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Gephyrophobia: A Fear Of Crossing Bridges

A major crossing over the Hudson River, New York's Tappan Zee Bridge needs a $1.3 billion dollar overhaul.
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Elise Ayers, who works for the State Department, isn't afraid of overseas adventure. What scares her is the "Monster."

The monster she fears is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland. At four miles long and 185 feet high, Ayers says the thought of driving the bridge - with the way it rises straight in the air - raises a sense of panic in her.

"My temperature changes and then all of a sudden I think I'm getting over the bridge and I realize I'm not thinking clearly," she tells CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews.

That same sense of doom comes over a construction worker, who asked not to be identified.

"Oh yeah, [my] heart races, you can't grip the steering wheel tight enough. It's horrible," he said.

The Minneapolis bridge collapse last week might naturally make any driver approach a bridge with at least a second thought. But for drivers with a true bridge phobia, it's a lot more than a second thought: It's an overwhelming fear.

Jerilyn Ross, a therapist who treats drivers with bridge phobia, describes it as a loss of control - a fear of fear itself.

"It's not so much a fear of the bridge," she says. "It's a fear of being on the bridge, being halfway across the bridge and suddenly panicking and thinking 'I want to get off. What if I pass out? What if I die?'"

To get over the Bay Bridge, Ayers called a bridge-crossing service. Ken Medell arrives to drive her and her car across.

Last year, 4,000 drivers asked for the service - 11 every day.

In other states, fearful drivers can be driven across the Tappan Zee in New York, the Mackinaw Straits in Michigan and the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

The service exists because bridge panic is a safety concern.

"You try to cross the bridge where something happens and you panic. Now you've got either the bridge backing up or someone running into you," Medell says.

At the end of the crossing, Ayers is safe and she's off for vacation. It may be a while before she's over the fear - but today she's over the monster.