Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Treating Phobia of Bridges

Gephyrophobia is a fear of bridges. Crossing one or standing on one can bring on a panic attack.

I watched a TV programme about treating the fear of bridges with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). The young woman's fear was that her mind would somehow take over her body and throw her over the side of the bridge. She felt unbalanced. Even talking about the subject, made her feel nervous. When driving across a bridge, she believed that she would pull across to another lane and hurt someone. Jenn's fiancé said that she was a rational person in every other way. She suffered nightmares about the fear.

She consulted a clinical psychologist in Boston who said that Jenn had never stayed standing still on a bridge long enough to learn that she would not throw herself over. Jenn recalled an incident from her childhood when her father had grabbed her by the ankles just stopping her falling over a bridge.

No one should have to live with a phobia which impacts on daily life.

The psychologist took Jenn out on to a high-up fire escape to make her confront her fear. On a scale of 1-8, her fear was at 8. She felt dizzy, unblanced and fearful that she would throw herself over. After about ten minutes, her symptoms began to subside as she felt calmer.

She then drove the psychologist quickly across a bridge, feeling a fear score of 8 again. The next challenge was to walk back slowly across the bridge. Each time the intention was to confront the fear. She had never stood on the high point of a bridge. She was told that many bridges shake as their building materials have to give.

Her next bridge was even higher up. She had to look up and down into the water. She had to partially climb up and wave to passers by on boats.

The psychologist concluded that Jenn needed to repeat her walking visits to bridges often to reinforce the new behaviour.

A more gentle way of treating a phobia of bridges is with hypnosis under deep relaxation. Hypnosis is well-known for its wide-reaching application in helping people overcome all sorts of fears and phobias.

Click here for a Hypnosis MP3 Download on "Overcoming Fear of Bridges"

Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium helping people making positive change and overcome phobias.

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