Gephyrophobia (pronounced} is the anxiety disorder or specific phobia characterized by the fear of bridges. As a result, sufferers of gephyrophobia may avoid routes that will take them over bridges.
Some possible explanations of gephyrophobia may be the fear of driving off the bridge, the fear of a gust of wind blowing one off the bridge, or the fear that the bridge will collapse if they try to cross it (a fear that the bridge lacks structural integrity). The fear overlaps with acrophobia, the fear of heights, as gephyrophobia tends to be exacerbated in tall bridges vs. ones close to the water/ground beneath.
Dr. Michael Liebowitz, founder of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, says, “It’s not an isolated phobia, but usually part of a larger constellation … It’s people who get panic attacks. You get light-headed, dizzy; your heart races. You become afraid that you’ll feel trapped.” It is a situational phobia.
The New York State Thruway Authority will lead gephyrophobiacs over the Tappan Zee Bridge. A driver can call the authority in advance and arrange for someone to drive the car over the bridge for them. The authority performs the service about six times a year.
The Maryland Transportation Authority offers a similar service for crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The Mackinac Bridge Authority, which oversees the Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, will drive one’s car across its span for any needy gephyrophobiacs. Some thousand drivers take advantage of this free program each year. Leslie Ann Pluhar had her Yugo blown off that bridge. Later investigation showed the driver had stopped her car over the open steel grating on the bridge’s span and that a gust of wind through the grating blew her vehicle off the bridge, although this is not supported by recorded wind speed measurements taken on and around the bridge at the time of the accident.
The term gephyrophobia comes from Greek γέφυρα (gephura) meaning “bridge” and φόβος (phobos) “fear”.
Gephyrophobia is the main plot in “The Bridge” episode of The Middle. The character Brick is plagued by the phobia.
This term is referenced in the 2012 book The Silver Bridge Disaster of 1967, an account of the December 15, 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge connecting Point Pleasant, WV and Gallipolis OH over the Ohio River.
Gephyrophobia is referenced in “The Car” episode of the second season of This Is Us.
In Halo Combat Evolved for the PC and Xbox One there is a multiplayer map called Gephyrophobia in which the main battlefield is a large bridge connecting two Forerunner structures in a Halo.