Re-entering society after a year of staying at home is no easy feat, but some people are too terrified that they are locking themselves inside their rooms. Psychiatrist Dr. Arthur Bregman calls this fear the “cave syndrome”. As COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted, Bregman learned that many of his patients in Florida are nervous about going outdoors and interacting with others. Now, he dedicates his time to help these people who are jeopardizing their jobs because of this fear. All hope is not lost as Bergman developed the MAV system that he teaches his patients, which stands for mindfulness, attitude, vision.

The first step is to know the root of what is making you nervous, this is your signal to start adopting a positive attitude. Imagine all the activities you used to do with your friend before the pandemic, such as sharing a meal or attending concerts. Believing in the good things that can happen outside is essential. The last step is to visualize the goals you can achieve when you leave your “cave”. Bergman added, “The longer people are in their cave, the harder it is to get out.” It is important to note, however, that the cave syndrome is not an official diagnosis and needs to go through a formal approval process. According to Dr. Alan Teo, an associate professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, experiencing anxiety does not mean you have a disorder as it is a normal reaction to the pandemic. However, if you are not able to leave your house and resume your daily life, it is best to seek professional help. He also shared that you should not feel pressured to do what another person is doing. Some people are introverted and long periods of social interaction can be tiring.

Because of the pandemic, the way we interact with others may be completely different. From the usual weather talk, the topic of conversation may change to vaccine status. COVID-19 is still raging so being out of practice at social skills is perfectly fine, as long as we stay safe and healthy.