Saudi policemen manning a checkpoint in the King Fahad main street in the capital Riyadh. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: Cabin fever is a popular term for a relatively common reaction to being isolated or confined for an extended period of time. It is not a specific diagnosis, but rather a constellation of symptoms that can occur under these circumstances.

If you are experiencing cabin fever as a result of social distancing or self-quarantine in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be feeling additional stress beyond that which stems from simply being isolated. There are ways to combat the anxiety you may be feeling.

Cabin fever syndrome surfaced after being used in the crime and punishment novel of Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 1866, and Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 movie The Gold Rush.

Psychologists refused to diagnose the state of Saudi society in their refusal to return to their normal lives and practice their hobby and work as before, with Cabin fever syndrome, and emphasised that a state of “psychological anxiety” is declining during the next three months.

Psychological consultant Dr. Suhail Khan confirmed that this new psychological term was introduced after the coronavirus crisis, and it is not known whether this syndrome is documented by studies or not.

In turn, the psychological consultant, Dr. Jamal Al Tuwairqi, said that psychological studies confirm that quarantine, isolation, imprisonment, compulsory treatment, or others, from three months to six months, cause “phobia” to gp out.

“What some Twitter users said about doubting the infection of Saudi society with Cabin fever syndrome, does not exist in medical and psychological studies,” Dr Al Tuwairqi said, citing some psychological cases that are left in hospitals for many years without being discharged and then psychiatry developed and forced patients to go out into the world again. “But patients were shocked In a changing and different society, the society became frightening for them, as their way of eating, housing, and their lives changed, and family and friends changed, as the patients stayed in the care facility for a long period of time and suddenly they were taken out after the system was modified.

Dr Al Tuwairqi added the same story happened in a mental hospital in Taif, where a number of patients had been discharged after they had lost their jobs and their families, friends and relatives abandoned them because they were psychopaths.

“As some went out and their families refused to receive them, some were completely neglected and some returned to the hospital again,” he said.

Dr Al Tuwairqi argued as for the Cabin fever theory, it is not sound and the situation is completely different with the three-month quarantine period due to coronavirus. “Of course, people have fear of the virus and the fear of disease is preventing them from going to mosques or restaurants or even traveling and this is considered a temporary reaction, due to fear and panic from experience. But it is a short period, and if it continues for a period of six months, society will have some sort of “phobia”!

He affirmed what society suffers from is the tension and anxiety of the virus, but we knew how to deal with it, and the state made a great effort and played its role in raising awareness and treatment, so infections and deaths decreased, and the virus was restricted without epidemic spread.

“However, society reduced the amount of going out to the market, working and visiting hospitals and family visits for fear of the virus, and these actions require time to retreat and return to normal,” Dr Al Tuwairqi said.

Symptoms of Cabin Fever

Experts say not everyone suffering from cabin fever will experience exactly the same symptoms, but many people report feeling intensely irritable or restless. Other commonly experienced effects are:


Sadness or depression

Trouble concentrating

Lack of patience

Food cravings

Decreased motivation

Difficulty waking

Frequent napping


Note that these symptoms may also be indicative of a wide range of other disorders. If these symptoms are distressing or impact your functioning, a trained mental health professional could help you determine if you have a treatable disorder.

Coping With Cabin Fever

If your symptoms are relatively mild, taking active steps to combat your feelings may be enough to help you feel better. If they are impacting you more significantly, they are best addressed with the assistance of a therapist or other mental health professional.

Get Out of the House

If you are housebound, this may not always be possible. But if you are able to go outside, even for a short time, take advantage of that opportunity. Exposure to daylight can help regulate the body’s natural cycles, and exercise releases endorphins, creating a natural high. Even a quick stroll can help you feel better quickly. If you are not able to leave the house at all, get close to a window and start moving around.

Maintain Normal Eating Patterns

For many of us, a day stuck at home is an excuse to overindulge in junk food. Others skip meals altogether. However, eating right can increase our energy levels and motivation. You may feel less hungry if you are getting less exercise, but monitor your eating habits to ensure that you maintain the proper balance of nutrition. Limit high-sugar, high-fat snacks and drink plenty of water.

Set Goals

When you are stuck in the house, you may be more likely to while away the time doing nothing of importance. Set daily and weekly goals, and track your progress toward completion. Make sure that your goals are reasonable, and reward yourself for meeting each milestone.


Even if you cannot leave the house, find a way to stay physically active while indoors. Regular physical activity can help burn off any extra energy you have from being cooped up indoors. Indoor exercise ideas include workout videos, bodyweight workouts, and online workout routines.

Source: verywell mind