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Cabin Fever

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"Cabin fever has ravaged all aboard!
This once proud vessel has become a floating psycho ward!"

"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, 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 themself 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. See also Go Mad from the Isolation which is about social isolation and does not require a small space, although there is overlap.

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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In School-Live!, Miki's friend Kei Shidou ends up developing this when they remain cooped up in a mall faculty room for a long period of time during a Zombie Apocalypse. She grows increasingly restless, and eventually makes the decision to leave the room to look for help. It doesn't end well for her, and the next time Miki sees Kei, she's been zombified.

    Comic Books 
  • In Justice, Sinestro tricks Green Lantern Hal Jordan into a Boom Tube that drops him beyond the known universe. A desperate Jordan converts himself into energy so he can keep himself alive indefinitely within the ring without having to worry about charge, but rapidly realizes the process can only be undone from outside, and every simulation he comes up with requires his direct mental input. It doesn't take him long to get absorbed in the memories.
  • In The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, after the Lost Light is stolen by Getaway, the crew is forced to temporarily use Skip, a much smaller ship with only two or three rooms. They're a Vitriolic Best Buds at best when under normal conditions, so naturally the addition of weeks of travel in a cramped space leads to everyone going stir-crazy. Eventually this escalates into arguments, prank wars, and fistfights.

    Fan Works 
  • Impenetrable Walls has Wei Wuxian being forced by his new status as a concubine to live locked up in the women's quarters, unable to speak with someone else than his husband or servants and deprived of his favorites hobbies (eating spicy food and esoteric research). He's also naturally restless and quick to feel bored, so a few weeks manage to make him stressed and unhappy and he reflects he would probably run away if he had nothing but this existence to look forward to.
  • This is the drive for part of the Black Comedy in React Watch Believe Yikes. Team RWBY gets accidentally left behind after everyone leaves Becon Academy for summer vacation and they slowly drive one another insane through their antics.
  • In Touhou Ibunshu, Yukari's laundry list of psychological problems eventually boils down to this. Gensokyo's certainly not tiny, but being constantly aware of the barrier and the lands beyond knowing you can't ever cross it due to your nature being an integral part of it would certainly explain her descent into insanity.

    Film ó Live-Action 
  • This is a central theme in The Crazy Family, after the grandpa moves in.
  • In Muppet Treasure Island, all the sailors suffer from Ocean Madness, but call it by the name of this trope... and sing a big, wacky production number about it that provides the page quote.
  • Lampshaded in The Spoilers (1942). John Wayne and his friend note that when two men spend a winter frozen in in a cabin in Alaska, they either walk out good friends... "or one man walks out alone."

  • 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.
  • The sixth Diary of a Wimpy Kid book is appropriately titled "Cabin Fever". It involves the entire Heffley family (minus Greg's father Frank) getting Snowed-In due to a snowstorm later in the book. Compounding this is that the power goes out (Greg's little brother Manny was actually responsible for this because no one taught him how to tie his shoes), they are running out of food (Mrs. Heffley can't go out to get more because of the snow), and the basement flooded (which means that Greg's older brother Rodrick has to stay in his room).
  • Given that eight people were trapped in half a house for two years, itís no surprise that this happens in The Diary of a Young Girl. They tried to keep their fights to a minimum, to not attract attention to themselves.
  • Goblins in the Castle: Essentially what happened to the goblins during their long imprisonment, driven mad (both psychologically and emotionally, as they became very angry over being left alone in the dark for a hundred and twenty-one years) due to having no outlet for their wild energy.
  • In the Hand of Thrawn duology, one of the many subplots has a few Star Destroyers waiting within a cloaking shield. Since this is Star Wars Legends, 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.
  • Outdoor humorist Patrick McManus wrote a short story discussing this malady, along with its lesser-known variations Villa Fever (think a mild case of sniffles) and Two-Man-Tent Fever (think Ebola.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • In the 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.
    • In Bluestar's Prophecy, Rosetail comments that Snowfur seems to have den fever after spending so much time in the nursery after the birth of her kit and that getting out of the camp for a bit will do her some good.

    Live-Action TV 
  • John Diggle begins to suffer from Cabin Fever in Season Five of Arrow as he can't go leave Team Arrow's place (apart from fighting crime as Spartan) due to being a wanted man. It gets especially bad in the episode "Vigilante" when he misses his son's second birthday. At the end of the episode, Rene arranges for Dig's family to come for a visit, which helps a lot.
  • The Ascension series by Syfy has this as an actual medical condition all of the U.S.S Ascension's children suffer from. Called "The Crisis", it afflicts teenagers when they realize they have literally no hope of doing anything other than what's planned for them or ever visiting any place other than the one they grew up on.
  • For All Mankind. The Apollo 22 crew (Baldwin, Stevens, and Poole) gradually grow stir-crazy while stranded on the Jamestown Base due to constant delays in their relief launch. Stevens has the worst of it, defying orders to go walking on the Moon by himself and becoming obsessed with The Bob Newhart Show (the only show they have to watch on video). Eventually Poole deliberately injures herself so they have an excuse to stage a medical evacuation back to Earth for Stevens. Unfortunately this still leaves Baldwin on the Moonbase all by himself.
  • 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.
  • 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, at least until she decides she can't take it anymore and takes a break to go play in the snow.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Night", Voyager is crossing a vast expanse with no star systems even visible to their sensors. Deprived of the stimulus they get from stopping off at a Conveniently Close Planet or their weekly life-endangering crisis, the crew start to suffer this trope despite having access to artificial environments on the holodeck. Most importantly, Captain Janeway locks herself up in her cabin suffering from Heroic BSoD.

