Chicago Mark Reinecke, chief psychologist at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said Wednesday's tragedy in Minneapolis likely will only reinforce irrational bridge fears, or gephyrophobia.
"It's the fear of not being able to return to a safe place," Reinecke said. "But the likelihood of another bridge falling is no higher than it was last week."
Psychologists say Wednesday's bridge collapse - similar to a collapse at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake - also is likely to spike bridge fears among people who did not previously have them, at least in the short-term. But under the circumstances, that may not qualify as a phobia.
"If it makes sense, it's a fear," said Jerilyn Ross, president of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. "Right now, (gephyrophobics) feel very much like the rest of the population: Can we trust bridges?"
Ross, who is a licensed social worker, said she's treated two patients who've chosen to ride in a car's trunk as someone else drives it over a bridge. Being tucked away in a trunk produced less anxiety than having to bear witness to the view, she explained.