Cabin fever is a state of restlessness, depression and irritability brought on by an extended stay in a confined space or a remote and isolated area.
The term was first used to describe early U.S. settlers who experienced long winters snowed in alone in their log cabins – a well known example is the Montana winter of 1886-7 when snow fell every day from November through the end of February, cattle froze in place on the range, and ranchers ran short on coal, flour and wood.
In 1915, polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men made camp on a drifting ice floe in the so-called voyage of endurance for three months after their ship sank. The 28 men lived in crowded tents. Shackleton later wrote: “Day by day goes by, much the same as one another, We work; we talk; we eat. … The two subjects of most interest … our rate of drift and the weather.”
The term has also applied to mental illness occurring on long oceanic voyages, after passengers and crew have endured long trips in small, cramped quarters below the deck of a ship
The mental anguish of cabin fever will often end in violence. In 1959 a Russian at a Soviet Antarctic base murdered a colleague with an axe after losing a game of chess. Following this, the Soviet authorities prohibited cosmonauts from playing chess!
Probably the best known case of Cabin Fever affected author Jack Torrence in Stephen King’s novel and film, The Shining, while snow bound with his family in an old hotel.
As the winter progresses, Jack becomes more and more unhinged, until he finally attempts to kill his wife and child.
What do you do if you think you are getting Cabin Fever (aside from trying to kill your wife an family)? …………… Get Out of the House if you can – for exposure to daylight exercise. Maintain Normal Eating Patterns – try not to overindulge in junk food or skip meals altogether. Set Goals – set daily and weekly goals, and track your progress toward completion. Use Your Brain – although TV is a distraction, it is also relatively mindless, stimulating your mind can help keep you moving forward and reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness.