top of page

Is Cabin Fever Real?

Traveleidoscope: Photo by Thomas Layland on Unsplash

Whenever I think of cabin fever, I think of The Shining and the character Jack Torrance and his decline into madness from isolation (and other creepy stuff). Now that most of us have been cooped up for months, I began to wonder whether there might be some truth in isolation contributing to insanity, aka cabin fever. Here’s what I learned.


The dictionary defines cabin fever as, “irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.” Yup, that sounds about right. But medically, there’s no actual diagnosis of “cabin fever”. Instead it’s really just the stuff that happens from being isolated ... or cooped up, or social distanced... or under stay-at-home orders....

What are the symptoms?

Like the definition says, “irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms”. Other symptoms may include:


Sadness or depression

Difficulty concentrating

Lack of patience (I’m guilty under normal circumstances)

Food cravings (That’s a symptom of cabin fever? I must have cabin fever all the time)

Lack of motivation

Difficulty getting up



While these symptoms may describe cabin fever, they may not be exclusive to cabin fever, and in fact, may also be signs of other things, so seek help if you need it. Also, how you deal with cabin fever may depend on your personality. If you’re used to being outdoors and on the move constantly, well my friend, you’re a probably a prime candidate for feeling cabin fever.

Now that we know cabin fever is real, what can you do to prevent it or at least take the edges off it?

The Cleveland Clinic recommends the following:

Stick with a routine:

Let's be clear - Everyone's routine has been disrupted, but it's important stick to whatever your new routine is. That includes, eating healthy (so all the quarantine baking is okay, just not all the quarantine eating!); getting exercise (we’ve all read that exercise keeps you mentally fit as well as physically fit) and keeping a decent sleep routine (like no multiple naps per day).

Do something new:

Whether it’s learning a new skill, a new language or something else, doing something new will break up the boredom. For me, I'm working a ton (and am thankful for it), but in addition to working, I'm pulling out my sewing machine to make tons of masks. I’ve also taken advantage of my membership on the Smithsonian Curiosity Council* that allows me free admission to things like speaking events. I’ve watched lectures on staying positive, and on Leonardo da Vinci. It’s fun to watch while you’re having dinner instead of maybe watching the news and getting bummed out.

*I found out about the Smithsonian Curiosity Council when I signed up for Smithsonian’s Museum Day, which is May 18, 2020 this year!

Traveleidoscope: The Best Quarantine Banana Bread...Ever

Traveleidoscope; Some of the masks I've far

Keep connected:

You can still be together apart. For example, I meet regularly with friends for a Zoom happy hour, and it’s really fun. You get actual face time with friends and family and enjoy a quarantini without having to worry about driving home!

Take a time out:

Sounds counter intuitive, perhaps? Whether it’s mediation or getting away from everyone else in your house who’s also cooped up, it’s important to get some alone time.

Think about it:

Do something that exercises your brain like read a book, or do something you’ve been putting off (cleaning out my equipment closet! Yikes!), something that can help you feel productive.

Bottom Line:

Be good to yourself and others. Right now, everyone is trying to find a way to cope with whatever stresses each of us is dealing with. So remember, it’s okay to feel uncomfortable with all of the uncertainty. The Cleveland Clinic emphasizes that, if you’re stretched thin trying to get meals on the table, tutoring, taking meetings, etc., some of the suggestions won’t work for you. Still, it’s important to eat right, get sleep, get some exercise and have some time to yourself...whatever and whenever you can manage.

What are you doing to avoid cabin fever? Tell me about it on Facebook or in Traveleidoscope's comment section!


You Might Also Like:
bottom of page