Cabin fever is a slang term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in, for an extended period. Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, forgetfulness, laughter, and excessive sleeping.
The origin of the term is unknown, but was first recorded in 1918. The term may originate from the United States during the time when settlers would be snowed into their log cabins in winter and would have to wait for the spring thaw in order to travel to town. The phrase may also be associated with ocean-crossing sailing ships in which passengers had to endure weeks and months of slow travel while living in cabins below deck.
On an episode of Mythbusters, the hosts attempted to "bust" the myth of cabin fever, isolating themselves for a period of time in the Alaskan winter while being observed and taking cognitive and stress tests. The test results were unusable due to incorrect testing procedures; however, one host, Adam Savage, exhibited all four of the symptoms of cabin fever they were looking for, while the other, Jamie Hyneman, only exhibited one (excessive sleep). They deemed the myth "plausible".
Many stories are based around this idea of a small group of people getting restless and irritable from being in a confined space. One of the most famous stories about cabin fever is Stephen King's The Shining which involves a family of three trapped in an isolated resort in the dead of winter. Cabin fever stories may also involve a person or group of people on a deserted island or on a long space voyage.