The cabin syndrome and the adaptation of the family to Covid

The beginning of 2020, following the announced state of health emergency, gradually saw the populations put themselves in confinement. During this period of quarantine time has stood still. The pollution rate has dropped dramatically, the unemployment and layoff rate has risen, and families have found themselves living together 24/7. 

What were the psychological consequences of this confinement?

During confinement, deprived of social ties, deprived of freedom of movement, forced to remain in an enclosed place with possible sources of anxiety, fear and stress were exacerbated. The confinement that has been imposed, at a time when the media and social networks are at the heart of our society, has led to an overconsumption of information and screens. This may have reinforced the anxiety-provoking state of the situation through passivity and a lack of perspective in the face of the news received. Isolation due to confinement has undoubtedly had a deleterious effect on mental health, creating psychological and somatic disorders, informs Johanna Rozenblum, psychologist in Paris. Indeed, anger and frustration, fear of the unknown and of death, the anxiety of the next day and the feeling of helplessness, have created a favorable ground for the installation of anxiety and depressive disorders. Evelyn Josse tells us “the anxieties generated by the instability of marital relations, job insecurity, the economic crisis, global warming and the terrorist threat find an outlet with the epidemic”. 

However if for some the confinement was experienced as a harmful situation, for others it was a welcome parenthesis, relieved of the constraints and social obligations to be with oneself and live at one’s own pace. For these people, introverted or marginalized, who no longer supported the social pressure of everyday life, the preoccupation with the appearance and the gaze of the other, it is deconfinement that was problematic. 

What were the psychological consequences of deconfinement?

Since the deconfinement in Spain, a new mental disorder has flourished in the media; the “cabin syndrome” or deconfinement syndrome. This term is now a subject of controversy within the psychology community. Indeed it would seem that it was associated with “cabin fever” which designates “the psychological suffering of people forced into confinement or isolated in a remote area during a prolonged stay”. The most common symptoms are restlessness, depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating, feelings of unproductiveness and worthlessness, dissatisfaction and frustration. This “fever” was often associated with people living in prisons and if we go back to the list of symptoms we understand the mistake that was made. Indeed, the symptomatology evoked for the fever of the cabin rather refers to what people evoked and felt during the confinement whereas the use of the term “syndrome of the cabin” was used rather to signify the difficulty of the people. to leave their homes. This is why the psychologist Evelyn Josse proposes the name “snail syndrome” to designate this reluctance to find the outside world, to have to face others, to the possible encounters, conflicts and confrontations that this can generate. This reluctance is also explained by the many fears and disorders that have developed as a result of this health crisis; fear of contamination, fear of the unknown, social phobia, hypervigilance or even obsessive disorders. Virginie Bapt, psychologist, tells us that “this fear of getting out of confinement basically reveals the fear of the other” and also “of an adjustment disorder, which in extreme cases can resemble a nervous breakdown”. 

We have just seen how individuals experienced confinement / deconfinement but how families got through the crisis? 

By imposing confinement, cohabitation within the same household has made certain family relationships compulsory, fueling pre-existing power relations. Inequalities within households have widened, with women assuming more than two-thirds of the domestic workload, reports C.brousse, and domestic violence has increased significantly. The UN is sounding the alarm on this subject in an article of April 7 directed by the department of global communication, for example in France there was a 30% increase in domestic violence at the start of confinement. On the other hand, to help improve family cohabitation or at least to prevent any imbalance, Unicef ​​published in May a list of advice sent to all households to help parents. The Papapositive site also offers many fun and therapeutic activities for children and young adolescents, to do alone or with the family, with or without material to promote dialogue and parent-child exchange. If for adults, individually, the crisis had harmful effects as seen above, children and adolescents are not left out. Indeed, for the little ones there is a lack of understanding, restrictions were put in place overnight and

the information given is not always clear. Children and adolescents are in great need of safety and attention, except the current period has made it difficult to meet these basic needs despite constant cohabitation with parents. Remember that children are hypersensitive beings, compared to sponges, so if those responsible for their well-being are grappling with their own psychological distress, the development of psychological disorders is to be feared. Evelyn Josse advocates the free expression of emotions and the implementation of regular activities to overcome boredom and the appearance of pervasive disorders. 

In conclusion, on an individual basis, during confinement, fears were aroused, exacerbating latent fears and installing a climate of stress and toxic feelings which, with the deconfinement, crystallized in fears or even anxiety disorders. The fear being increased by the anguish and the anxieties being impossible to reason, it is the story of the snake which died its tail. Families and young people have also had to face new challenges, the repercussions of which have not yet been revealed. We will then end with a significant sentence from Evelyn Josse: “what is at the root of social fears is therefore not the real risk but the representation that we have of it”.

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