What Is Cabin Fever?

Cabin Fever

Catherine Song / Verywell 

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What Is Cabin Fever?

Cabin Fever

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

There are times you might find it difficult to leave home, such as during times of illness or bad weather. While you might feel fine at first, extended periods of being confined to your home can eventually lead to feelings associated with cabin fever, such as anxiety, loneliness, and poor mood. Learning how to recognize these signs can help you look for ways to cope.

Symptoms of Cabin Fever

Not everyone experiencing cabin fever will have exactly the same symptoms, but many people report feeling intensely irritable or restless. Other commonly experienced effects are:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Decreased motivation
  • Difficulty waking
  • Food cravings
  • Frequent napping
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of patience
  • Lethargy
  • Sadness or depression
  • Trouble concentrating

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.

Causes of Cabin Fever

Social interaction and support are important for well-being. People are likely to experience cabin fever when they feel like they are cut off from other people.

Many people experienced this feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, and quarantines, there was a significant shift in the amount of social contact people had for extended periods. 

Other factors that can cause symptoms of cabin fever include:

  • Not being able to spend time with others due to illness or disability
  • Feeling cut off from friends and loved ones after moving to a new location
  • Being cooped up indoors due to inclement weather

It is also important to note that your overall personality can affect how well you cope with some of these feelings. People with more introverted personalities, for example, might be better able to stay busy and entertained when they are cooped up at home. Those who are more extroverted, on the other hand, may struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness to a greater degree.

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 able to go outside, even for a short time, take advantage of that opportunity. Research has found that spending time outside can be helpful for relieving stress, boosting mood, and improving overall feelings of well-being.

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.

Create a Routine

When you're cooped up at home, not having a daily schedule or routine can worsen feelings of cabin fever. Research has shown that having regular routines can help people better cope with feelings of anxiety and stress. So when you start to feel symptoms of cabin fever, try creating a schedule that keeps you busy, socially connected, and healthy.

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.

Use Your Brain

Although TV is a distraction, it is also relatively mindless. Work crossword puzzles, read books, or play board games. Stimulating your mind can help keep you moving forward and reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness. Look online for websites, games, and apps that help keep you engaged while challenging your mind.


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.

When to Seek Help

If the symptoms of cabin fever persist after taking steps to address them or are accompanied by other mental health symptoms, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • A lack of interest or motivation
  • Difficult sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in mood

Such symptoms might indicate a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. An accurate diagnosis can help you get the appropriate treatment, which may involve psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

A Word From Verywell

When you can't get out of the house, cabin fever can have a serious impact on your mood and well-being. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help yourself feel better. Reading a book, playing board games, watching television, and talking to friends can help if you can't leave the house, but getting up and spending some time outside is often the best solution.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Konis K, Mack WJ, Schneider EL. Pilot study to examine the effects of indoor daylight exposure on depression and other neuropsychiatric symptoms in people living with dementia in long-term care communitiesClin Interv Aging. 2018;13:1071-1077. doi:10.2147/CIA.S165224

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Additional Reading

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.