinema or other means of communication. But not necessarily, in fact, it can be a fear that apparently is not related to any previous experience in the subject's life.
In general, the fear of bridges is explained through elements such as the following:
- Fear that part of the bridge will take off .
- Fear that a gust of wind will cross the bridge and move the cars intensely.
- Doubt about the structural integrity of the bridge.
- Fear that the bridge will collapse easily.
Relationship between gefirofobia, agoraphobia and acrophobia
According to Foderaro (2008), Dr. Michael R. Liebowitz, a professor at the psychiatric clinic of Columbia University and founder of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic of the New York Institute of Psychiatry, explained that while the fear of taking airplanes has intensified and recognized as a trigger of anxiety, especially in the United States after September 11; the fear of crossing bridges is much less known and in general continues to mean a stigma for those who have it .
Therefore there are no exact numbers about the people who experience it, but the same psychiatrist says that "it is not an isolated or isolated phobia, but a part of a large group." It is rather a type of phobia related to the fear of large or very open spaces.
That is to say, that gefirofobia is closely linked to acrophobia (fear of heights) and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces in which help is lacking). In the same sense, the other side of gefirofobia is the fear that some drivers present when passing through tunnels, an issue that is closely linked to claustrophobia (fear of narrow spaces).
In fact, gefirofobia usually experienced more strongly when it comes to high bridges , compared to those that are a short distance from the ground or water.
As with other phobias, clinical psychology has different tools to work with gefirophobia. There are different strategies that vary according to the theoretical approach. For example, these strategies may be focused on favor a modification of the thoughts that generate anxiety .
On the other hand, they could favor a bridge approach that is gradual and allows the person to experience them in another way. Likewise, intervention strategies can focus on exploring the meanings associated with the risk represented by bridges and attempting to reinforce or modify emotional patterns of coping with this risk. But not only psychology can intervene in the treatment of the experiences of gefirofobia.
- Maybe you're interested: "Intervention in phobias: the technique of the exhibition"
Drivers assistance teams
Mohney (2013) tells us that the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, United States (one of the largest suspended bridges in the world), has turned out to be both a tourist attraction and an imposing urban structure, which easily causes fear to many drivers.
Until 2013, between 1,200 and 1,400 calls were received each day by the Michigan Driver Assistance Program, which they send to an assistance team accompanying the drivers while crossing the bridge . These calls and assistance teams usually intensify their activity after news about accidents related to bridge falls is released. A similar program exists at the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York, which is located more than 150 feet from the Hudson River and often inspires panic among several drivers.
- Mohney, G. (2013). Motorists Can not Face Fears, Get a Lift Across Bridge. ABC News. Retrieved August 21, 2018. Available at //abcnews.go.com/Health/terrified-motorists-lift-bridge/story?id=19250164
- Stein, D., Hollander, E., Rothbaum, B. (2009). Textbook of Anxiety Disorders. American Psychiatric Publishing: Washington, D.C.
- Foderaro, L. (2008). To Gephyrophobia, Bridge Are a Terror. New York City Retrieved August 21, 2018. Available at //www.nytimes.com/2008/01/08/nyregion/08bridge.html