Of course, it’s the fear of crossing bridges. Last week’s bridge collapse has most people a little more on edge when going over a bridge, but for some people it’s been like that for years.
And the medical definition of gephyrophobia is pretty interesting. This comes from MedicineNet.com: Sufferers of this phobia experience undue anxiety even though they realize their fear is irrational. Their fear may result partly from the fear of enclosure (claustrophobia) or the fear of heights (acrophobia). Phobic drivers may worry about being in an accident in busy traffic or losing control of their vehicles. High bridges over waterways and gorges can be especially intimidating, as can be very long or very narrow bridges.
USA Today had a story about a program for gephyrophobic drivers in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge area of Maryland. That bridge is four miles long and for years, Maryland’s Transportation Authority had a special program for gephyrophobic drivers. With call ahead, they could be met at the bridge by a bridge driver who would hop in their car and drive it over the bridge. Last year, more than 4,000 people took advantage of that program. That number grew so high, private contractors have now been hired to provide the service. What once was a free service now costs $25 a trip.
At the Mackinac Straits Bridge in Michigan, a five-mile suspension span that’s the third-longest bridge in the country, about 1,200 people take advantage of a similar, free driving service to cross that bridge.
But last week’s headlines may also be a blessing in disquise for those with gephyrophobia. A Washington Post story on the condition reports that therapists haven’t been swamped with calls from people with the condition.
"Before this happened, people who were anxious about it might have come in to work on their fear of bridges and tunnels because it was an irrational fear," said Jean Ratner, who runs the Center for Travel Anxiety in Bethesda, Md. "But with that bridge collapsing, their fears seem justified. It doesn't seem so irrational anymore."
What do you think about gephyrophobia? Have you ever experienced it? Any tips for people on how to deal with it? Share your thoughts here at Science Buzz.