‘Cave syndrome’ anxiety affecting return students

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Some students returning to campus face struggles with anxiety as they reacclimate to the demands and expectations of pandemic college life. While fear of contracting COVID-19 is a source of anxiety for some of these students, another is “cave syndrome.”

According to an article in the LA Times, reentry anxiety, or “cave syndrome,” is anxiety from the stress of reentering social life after spending almost two years in isolation.

“For me, my anxiety is about two things: being around people again, and my stomach making these weird noises when it’s hungry. Sitting in class around people when it’s quiet gives me such anxiety because my stomach will make these loud growls. I know everyone can hear it, and then I have to find a way to like hide it, and it’s so embarrassing and nerve wracking,” said Hayli Pena, a student at Mesa Community College.

Simply sitting in a classroom, for example, is something many students have not done since March 2020. The demands of in-person learning may trigger anxiety for some students, especially the more introverted.

“I’m reserved and being around people gives me anxiety. I am not so much concerned about getting sick as I am with the social interaction part of it. I don’t like it. It took me a year to make one friend,” Pena said.

Maricopa County Community College District provides free support to students through counseling and support services offered at each of the 10 campuses within the district.

If you are a student struggling with the difficulties of returning to campus and are experiencing increased levels of stress or anxiety, visit support services available at each campus by visiting your school’s Counseling and Development webpage for a full list of contact information.

If you found this article informative, please be sure to subscribe to The Voice to get GCC’s latest news every week, emailed straight to your inbox.