What Next? Perhaps "Cave Syndrome".

 

Here's something no vaccine can fix - cave syndrome


After a year in isolation, many people who have developed an intimate understanding of what it means to socially isolate are afraid to return to their former lives despite being fully vaccinated. There is even a name for their experience: the clinical sounding “cave syndrome.”

Emerging into the light after a year locked inside is proving to be a difficult transition for some people. Jacqueline Gollan, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, says adjusting to the new normal, whatever it may be, is going to take time. “The pandemic-related changes created a lot of fear and anxiety because of the risk of illness and death, along with the repercussions in many areas of life,” she says. “Even though a person may be vaccinated, they still may find it difficult to let go of that fear because they're overestimating the risk and probability.”

A recent study by the American Psychological Association reported that 49 percent of surveyed adults anticipated being uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends. It found that 48 percent of those who have received a COVID vaccine said they felt the same way.

These long-term psychological effects were not unforeseen. In May 2020 researchers at the University of British Columbia published a study in the journal Anxiety that predicted that an estimated 10 percent of people in the midst of the pandemic will develop COVID stress syndrome after coping with severe psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or mood or anxiety disorders.

It seems that Covid-19 or some variant of it is our newest chronic disease. We can't vaccinate it away. We will have to find ways to live with it in the long term. Maybe we'll discover a permanent fix but we're told not to hold our collective breath. Either way we'll have to return to some sort of normalcy. And we'll have to deal with the damage this coronavirus inflicts not just on our bodies but also to our minds.

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