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"I got cabin fever
It's burning in my brain
I got cabin fever

It's driving me insane"
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Cabin fever is a term for a psychological reaction closely related to claustrophobia, that takes place when a person or group is confined to a small isolated space for an extended period of time (this might be a ship, a cabin in a storm, a space rocket etc.) Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, and distrust towards others and an urgent need to go outside, even if it is physically impossible. In fiction, these symptoms are usually even more exaggerated, to the point of the character becoming a raving lunatic who is a danger to both himself and others.

This is a land based trope, if it happens at sea that is Ocean Madness. In Space! it may be presented as Space Madness, even if it's actually due to confinement.

Ironically, plays no part at all in Cabin Fever, the Eli Roth film.

Examples of Cabin Fever include:


Literature

  • Stephen King's novel The Shining (and its film adaptation) involves cabin fever accentuating the effect of the ghosts. The plot follows a family of three trapped in an isolated resort in the dead of winter.
  • In the Hand of Thrawn duology, one of the many subplots has a few Star Destroyers waiting within a cloaking shield. Since this is the Star Wars Expanded Universe, cloaking technology involves being in a communications near-blackout, and completely blind to everything outside of the shield. The Star Destroyers hang out there for months. One captain mentions that the crew became restless, using the entertainment centers and sparring much more often, and trying to offer outrageous bribes to the tiny scout ships that leave the cloak to observe; he thinks he's too disciplined to be affected, but as the viewers cut to him over intervals, it's pretty clear that he's cracking.
  • Parodied in Hogfather:
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The word for this, [Ridcully] had heard, was 'cabin fever'. When people had been cooped up for too long in the dark days of the winter, they always tended to get on one another's nerves, although there was probably a school of thought that would hold that spending your time in a university with more than five thousand known rooms, a huge library, the best kitchens in the city, its own brewery, dairy, extensive wine cellar, laundry, barber shop, cloisters and skittle alley was testing the definition of 'cooped up' a little. Mind you, wizards could get on one another's nerves in opposite corners of a very large field.

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  • In the Warrior Cats graphic novel The Lost Warrior, Graystripe gets this, since he's lived outdoors in the forest his whole life and is now shut in a house as a pet. Results in him desperately searching for a way out, and he claws up some of the furniture.

Live Action TV

  • On an episode of MythBusters, the hosts test the myth of cabin fever, isolating themselves for a period of time in the Alaskan winter while being observed and taking cognitive and stress tests. The test results were unusable due to incorrect testing procedures; however, one host, Adam Savage, exhibited all four of the symptoms of cabin fever they were looking for, while the other, Jamie Hyneman, only exhibited one (excessive sleep). They deemed the myth "plausible".
    • And, rather amusingly, Kari, who was observing them, started losing it a bit herself from the sheer boredom of it.
  • In Lost Girl, Cabin Fever and all its symptoms (including the perception of being trapped in the first place) is the modus operandi and source of sustenance of a spider Fae called a Djiene. It doesn't hurt that it happens to strike right when Bo and Kenzi are beginning to strain each other's nerves with their cohabitation.

Tabletop Games

  • Invoked as a possibility in one passage of GURPS Traveller Far Trader.

Music

Video Games

  • In Borderlands, archeologist Patricia Tannis suffers from an unusual form of this condition, as the "cabin" in her case is the barren, desolate, slightly-hellish planet Pandora. She slowly goes crazy and ends up murdering one of her co-workers because the co-worker is a slob.
  • In Dead Rising, the more crowded the security room is by the final stretch of the game, the more likely and more severely the survivors will start to attack each other (never fatally, thankfully).

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • In the Simpsons episode "Mountain of Madness", Mr. Burns and Homer Simpson get trapped in a cabin together after an avalanche. Both exhibit signs of cabin fever.
  • A Time Squad episode appropriately titled "Cabin Fever". The squad stops getting missions and end up stuck together in their space station for weeks and eventually go mad. (well, except Otto)
  • Angela Anaconda gives herself detention when she gets Cabin Fever after faking Agorophobia.
  • In one episode of Beetlejuice, BJ gets cabin fever (which manifests as his head turning into a log cabin). A local disease control guy tells him the only remedy is quarantine, leaving Lydia to try to keep him from going (more) insane from the confinement.

Real Life

  • There's the Real Life(?) story of a lighthouse where one of the keepers went mad and killed the others.
    • There was another story of a lighthouse where one of the keepers went mad and almost killed the other keeper but he had to tie him up, keep all the sharp weapons away from him and deal with his insane ramblings until the next keepers arrived with supplies a couple days later.
  • Has been debunked as a theory for the Dyatlov Pass Incident.
  • People may often joke about this when forced to remain together in close quarters for long periods of time.
    • Much of the world went into self-isolation in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not counting the people who worked at essential jobs, by the time the self-isolation process had lasted six weeks, some people were eager to stop the isolation process even though doing so would still put their lives at risk.
  • Likely the origin of the Space Madness trope. In the 1950's experiments were held to test the affects of working alone in a cramped, low-oxygen environment. This lead to hallucinations and other signs of mental stress. As no-one had gone up into space yet this wasn't encouraging.
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