Do I have 'cabin fever?' What it is, how to 'cure' it

(CNN)While our abilities to go to work and participate in other activities outside the home are under restriction, initial discomfort may quickly result in "cabin fever." At least, that's something people say. But is cabin fever real? And if it is, can we lower it?

The origin of the term is a bit murky, but it probably dates back to the early 1900s in North America, when it may have referred to someone who was isolated in a remote area, or cabin, especially during the winter when it was necessary to stay indoors for days at a time. Another explanation traces further back to the early 1800s, when the phrase might have referred to being home bound with typhus fever.
"Cabin fever is not like a psychological disorder, so I wouldn't say there's any sort of official definition of it," said Vaile Wright, a psychologist and director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association.
    It may not be a real condition, but the feelings it's associated with are.
    "It involves a range of negative emotions and distress related to restricted movement: irritability, boredom, some hopelessness and even, behaviorally, restlessness and difficulty concentrating. Those would be the constellation of symptoms one might expect if they were feeling that way."
    Your personality and temperament are major factors in how quickly you develop these kinds of emotions, Wright said.
    If you're more extroverted in nature and not used to being at home, you're probably more prone to feeling this way, Wright said.
    There are people who feel it instantly, said Paul Rosenblatt, a psychologist and professor emeritus of family social science at the University of Minnesota, who studied cabin fever among adults in the 1980s.
    "They're looking at a future where they might be home for a long time and they are feeling it," he said.
    Those who see self-quarantine as a way to finally clean their home, sort out bills, organize their closet or pursue a new hobby might take longer to reach cabin fever, if they ever do, Rosenblatt said.
    Whichever group you belong to, both Wright and Rosenblatt recommend several ways you can ease the tension in your mind and feel less constrained in your own home.

    Establish a routine

    Instead of treating this experience like a vacation, Wright said, you should still get up and do all the things you normally would do during your former schedule. Or as many as you can.
    "Get up at the same time you would get up, make sure you're still showering, that you're getting dressed and not laying around in your PJs all day," she added.
    Eating meals at regular times can also help you to remain structured.

    Mix up your space a bit

    Your living space could have something to do with the cabin fever you're feeling, Wright said.
    "If you've got a relatively large living location [in which] you can move around to different rooms and mix up your space a little bit, you're probably a little bit better off."
    Redecorating a room so it's not the exact same style every week can make your home feel fresher and not quite as stifling.

    Stay physically and mentally active

    "Unless you know you've been exposed or are infected, social distancing does not mean that you can't go outside," Wright said. "Going outside, getting fresh air, taking a walk -- those are all really important things to do."