'Cave syndrome' keeps some in social isolation as COVID improves

After more than a year of varying levels of isolation, venturing back out into the world could prove to be challenging.

Video Transcript

- After more than a year of varying levels of isolation, venturing back out into the world, even while vaccinated, could be challenging. Experts call it cave syndrome. ABC 7 News reporter Amanda Del Castillo explains what it is, and how to try to overcome. It

- Across the South Bay, a semblance of pre-pandemic life. But as many are, finally, being able to relax, there are others who remain reluctant about venturing outdoors, vaccinated or not. They say it's a result of COVID-19.

THOMAS PLANTE: Even though we're kind of happy that the pandemic seems to be subsiding, it's getting better, people getting vaccinated. All that's great, but some people really just don't really want to go out again.

- Dubbed cave syndrome, it's defined as one struggle to return to their normal, social routines having followed public health guidelines from the start and not being able to stop.

- Cave syndrome, of course, is not an official psychiatric diagnosis. It's not in what's called the DSM 5. It's just a popular way of referring to the fact that people have kind of put themselves in a cage due to the pandemic.

- Santa Clara University psychology professor, Dr. Thomas Plante, anticipates it'll be a while before many are able to fully readjust. Even stepping outside today, more than a week since the CDC announced people can start taking off their masks outdoors, it's clear some will continue with face coverings for the foreseeable future.

- You might well be safe, because there are these variants out there.

AMANDA DEL CASTILLO: When I asked about cave syndrome on social media, I mainly heard back from mothers all concerned about the risk of serious illness to their children. All saying isolation is best. Now, those I spoke with questioned, do I have a cave syndrome? Or am I just playing it safe?

- There may be, at least, a slice of the population out there who will always be a little bit leery of others because of the pandemic that it kind of got baked into their DNA during the critical period of socialization. So we're going to have to watch for that.

- I'm Amanda Del Castillo, ABC 7 News.