Vaccinated Still At Home: A Cave Syndrome Problem
The vaccines are here. In the United States, most adults and teenagers have access to them (sometimes depending on the state.) Aside from logistics and conspiracy theories, there are no widespread problems with any of them. Pfizer, Moderna, even the one-shot Johnson & Johnson - they are all quite safe and effective.
When I first started researching this new mental health condition known as “Cave syndrome” we didn’t know how widespread it would become. Cave syndrome is affecting far more people than projected.
Basically, Cave syndrome is an agoraphobia-based disorder causing people to be stuck at home, shut-in because of lingering irrational Covid fears. For some, it is caused by panic, anxiety, and other comorbid disorders. For others, it mirrors Stockholm syndrome where captives develop a troubling bond with their captors.
It seemed that an effective vaccine would soothe people’s nerves and allow them to resume normal life with confidence and minimal anxiety. But for 48% of vaccinated adults, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. They can’t shake the fear that has influenced our lives for the past year, creating a temporary “new normal” that some people became attached to.
People have grown used to their new behaviors and fear-based emotional thought patterns. Having gone through uncertain times has made some people crave certainty at the expense of functionality. Even if they’ve received a full vaccine dose.
Level 1 Cave syndrome sufferers are usually just internally affected. They can get out of the house to do necessary tasks if they really need to, but the rumination and stress of doing so takes a heavy toll on their emotions and wellbeing. A trip to the supermarket can be a relatively anxiety-free experience with proper masking and disinfection. But this simple errand could leave someone with level 1 Cave syndrome shaking in fear.
Level 2 sufferers have it a bit worse. They sometimes have a pre-existing mental health condition like anxiety or depression which will lead them to shutting in almost totally. Most purchases occur through delivery and only close loved ones would be in proximity. Life is getting harder at level 2.
Level 3 is the most severe. Almost all sufferers at level 3 have comorbid disorders: usually anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Life has come to a grinding halt for these people as most of the time even trusted loved ones are kept at a far distance. Going out to pick up something delivered via social distancing may still be a nerve-wracking experience.
Clearly, at level 1 and sometimes level 2, a bit of self-care and vigilance may be just what the doctor ordered to help you out of the metaphorical Cave. However, in severe cases like level 3, professional help is definitely needed. Even at levels 1 and 2, some guidance would be ideal -
and in a timely manner. If left to fester, disorders like Cave syndrome have a tendency to become chronic.
By engaging in therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT) or Exposure/Response Prevention (ERP), sufferers can view their thought patterns from a new angle and work on restructuring problematic ways of thinking. In some cases, a bit of medication may be prescribed, usually an antidepressant SSRI.
If someone you know is paralyzed by fear and shut-in even though they’ve been vaccinated and are reasonably safe, please reach out to them and possibly a mental health professional. Bregman Medical Group has years of experience treating various disorders and Dr. Arthur Bregman MD is on the front lines of Cave syndrome research. We offer online treatment right to your device! Schedule at www.bregmanmd.com or call 305-740-3340.