The cabin syndrome, another rival to beat in the pandemic

Rafael * only goes out to walk his dogs. His wife flatly refuses and the love he feels for his “children”, as he calls them, forces him to walk about 40 minutes a day near their home. He has gone out other times due to force majeure and confesses that when he “touches” it “annoys” him to have people nearby, who do not comply with the distancing.

If you go down a sidewalk and someone else comes, change the platform, run to the front yard and wait for them to pass. Not by mistake, he says, would he get on a bus, a taxi or go to eat at a restaurant, even if the authorities allow it. “I am happy in my house, if it were up to me I would not go out. My wife hasn’t gone out at all and she says she won’t, at least this year, ”he says.

Juan Gabriel *, 12, also refuses to go out. Without hesitation, he says that he is “afraid” of catching it. His mother has invited him to go to the park very early to experience contact with relatives, who live in the same building, but he refuses. He says he has everything in his apartment: he talks to his friends via chat or video games and meets his school obligations virtually. When he is told that he will surely return physically to school, he changes the subject and if he is insisted, his temper is notorious.

In Ricardo * his reluctance to go out is more radical. He says he will not go out on the street because doing so would endanger his mother, a person in her 80s and with previous health problems such as diabetes and hypertension. Faced with the appeal of the company where he works, to have to return to the facilities, he refuses to return and waits for his superiors to decide whether or not to continue working for them. “Nothing and nobody is going to take me out of the house,” he says.

This fear of leaving, when it has been confined for a long time, as it happens now, from psychology is called “cabin syndrome”.

Olga Lucía Hoyos De Los Ríos, PhD in Psychology and professor in the Department of Psychology of the Universidad del Norte, points out that what some of her colleagues, in the countries that started the post-quarantine de-escalation, have called cabin syndrome , refers to the fear that arises at the idea of ​​leaving home. “This fear can be activated by the actual exposure or even by the mere idea.”

“After a long time insisting that the best way to protect ourselves and others is isolation, we are now invited to go out again. Although the conditions are different than those we experienced in mid-March, the uncertainty is once again important. We still do not know some aspects related to the de-escalation and fear and anxiety arise again. This reaction is expected and what we feel has an adaptive value. It prepares us for change ”.

However, adds Dr. Hoyos that in some cases this reaction can have a contrary value, “maladaptive.” In this sense, she explains, we must be attentive to what we feel.

“If we observe that fear, beyond allowing us to maintain guidelines of care, takes hold of us and prevents us from resuming activities that are vital to us, we must pay attention. The way in which we face this situation is going to be related to the history of each one. Their experiences and the way we have faced similar situations ”.

But speaking of experiences, @luciarobleslu points out that his fear of leaving his ‘cabin’ lies in the bad behavior he observes in others from the window of his house or in the few occasions that he has necessarily had to go out.

“I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but I don’t think Barranquilla is sufficiently prepared in civic culture to assume the new normal. I live less than a block from a supermarket and every time I go I see people without masks circulating, “he replied to the question on Twitter.

Óscar Pino, neuropsychologist and member of the Official College of Psychology of Catalonia, affirmed in this regard in a work published by El País de España, that like @luciarobleslu, “now there are many people who have a feeling of lack of control, that this can leave us hands. The perception of others as a danger is something that will continue for a while and will produce a change in habits ”.

What can be done?

Dr. Hoyos points out that, as in the management of other emotions, the first thing to do is recognize that fear, accept it and from there begin to “manage” a process to overcome it little by little.

“It is suggested to start with small actions. You don’t have to force yourself to do great things on the first day. Everyone must respect their own rhythm. For some, that first effort may be to take a short walk on their block or spend a few minutes on the terrace or door of their house. For others, it may be going to the park or meeting a small group outdoors. Both experiences are valid. Each one will advance according to their possibilities ”.

Adds the doctor in Psychology that at this time it is also important to stay informed (with safe, reliable sources) about the self-care measures that must be preserved and the announcements that the authorities make about the evolution of the virus and mobility itself.

Finally, the psychologist stressed that it is important to keep in mind that if the affected person cannot face this moment alone “it is worth asking for professional help.” In short, we must break the myth that many people still have that only the “crazy” visit the psychologist.

Especially people who had previous pathologies such as depression or agoraphobia should study more seriously consult a psychology professional to treat this symptom related to the anxiety spectrum, as explained by the neuropsychologist Óscar Pino.

In children | Accompaniment

Dr. Olga Lucía Hoyos De Los Ríos explains that the accompaniment of minors is essential for them to overcome this “cabin syndrome” and their emotional development to continue its process, even in the midst of the current pandemic.

“In the same way that we adults accompanied them at the beginning and during the quarantine, we must accompany them now. It is necessary to talk to them about what happened, where we are. Because now it is allowed to leave and how beneficial this brings to everyone. Also teach them protection measures when going out and coming into contact with other children and adults. And just like at the beginning of quarantine, the way in which parents go through this moment will influence the way in which children do it. It is important to respect their own rhythm, legitimize their emotions and accompany them at all times ”, advises Dr. Hoyos.

“Prepare from home to face fear”

Elsy Mejía Segura, researcher at the Caribbean Neurosciences Group and professor at the Psychology program at Simón Bolívar University, is clear in saying that although there is no precise formula, it is important to recover the idea of ​​a safe external environment. This is possible in terms of what we can “control”, of self-care. The key is “to prepare from home” to face the environment, and for this it is recommended:

1. Access accurate information in professional media, avoiding overinformation and false news.

2. Understand that fear is part of human nature, so it is necessary to be attentive to our needs and those around us to identify supports.

3. Have spaces for distraction and relaxation at home, such as listening to music, doing exercises or practicing hobbies.

When leaving it is recommended:

1. Understand it as a gradual process, we should not overextend ourselves to enjoy the outside world in the same way.

2. Identify the spaces that can generate more tranquility and in which social contact is gradual. It is advisable to start with family activities to regain emotional ties, which become a great resource.

3. Maintain security protocols: social distancing, hand washing and use of masks.


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