Social Isolation: Cabin Fever

Cabin fever is a term which is generally used to describe those distraught individuals who find themselves isolated from other individuals by weather factors or distance and who are unable to deal with the emotional aspects of this isolation.

This emotional based syndrome can effect those who spend too much time alone. Cabin fever is the restlessness, boredom, or irritability which can occur from a lack of emotional stimulation or from a prolonged stay in a sparsely populated region. This illness generally strikes when a person spends too much time secluded indoors or in some such other location without adequate contact with other individuals. Generally thought of as a winter phenomenon it can occur in any season.

It isn't contagious but it can be nasty. Cabin Fever symptoms may include excessive sleeping, moodiness, restlessness, irritability, irrationality, frustration, crankiness, forgetfulness, sudden bursts of laughter or tears, or an irrational distrust of other individuals. The person suffering from cabin fever will generally feel a desperate need to escape from their current confines to get outside or to get away from their current circumstances. They begin to act in an irrational manner.

Fortunately not too many people now-a-days experience the long periods of isolation required to bring about a severe bout of cabin fever. We may get a little bored or caged in during wet or cold weather but generally we are not too drastically harmed by our brief periods of separation from our friends or family.

It is very important to note that a person does not have to live in the country to develop this syndrome. A person who locks their self away from others is just as apt to develop a bad case of cabin fever. Individuals suffering from social isolation can become so frustrated while working or living in a secluded situation that they dip to the emotional extreme of appearing crazy. They act out in irrational or crazed behaviour. The first recorded case came to light in 1918 and although we are now much more social in our interactions it is a phenomenon that still does occur. 

This illness is not so prevalent today and the phrase Cabin Fever is now more apt to be applied to someone who is bored than by someone who is actually driven mentally unstable from lack of emotional stimuli.

Fortunately today cabin fever is rare. When we do find ourselves alone most of us have access to a phone or the Internet to help provide us with that vital link to other individuals. Another human is rarely more than a heartbeat away from us.

Even when we may not seem to have anyone to reach out to social stimulation can be found online at social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Online gaming, chat, and dating sites can also provide social interaction when needed.

For those who are suffering from a genuine case of cabin fever there are ways to get relief. You may feel a little self conscious or uncomfortable in social settings for awhile but the number one way to get over cabin fever is to get out of the isolated situation.

As humans we have a strong emotional need to socialize. Even the act of sitting in a restaurant where there are other people around you can help. Simple interactions can be the start to reintroducing yourself into the mainstream way of life again so slowly and steadily try to interact with other individuals again.

Yes, I've had a case of modern day cabin fever which is how I discovered this illness exists. Years ago I took a job position at a remote mountain lodge. During the summer months we had a lot of traffic from tourists but come winter things got mighty darn quiet. Worse yet was the fact that during the winter we ran with just a skeleton staff of myself, the cook, a desk clerk, the owner, and an elderly waitress.

My very first winter at the lodge we got snowed in. They closed the park gates and refused to let anyone through till the avalanche threat eased up. The lodge was very remote and it was courtesy of a large generator that we were even able to have electricity. A CB radio phone system connected us to the outside world. There was no television, internet, or traditional radio service at the lodge so we were a little bored to put things mildly. It wasn't until three weeks later that we saw our first signs of life. Park rangers snowmobiled in to let us know that it wouldn't be much longer till the highway was open again. 

That was my first taste of cabin fever and I really was not too impressed with it. By the time that summer rolled around again I had decided that it was time for me to move back to civilization again. Yep, cabin fever is really not all that pleasant to experience.

Living in a rural country setting is a very different existence from that of urban dwellers. It's a lifestyle that isn't for everyone but it is the choice of many individuals. Yep, cabin fever can set in pretty easily when you reside way out in the deep woods. As an adult I didn't mind living in a wooded outback too much except for the visits by a local mountain lion. Bears I can handle but the wild cats can be pretty quiet when they are sneaking up on you. They spooked me.

Today we encounter a new type of social isolation brought on by our use of technology. Staring into our phone, tablet, or computer rather than making face to face contact we are substantially reducing our human to human contact: Or are we? In some situations we can actually be increasing our connection to those we are separated by distance or some other reason which serve to keep us apart. Our social situations have certainly changed with the introduction of newer more advanced technology and communications.

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