  • "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones is inspired by an incident during their tour of England where they were stuck in London on Christmas Eve. London shuts down on Christmas Eve, leaving them with "Nothing to do, nowhere to go".
  • The basis of the Stan Rogers song "Canol Road".
  • Matthew Villani created a horror-themed song back in 2000 which may be lost forever simply titled "Cabin Fever" with lyrics describing the effects of cabin fever, in 2018 he did a reprise of this with the fully instrumental piece "Cabin Fever, Eternal Isolation".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Invoked as a possibility in one passage of Gurps Traveller Far Trader.

    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 the intro for Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, Doctors Neo Cortex and N. Tropy have gotten fed up with each other from being trapped in the past with Uka Uka for decades (specifically, while Tropy generally remained sane, Cortex's mania degenerated enough to resort to making a doll of Crash to beat up). It's likely that the arguments would have gotten violent if Uka Uka didn't finally manage to open a way out.
  • 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 RimWorld, this is one of the drawbacks of building an Underground City. Tunneling into a mountain to build your colony means it will have strong natural defenses and a year-round moderate temperature. But colonists have an "Outdoors" meter alongside their list of needs like food and recreation, so too many days without seeing the sun will lead to increasing mood penalties.
  • In The Sims 3, Sims can get the "Stir Crazy" negative moodlet if they don't leave the house for too long.

  • In the fanmade webcomic, "Devo in: Tired O Tourin'," Mark suffers from this in the beginning, which sets off a chain of events that just goes from bad to worse. Read it here.
  • Homestuck: Happens to John while he's stuck on a spaceship 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.
    • Also appears within the group confined to the meteor pre-retcon; Terezi and Gamzee enter a destructive hate-romance, Dave and Karkat get into what's implied to be multiple physical fights, Rose develops a drinking habit, and Kanaya becomes increasingly restless and jumpy.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent:
    • Reynir, who's normally quite friendly and tries to not be too demanding, ends up grabbing Lalli (who doesn't even speak his language) and yelling at him upon getting the impression that he's doing nothing about a bad situation they both know about. The reason this trope is a likely factor in the outburst and the reason Reynir himself is unable to do something about the situation are one and the same: by that point of the story, Reynir hasn't been allowed to leave the tank in other circumstances than supervised walks for several days due to having to be isolated from Tuuri.
    • Sigrun shows the "wanting to get out" symptom one week into the crew's stay on the quarantine ship.

    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
  • Downplayed in Wolfgang: You might think a trio of werewolves self-isolating in a bunker for three days out of every month would quickly get on each others' nerves, but as they choose their company carefully, and the show has a dramedy focus, the worst that happens is an argument over a game of Monopoly. However, in the final episodes, an argument over one member of the troupe having infected another escalates to the point that they all transform and have an (offscreen) battle, destroying their bunker in the process.

    Western Animation 
  • Angela Anaconda: Angela gives herself detention when she gets Cabin Fever after faking Agoraphobia.
  • 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.
  • In Fangbone!, when a barbarian spends too long under a roof, they're afflicted with hovelfroth, which turns them into rabid forces of nature that will only calm down once they're outside. When Bill pressures Fangbone into spending the day inside with him watching movies, Drool takes advantage of Fangbone's rising need to go outside and turns all the doors into looping portals, trapping them inside, forcing Fangbone to lose his mind and become savagely violent towards Bill.
  • Looney Tunes: Daffy Duck, from Porky Pig's Feat as he and Porky are imprisoned in their hotel room until they pay their bill:
    I can't stand it! It's getting to me! I'm going stir-crazy! Bastille batty! Cooler cuckoo! Look at my prison pallor! I'm black as a sheet!
  • 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.
  • Ren and Stimpy both get trapped in a cabin when it 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 it's bright and sunny outside.
  • The Rocko's Modern Life episode "Cabin Fever". Rocko, Heffer, and the Bigheads are forced to share a cabin in the mountains and an avalanche buries the cabin in snow. While Rocko, Heffer, and Bev stay calm by passing the time with various games, Ed goes crazy with trying to find a way to escape.
  • 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.
  • This seems to drive most of the conflict of Sonic Boom. The characters rarely leave the same small island/town/Eggman's lair setting, and as the episode "Aim Low" makes clear, when Eggman isn't trying to destroy him, Sonic grows increasingly restless. Also, one episode is actually titled "Cabin Fever" and involves the characters being trapped in a house together during a thunderstorm.
  • Happens in the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Pineapple Fever" when SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward are trapped in SpongeBob's house during a storm. They all proceed to act feral when they start fighting over food.
  • Star Wars Resistance: In "Hunt on Celsor 3", one of the reasons for growing unrest among the Colossus' residents is that the station's flight into space to escape the First Order has left them unable to go outside, with some people, most notably local drunk Al, feeling the effects worse than others. At the end, Neeku rigs up a holographic sky in the marketplace to help mitigate people's claustrophobia.
  • 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).

    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. It's always humid, and probably cold. You've been eating stale bread for a week. And then Bob starts playing that stupid accordion again. That's it. Alice is getting the ax. She doesn't care if it's Bob 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 1950s, experiments were held to test the effects 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 test subjects in the Soviet space program):
      Who am I ó 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 have 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.


Video Example(s):


Lost in Space

Trapped in a disabled shuttle after barely escaping the destruction of Sunder, the group tries to maintain their sanity as they drift aimlessly through space. Emphasis on "tries".

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