Cabin fever is also known as winter depression and some consider it as a variant of seasonal affective disorder. It is thought to be brought on by any situation which leads to isolation, confinement and decreased social contact, for example it occurs in explorers on long journeys or when one is forced to stay indoors for long periods as in winter due to heavy snowfall or during heavy rains.
Most of us like to meet people and participate in activities of various kinds. When these are thwarted as mentioned, it can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Lack of exposure to sunlight is also postulated as one of the triggering factors in the causation of cabin fever.
Those confined to home, taking care of children and the infirm confined to bed are most susceptible. Over 25% of people living at higher latitudes where winters are prolonged and severe (with short or nonexistent daylight) such as in Alaska suffer from cabin fever or some other form of seasonal affective disorder.
Young people between the ages of 20 to 35 and women are at greater risk of suffering from the disorder. In fact, studies show that 75% of people suffering from seasonal affective disorder in Alaska are women. Seasonal affective disorder is not related to other factors like unemployment, school terms, or discontent regarding the weather.
How To Cure Cabin Fever
Causes of Cabin Fever
Cabin fever can be caused by any factor leading to isolation and lack of social contact such as severe storms, winter, confined spaces, prolonged stay indoors.
There is an alleged link between less sunlight in winter and fall, and an imbalance in certain chemicals in the brain. The chemicals thought to be responsible are serotonin and melatonin, whose improper levels in insufficient sunlight can trigger episodes of depression.
Symptoms of Cabin Fever
Symptoms of cabin fever are similar to that in any depression. They include boredom, restlessness, irritability, insomnia and other sleep disturbances, difficulty in concentration, feelings of sadness and depression, craving for sugar, difficulty in awakening in morning, social withdrawal, distrusting of people, urge to go out even in inclement weather and decreased productivity at work.
Diagnosis is pretty straightforward based on typical history and symptoms of the patient. Other causes of depression and mood disorders have to be carefully excluded.
Treatment and Cure for Cabin Fever
Since inadequate exposure to light is one of the causes of cabin fever, phototherapy or light therapy is often recommended. Exposure to adequate intensity light for sufficient time can lead to lowered melatonin and increased serotonin and other neurotransmitter levels.
Phototherapy devices available in the market may not be effective. Ultraviolet rays are not components of light therapy, so there is no cause for concern.
Drug therapy with antidepressants like sertraline and fluoxetine (Prozac) can help as they increase serotonin levels in the brain by selectively inhibiting its reuptake. Negative ions and St. John’s wort are claimed to be effective as well.
Simple measures like stepping outdoors whenever possible and engaging in indoor activities like games can go a long way in forestalling the symptoms.
However, it is to be remembered that there is no permanent cure or preventive strategy for cabin fever and one has to manage and prevent symptoms by taking timely measures as indicated here.
Photo Credit: Blog.businessopportunities.com/bob-daily/2012/2/10/working-from-home-how-to-beat-cabin-fever.html