How to Get Past Your Fear of Driving on Bridges

bridge fearThe official name for fear of bridges is gephyrophobia, and the phobia reportedly affects thousands of people across the US and beyond. Some states even have assistance programs to help motorists cross feared bridges in their states, and there are myriad other ways to help you get past the phobia, fear and anxiety of driving on bridges.

Why It Happens

Fear of driving on bridges and related phobias can stem from any number or combination of causes.

Car and/or bridge accident: Getting back into the driver’s seat after an accident can be tough, with drivers often fearing they’ll be in another accident. Even a driver who has no accidents for decades can fall prey to this fear, remembering the single accident instead of the 20 years of safe driving.

Fear of panic attacks: Others fear they may have a panic attack while crossing the bridge, erroneously believing that panic attacks immediately result in total loss of control and inevitable doom.

Additional fears: Fear of hurting others, the bridge collapsing, severe weather hazards or any number of scenarios can fuel and feed fear in people’s minds. It doesn’t matter how logical or rational the fears may or may not be to instill a crippling phobia.

Past experiences: In addition to a past car accident, fear of driving on bridges can sometimes stem from other experiences that happened in early childhood, earlier in adulthood or, according to reports in The New York Times and Philippine Daily Inquirer, past lives.

One woman feared heights and bridges due to a past-life death that involved falling into a ravine. Another feared bridges because she had watched her soldier husband die on a burning bridge in her past life. A third recalled a gut feeling she first got in early childhood about being pushed off a high bridge in her past life.

In the above cases, past-life regression hypnosis had been helpful for unlocking memories stored in the subconscious and alleviating the trapped fears.

What You Can Do about It

While hypnosis may not be for everyone, there are several other solutions available for those looking to conquer their fear of driving on bridges – or even a fear of bridges or fear of driving in general.

Some of these include:

  • Phobia workshops, available online or in person
  • Exposure therapy, officially known as exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, which gradually and slowly exposes you to feared situations from least to most feared
  • Mental tricks to distract your mind from the fear (but not the safe driving)
  • Relaxation techniques you can use before and during your drive
  • Programs designed to overcome specific fears, available online or through therapists

The Ultimate Goal

Your ultimate goal is to decrease or eliminate your fear of driving on bridges, which can be helped along by focusing on three steps outlined by Center for Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders Director Patrick McGrath.

  1. Do the task
  2. Stay in the task until your anxiety is at least half the level it was when you started
  3. Repeat until the task becomes routine

With enough repetition, you may be able to replace your fear with coping behaviors that help you adapt to the situation and successfully cross any bridge you may encounter.


Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera via Compfight cc