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Cabin Fever
I got cabin fever
It's burning in my brain
I got cabin fever
It's driving me insane!

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, in which people fall physically ill in the most popular of horror movie vacation places: a spacious cottage in the woods.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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:
    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.
  • 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.
  • Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince opens with a February "curse" seeming to conspire to bring this about for Lori and her sons: a cold snap settles over the area, the heating system at the boys' school breaks down and the needed parts are in Helsinki, the pipes freeze and burst at Emma and Derek's riding school, and the boys' grandfather and schoolmates all come down with a severe head cold. Lori welcomes Bree's arrival on her doorstep to help her entertain her bored twins.
  • Invoked in A Song of Ice and Fire: Lord Roose Bolton holds Winterfell, but his forces comprise a very tenuous alliance of Freys & Boltons with Manderlys and assorted other Northern lords. As King Stannis waits somewhere outside their walls and the whole castle is Snowed-In, someone begins murdering people one by one, heightening the tension between the various factions who are already freezing, hungry and seething with resentment. Eventually it comes to blood when Hosteen Frey attacks Lord Wyman Manderly, and to prevent it escalating any further Bolton sends their forces out separately into the snow to find Stannis, which has been repeatedly described as a terrible idea.

     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 to the point of letting her last surviving coworker die a slow and painful death because she was terrified of being alone.
  • 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).
  • In The Sims 3, Sims can get the "Stir Crazy" negative moodlet if they don't leave the house for too long.

     Web Comics  
  • Homestuck: Happens to John while he's stuck on a space ship with only Jade, Davesprite, and his Nanna for company for three years, causing his normally Pollyanna-esque personality to take a dive straight into the pessimistic and jerky. Jade, who had lived on an island on her own for all her life anyway, isn't really affected.

     Web Original  

  • The Rapture Logs: At the end of act one when they are on the ship, two people kill themselves and Jordan notes it's probably a case of cabin fever

     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.
  • Ren and Stimpy both get trapped in a cabin when its gets covered in snow by an avalanche. Both get severe signs of cabin fever as they've been tapped there for a long time. The snow on the cabin doesn't even melt, when its bright and sunny outside.
  • In the Recess episode "Rainy Days", the kids have to have indoor recess during a week of non-stop rain. By day three, the kids all get cabin fever.

     Real Life  

  • Lighthouse keepers have historically been very prone to this trope: Just imagine living in a tower, usually on a secluded rock or tiny island. You hear the sounds of the waves on the rocks constantly. You have to do repetitive tasks on a regular basis, and if you fail to do them people can die. Its always humid, and probably cold. You've been eating stale bread for a week. And then Bob starts playing that stupid accordion again. Thats it. Alice is getting the ax. She doesn't care if its Larry or the accordion, one of them is getting chopped up.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Of course much of the problem stemmed from the torture-like regimen for the people in the test chamber. The researchers locked up a half-dozen of people in a room no larger than a train compartment, kept it low on oxygen, and forced various tasks requiring full concentration for 16 hours a day on them. Understandably, people soon started breaking from sheer exhaustion. As it turns out, the test conditions greatly exaggerated the rigors of a typical spaceflight: as rumored, Yuri Gagarin, after familiarizing himself with his heavily-automated capsule, asked (referring to the use of dogs as a test subjects in the Soviet space program):
    Who am I a first cosmonaut, or a last dog?
    • This continues to be one of the obstacles to a theoretical manned mission to Mars. We have the technology to do it, but the trip would take six months to get there at a minimum, with another six month minimum to get back. The longest continuous time anyone has spent in space is 14 months (cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov), so it is at least possible, but dealing with cabin fever is still pretty high on everyone's checklist. The most recent series of trials has shown some encouraging results, however; the key to preventing Space Madness might be as simple and relatively cheap as buying each astronaut a laptop and an external hard drive.


Bystander SyndromeIndex SyndromeCerebus Syndrome
Consummate LiarJustForFun/Tropes Examined by the Myth BustersCarpet-Rolled Corpse
But I Can't Be Pregnant!PlotsCain and Abel
Break the CutieMadness TropesClothes Make the Maniac

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