Cave Syndrome: A Continuing Problem
Since the beginning of the end of the Covid pandemic, my practice has seen lingering cases of “Cave syndrome,” the mental health problem afflicting huge numbers of the population around the world. When I coined the term I had no idea that it would resonate with people as far as England, the Middle East, and South America. Everywhere, there are people so traumatized by the pandemic that they stay home more than they can function.
In the US, 30% of us adults say it will take them at least a year from now before things go back to the way they were.
Cave syndrome is an agoraphobia based disorder related to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and PTSD.
But there’s a difference. Regular agoraphobia has a lot of different triggers keeping sufferers out of contact with the outside world. But Cave syndrome is specifically caused by pandemic fears. It’s borne of uncertainty from the virus. The compulsive behavior that follows is essentially staying at home even though the rest of the world is springing into action.
Now that flights are packed and parties are being planned, Cave syndrome is more of a hidden problem now. Some people are understandably nervous about factors like others not wearing masks indoors - things like this can complicate a struggle with Cave syndrome. But the answer isn’t more isolation and cave syndrome... but reasonable prevention. Wear a mask, get vaccinated, be smart, and trust your instincts. Precautions are more effective than ever now that we have more weapons than ever in our fight against the virus.
But some people have severe cases where they can barely leave the house, they don’t even want to see family. Now that the holidays are approaching, it’s going to be a real reckoning for these sufferers. It’s hard to see the compulsion when anxiety about sickness comes from a survival instinct that is present in all humans. In this case, the instinct has gone into overdrive.
If you have a loved one who struggles with Cave syndrome, some degree of accommodation may be helpful. Wear a mask, get vaccinated. Think about the sufferer and their concerns. And introduce them to MAV, my method to reduce and eliminate Cave syndrome from your life:
M: This stands for mindfulness - awareness. By staying mindful we focus on the self and see our thought patterns and moods from a more distant perspective which allows us to make reasonable decisions. How do you feel when you need to leave the house or meet with a loved one?
A: This is for attitude! Stay upbeat, and develop a good sense of purpose. Set some goals and approach them with a positive mindset. Head out for a short walk or visit to the supermarket, and try to keep a smile and sense of humor while going about it.
V: Finally, we need a vision of success to strive for. It helps when we can actualize something that is recognizable and real. Know how great it will be to see friends and family, or go shopping at your favorite store.
If MAV and other self-help techniques don’t help, please reach out for professional help. Bregman Medica Group has decades of experience treating various disorders. We offer online or in person treatment! Simply schedule at www.bregmanmd.com or call 305-740-3340.