Cabin fever

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Interior of Fure's Cabin in Alaska, U.S.

Cabin fever is an idiomatic term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group ends up in an isolated or solitary location, or stuck indoors in confined quarters for an extended period of time. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these limiting situations.[1]

A person may experience cabin fever in a situation such as being isolated within a vacation cottage out in the country, or away from a civilization. When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, to have a distrust of anyone they are with, or to have an urge to go outside even in bad weather. The phrase is also used humorously to indicate simple boredom from being home alone for an extended period of time.[2]

Cabin fever is not directly fatal to an individual suffering from the peculiar disorder. However, related symptoms can lead the sufferer to make irrational decisions that could potentially cause them to lose their life. Some examples would be suicide or paranoia, or leaving the safety of a cabin during a terrible snow storm that one may be stuck in.[3]


One therapy for cabin fever is as simple as getting out and interacting with nature directly. Research has demonstrated that even brief interactions with nature can promote improved cognitive functioning, support a positive mood, and overall well-being.[4] Escaping the confinement of the indoors and changing one's scenery and surroundings can easily help an individual experiencing cabin fever overcome their mania. Going outside to experience the openness of the world will stimulate the brain and body enough to eliminate feelings of intense claustrophobia, paranoia, and restlessness associated with cabin fever.[5]

There is little evidence of those suffering from cabin fever seeing therapists or counselors for treatment, most sufferers simply discuss their symptoms with family or friends as a way of changing the feelings of loneliness and boredom. However, there are cases of "cabin fever" that are diagnosed as mid-winter depression[6] or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). [7]

In popular culture[edit]

The concept of Cabin fever was used as a theme in Charlie Chaplin's 1925 film The Gold Rush, Stefan Zweig's 1948 novella The Royal Game, the 1980 horror film The Shining, The Simpsons episode "Mountain of Madness", and the 2010 video game Alan Wake. A song called "Cabin Fever" features in the 1996 musical comedy Muppet Treasure Island, afflicting sailors on a ship trapped in the doldrums.

Cabin fever is one of the possible afflictions the player character can suffer from in the video game set in the post-apocalyptic Canadian wasteland, The Long Dark; the condition prevents one from sleeping indoors, thus forcing them to brave the elements in order to rest.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cabin fever". Merriam Webster. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
  2. ^ Ron Alexander (2004-02-03). "Reports From the Bunkers, by Some Survivors; Homebound and Happy". New York Times.
  3. ^ Kehoe, J. P.; Abbott, A. P. (1975-02-01). "Suicide and Attempted Suicide in the Yukon Territory". Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal. 20 (1): 15–23. doi:10.1177/070674377502000104. ISSN 0008-4824. PMID 1122468.
  4. ^ Berman, Marc G.; John Jonides; Stephen Kaplan (2008-02-18). "The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature" (PDF). Psychological Science. 19 (12): 1207–1212. CiteSeerX doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02225.x. PMID 19121124.
  5. ^ Rosenblatt, Paul C.; Anderson, Roxanne Marie; Johnson, Patricia A. (June 1984). "The Meaning of "Cabin Fever"". The Journal of Social Psychology. 123 (1): 43–53. doi:10.1080/00224545.1984.9924512. ISSN 0022-4545.
  6. ^ Christensen, Russ; Dowrick, Peter W. (1983). "Myths of mid-winter depression". Community Mental Health Journal. 19 (3): 177–186. doi:10.1007/bf00759551. ISSN 0010-3853.
  7. ^ Rohan, Kelly J. (September 2008), "Symptoms, Prevalence, and Causes of SAD", Coping with the Seasons: Workbook, Oxford University Press, pp. 7–16, doi:10.1093/med:psych/9780195341379.003.0002, ISBN 9780195341379