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Cave Syndrome: The Post-Pandemic Trend

There was once a time when people felt like they weren’t living their fullest lives if they didn’t make it “out” on the weekend - out to the club, out to the pub, out to a friend’s birthday party. Or maybe just out to a movie with the fam.

In fact, there was a term for the dysphoria felt by those who skipped or missed these collective outings: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

But now, some publications have been using a new term. It’s “FOGO” and it stands for “fear of going out.”

As described in previous blog entries FOGO is really just another word for Cave syndrome, the troubling mental health trend that I’ve seen in my research and at my psychiatry practice. The number of sufferers is rising every day as people - even vaccinated people - wrestle with the call of the outside world.

Everything is opening back up again and if you’re vaccinated you have a lot less to worry about. However, the aftermath of social distancing left some with lingering tension and agoraphobic tendencies. They may be caused by pre-existing disorders like anxiety or PTSD, by a new phobia instigated by the Covid pandemic, or even by an over-attachment to the convenience of staying home away from any other risk. Or a mix of reasons.

As Cave syndrome becomes more recognized as a worldwide problem, news outlets all over the globe from the Los Angeles Times, to the BBC, to the View have covered it as a topic because viewers and readers can relate. After being told to remain home for a year and a ahalf, a lot of people want to stay there. But for some it becomes incapacitating, even hindering basic functions for the worst cases.

In previous pandemics the world of psychology and psychiatry were relatively undeveloped, and data about people’s emotional states after previous pandemics were never analyzed to the extent as they’ve been now.

As the results come in, it seems a rather large number of people have feelings of doubt and insecurity about reentering the world.

Just because the problem is unprecedented and on a global scale doesn’t mean it’s impossible to overcome. As an individual, the path to wellness always rests in the hands of the sufferer. In moderate to severe cases of Cave syndrome which often involve comorbid disorders, professional mental health treatment is often recommended.

However, otherwise functional sufferers may be able to use a few self wellness measures to stave off the syndrome. At Bregman Medical Group, we’ve developed the MAV system. The

MAV system is like an inner coach, giving you the tips and insight you need to find your way out of the cave. This coach keeps drilling you about three main concepts:

Mindfulness: Yes, mindfulness as we know it originated with early pioneers of meditation in the west - but since its development, it’s been used to make everyone from firefighters to school children a little more calm and observant about their experience of life. By first cultivating some mindfulness, we can see what our triggers are that keep us stowed away from the outside world. A lot of resources exist online about mindfulness, so a quick google search may help you on your way to self-awareness.

Attitude: Once we know the triggers of our Cave syndrome, we need the right attitude to rally the troops and get to work. This requires very positive self-talk. Humans are often harsh with their self-talk, using tough criticism and put downs against themselves. Instead, try to develop a friendly, forgiving attitude that allows you to learn from your mistakes but productively move forward.

Vision: Of course, mistakes are going to happen. There are setbacks in dealing with most mental health challenges. This is where a vision for meeting your goals comes into play. It keeps you going when times are hard. To assist you in your forward vision, set yourself up for success: take a practice drive to the office during the weekend. Maybe go to the mall, envisioning what it may be like to get out and walk to your favorite store.

With these tools, you may be able to find your way out of the cave and back to the activities that made you feel like you weren’t missing out.

If your Cave syndrome is severe and hindering your life, please reach out for mental health assistance. Bregman Medical Group has years of experience treating various disorders. We offer online psychiatry and therapy straight to your device, simply schedule an appointment via www.bregmanmd.com or call 305-740-3340.

References:

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/feeling-fogo-or-cave-syndrome-as-things-reopen-heres-how -to-get-back-out-there-11623961575 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/mindfulness 

https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/professional/anxiety-post-pandemic 

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/why-you-may-feel-anxious-about-a-post-pande mic-return-to-normal

By BregmanMD | June 24, 2021 | Mental Health

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