Anyone who felt irritable after a prolonged time when they weren’t able to leave the house knows the frustrations of so-called cabin fever. Everyone wants to talk to friends and family in person, and when they are stuck at home — for any number of reasons — they can become frustrated and disappointed. Luckily, help is available for people dealing with cabin fever.
Cabin Fever: Not a Medical Diagnosis
Cabin fever isn’t an official diagnosis given by a doctor, but the effects of cabin fever are real. Some of the most common symptoms include depression, anxiety, restlessness, and loneliness. Because of the stress of depression and anxiety, cabin fever can affect the immune system and make people more likely to get sick, too.
Causes of Cabin Fever
Various factors can result in the symptoms people colloquially identify as cabin fever. Mainly, one can experience cabin fever when they’re cooped up inside of their homes for extended periods of time. Sometimes, cabin fever shows up when someone is living in close quarters with others, but it can also develop when a person is living alone and feeling isolated.
Depression and Anxiety
Interacting with others is an important need, and when you’re stuck inside and away from other people, it’s very common to feel lonely. Many experience depression because of disruptions in their routines and other consequences of being stuck inside the house. Depression can manifest in angry outbursts, crying spells, and lack of motivation.
Loneliness is a common symptom of cabin fever that occurs when a person is isolated from others because they live alone and can’t leave their house, and it can have serious health consequences, such as the increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. People are biologically wired to crave interactions with others, and when they cannot receive those regular interactions, they become lonely, which will also drives feelings of anxiety and depression.
When someone experiences cabin fever and the emotional symptoms that go along with being isolated or simply stuck indoors, sleep disturbances become more common. Some people might sleep more, while others will find it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Other people experiencing cabin fever might find that their sleep feels normal in length, but isn’t as restful.
Stress from cabin fever can also make it harder for the immune system to fight off viruses, making individuals more prone to illness. Many will get the flu or a cold, which doesn’t help with mood. Other people can begin to develop more chronic or serious illnesses as stress from cabin fever continues, such as gastrointestinal or heart problems and chronic headaches.
Because of boredom from being stuck at home or in another type of isolation, it’s common for people to experience food cravings. Adjacent mental health issues like anxiety and depression can also increase cravings and the desire to eat as comfort or a misplaced sense of hunger.
Lack of Patience
While a lack of patience isn’t a medical ailment, it can often arise from many other physical ailments. For instance, people who are having difficulty sleeping are more likely to lose their tempers because they’re exhausted. A lack of patience can result in fights that only increase other cabin fever symptoms, such as stress and depression.
Cabin fever itself isn’t a medical diagnosis, but anxiety, depression, and anger issues are medically grounded. To get a mental health diagnosis, a person needs to see a physician or a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist. Additionally, some with physical ailments should visit their primary health provider or a specialist, who can further evaluate their wellness.
Most people with cabin fever will benefit greatly from getting out of the house. But if that’s not possible, some doctors prescribe medications to help with specific symptoms, such as sleeping problems, anxiety, depression, or headaches. There are also behavioral changes that people who have to stay inside can make, such as interacting with loved ones online, quitting smoking, adopting mindfulness habits, and staying physically active.