A simple phobia is the fear of something specific like heights , a certain animal, flying in an airplane , choking, thunder, driving,darkness, closed spaces, being buried alive , elevators, blood, dirt or germs, or bridges.

Many phobias have Greek names, for example the fear of heights is called acrophobia , the fear of closed spaces is called claustrophobias, and the fear of being buried alive is called laphephobia.

The terms create the impression that phobias are dreadful and dangerous and that scientists undrestand a great deal about them. Nothing could be further from the truth . Phobias are uncomfortable , but they are not symptoms of severe mental illness or a weak character. They can usually be treated effectively and quickly , but there is surprisingly little scientific knowledge about what cause them.

Simple phobias are extremely common. Between 10% to 20% of the population will develop phobias during their lives. Phobias can occur at any age but often first appear in childhood. They are about twice as common among women as among men.

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