Fear of going out on the street, seeing people again, returning to the face-to-face workplace. No, cabin syndrome, which is how the symptoms many are experiencing these days are known, is not a severe problem or much less pathological. Technically, it is not even a syndrome. Still, that mixture of reluctance, little appetite, and fear of socialising and interacting again is a normal feeling after the period of confinement.
“In reality, we are referring to the defensive reaction of a part of the population that, in the face of an unexpected situation (the coronavirus epidemic ), understands that the best way to deal with it is to do it where more control can be exercised: at home. . It is not a mental illness and, therefore, calling it a syndrome would not be the best way to refer to this emotional situation”, explains Amable Cima, professor of Psychology at CEU San Pablo University and clinical psychologist at HM Hospitales.
Jesús Matos, a health psychologist at Enequilibriomental, agrees and comments that although it is not a disorder described in the scientific literature, the name of this syndrome originates in the ancient American settlers who had to spend long winter periods locked up in cabins. “The anxiety and fear that are experienced (and which are its most characteristic symptoms) are logical in situations like the one we have experienced these weeks, but it is simply an adaptation reaction to the new normality .”
Denominations and typifications aside, the truth is that there are many people for whom the prospect of returning to their pre-Covid daily Life is generating this discomfort, as recognised by the clinical psychologist and coach Pilar Guerra: “In psychology consultations, we are noticing an increase in patients afflicted with this syndrome, and, above all, of the anxiety caused by not identifying why they feel this way since they are symptoms that are not perceived in the usual way but are hyper dimensioned. For this reason, we clinicians have to resort –and we are doing so- to psychosocial intervention, more than merely psychological”.
Jesús Matos confirms this increase in cases of anxiety related to the return to normality observed in daily clinical practice, “but I insist: it is a normal emotional reaction after having experienced a quarantine of more than 80 days”.
Novelty, Boredom, and the Comfort Zone
According to the experts, it is necessary to look back and process the most recent events to understand this situation better. “Faced with the confinement news, we entered a shock situation, without time to elaborate on what was happening. Then, during the first days, we work in an automated way, even with many over activities, hundreds of online activities, dozens of video calls, etc. We lived in what could be called pre-hut syndrome since the home was the only place where we were told we would be safe. Thus, as the days passed, our house went from being a prison to becoming a shelter. And a comfort zone”, comments Pilar Guerra, for whom it is logical that many people now find it difficult to retrace this entire process and that this produces anxiety.
Along with this existential readjustment imposed by the pandemic, additional circumstances have contributed to increasing the discomfort associated with this syndrome. Among them, Amable Cima highlights the over information ” and some unclear or contradictory messages (for example, regarding the use of masks) transmitted to the population. This gave rise to the appearance of responses of fear, nervous tension or anguish, which in many cases have been taking the form of depressive-anxious episodes ( anxiety, non-specific fears, vital sadness ), of greater or lesser intensity depending on the background and circumstances. Personal”.
This information-anxiety relationship has been supported by recent research from the University of California at Irvine (United States), the results of which, published in the journal Health Psychology (of the American Psychological Association), show that excessive consumption of news about Covid-19 can increase the feeling of risk to health (inhibiting the desire to go outside), alter mood (according to the study, during the first weeks of confinement, the Americans who reported feeling more depressed were those who had spent more time exposed to information about the virus) and raise stress levels, also favouring that these sequelae in mental health are maintained over time.
Another critical factor in people who are suffering from this syndrome is, according to Amable Cima, “permanent doubt”, that is, not yet being completely clear about what contagion is like, how it can be avoided and what general actions are being carried out to prevent it, now and in the coming months: “Basically, this is the aspect that most favours the reluctance to abandon confinement and reinforces the lockdown at home,
with the intention, ultimately, of avoiding getting infected. And it is also what is behind other behaviours such as going out only very early or very late, when there are fewer people on the street; disinfecting Everything, whatever it is, using proportions of products close to inhalation toxicity, or justifying the decision to stay home with any excuse.