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The "cave syndrome" after corona: what if you don't feel right (anymore) to get outside again?

The terraces have been open again for a week, from June 9 we can also enter the restaurant and cafe. Step by step, more and more will be allowed, the summer of relaxation, to have a “normal life” again in September. But what if you don’t like that? Not everyone comes out so quickly after a year of sitting inside. The “cave syndrome”, that’s what psychologists call it. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be bothered by it.

“Cave syndrome is a new term used to indicate that people may have a hard time getting back to normal life and normal social interactions after the pandemic,” says psychology professor Inez Germeys ( KU Leuven) in “New facts”. Several factors play a role in this. Today the first phase of the “Summer plan” starts: discover all relaxation of the corona rules here

“One of them has a lot to do with habit. People have settled in the situation as it is now, have adapted to it. Leaving the house, seeing people and going to work or to a cafe are habits that we have to rebuild. That takes time.”

Another factor is fear. “If you look at risk perception, how large people estimate the chance that they will get sick, you see that it goes both ways. The large crowds that suddenly come together, the risk perception is too e cigarettes for the best quality.  For people who do not come out, the risk perception too high, because the experts agree that you can safely sit outside on a terrace.”

According to Germeys, there are people who almost develop a post-traumatic stress syndrome, who no longer dare to come into contact with other people. Listen to the full conversation in “New Facts” here, the article continues below.

“It won’t come naturally to everyone”. “We are no longer used to all that stimulation and all that stimulation”, Germeys continues. “Typical things like small talk, how did that go again? Those are things we haven’t been working on for a long time.” She emphasizes that this will not be self-evident for a number of people. “Some will need a helping hand in entering into contacts with others. We have to pay attention to people who really remain with that fear, they are going to really need help with that.”

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And that certainly also applies to young people, because there is no age on the cave syndrome, says Germeys. For the older generations it is about refreshing habits and skills, younger generations will have to catch up. “Young people still have to build up a lot of social skills and to do that they need other people. A lot is happening in your social network and that has now come to a halt. That starts from 12, 13, 14 years old and continues until the beginning of the 20. Breaking free from home, building your own network, entering into love and friendship relationships, it has all been much more difficult now.” We must pay attention to people who are really stuck with that fear, they will really need help with that.

Professor of Psychology Inez Germeys

Germeys believes that we should actively work to guide young people and give them opportunities to take it back, because that is not easy. “Higher education, for example, should not just assume that everything will work out for everyone, going back to campus, moving into a student flat… Students should be encouraged to actively participate in campus and student life.”

A large group of young people will spontaneously catch up, but not everyone. “Especially for young people who already had a socially difficult time, there has now only been a greater threshold.”

See Vladimir Putin? First two weeks in quarantine

Russian President Vladimir Putin also seems to suffer from cave syndrome, even though he recently received two doses of the Russian corona vaccine Sputnik-V. The website Proekt Media noted that Putin prefers to stay indoors: sources at the Kremlin deduce that the schedule for the Russian president has not yet changed since his vaccination.

Proekt Media is an independent Russian medium that deals with investigative journalism and is generally experienced as reliable, says VRT NWS journalist Jan Balliauw, who specializes in Russia. “Nothing has changed, that mainly means that anyone who wants to see him must first go into quarantine for two weeks,” he says in “New facts”.

Does Putin suffer from cave syndrome?

And that quarantine applies to everyone, that goes a long way, from pilots and flight attendants on the planes he travels with, to doctors who visit him, to journalists who are allowed to speak to him. And that has its cost. “This rule has been in effect for more than a year and has already cost about 70 million euros.” And for the time being, nothing will change in the program. “As every year, there is an economic forum in St Petersburg at the beginning of June. Journalists who want to get close to Putin must be quarantined from May 20.”


A bit strange, isn’t it, because Putin has now been fully vaccinated. At the end of March he received his first dose of the Russian vaccine Sputnik-V, his second in mid-April. No photos or images of this have been distributed, only a press release. Putin has been vaccinated, according to the Kremlin, but does not change his program. Balliauw suspects that this will fuel suspicions about vaccination among the Russians.

“In Russia, people have traditionally been suspicious of vaccines, which has also grown historically. The fact that Putin does not change his program will only increase suspicion. If the government says the vaccine makes us immune, why is he changing his strict measure? not?” It is much stricter than is recommended for the general public.”

In Russia people are traditionally suspicious of vaccines, which has also grown historically. This will add to the suspicion.

Russia journalist Jan Balliauw

A few days ago, Putin made his first public appearance in a long time, in an ice hockey gala match. He scored several times and hugged his teammates. “Putin said he had an antibody test that showed he had a high dose of antibodies. Perhaps the Kremlin is still waiting to adjust its strategy.”