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Mary Lee Zetter, LCSW-C
Fear of Bridges
Arundel Mind Body Institute
. http://arundelmindbody.org/

Fear of Bridges

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 regularly 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 that can be disruptive to ones daily life. This phobia can be helped in 80-90% of cases through the use of psychotherapy.
The treatment approach used for this phobia is cognitive behavioral therapy, which can be combined with medication. 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 heartbeat 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 breath out to the count of eight several times, all 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 sufficiently reduce the anxiety. 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 during an anxiety attack.
People with phobias tend to be more sensitive and reactive to things. They also 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 by approaching it in small steps at a time.
Another 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. There are times when it is not practical to expose the person to their fear, such as in the case of flying on a plane. In these cases, the use of computer technology with specific software is available to simulate the real thing so that the person can be accommodated in a safe place. Remember that help is available and can be readily accessed without re-experiencing the fear and being too uncomfortable.

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