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Extreme Cabin Fever -- Plubukto Among Inuits And Native Alaskans

Thousands of miles of the Arctic look like this, much of it without footprints.

Thousands of miles of the Arctic look like this, much of it without footprints.

Extreme Climate Breeds Extreme Coping

The People of the North, the indigenous populations that describe the Arctic Circle around the top of the globe with their relatedness by blood and custom, do not always tolerate their extreme living conditions well. At times, the harsh conditions become untenable.

Because some Arctic Dwellers live in unheated villages warmed only by fires, furs, and friendly sled dogs and other working hounds, the rest of humanity wonders at their ability to survive and even to thrive.

Circumpolar Peoples Live Around the Red Pathway

The Arctic region of the Earth.

The Arctic region of the Earth.

Some other nations of people even fear the People of the North, because they must be formidable to survive inhuman conditions. At times, the local temperature drops to (-75) degrees F in Arctic villages, and these people do not die - they live. However, some of the individual coping styles in the harshest weather manifest during this survival were once labeled as a deadly type of psychosis and at least a type of mental illness.

The diagnosis is no longer used and it's name has been eliminated from the disciplines of mental health, as have a few other culture-based conditions.

How to Build an Igloo (Northern Canada)

I have read of a few cases of plubuktu in which the individual suddenly "snaps" (in popular language) and tries to escape confinement and the climate by running quickly away, unfettered by anything. In addition, in my studies of indigenous peoples, I have been told firsthand of a few actual occurrences as well, all with unhappy endings.

During a period of three winters in which there were weeks of incredibly harsh conditions, I have come to understand more about the mental health issue once designated as plubukto as recently as the late1980s in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM (a manual for diagnosis). It was removed for DSM-IV.

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska

Innuit Drum Dance

Symptoms Of Plubukto

However, plubukto was described as an Eskimo (now known as the Inuit and Inupiat and related groups) or Native Alaskan sort of extreme cabin fever. The condition was classified as a psychosis, a mental condition what we call an SMD (severe mental disorder) today.

Precursor conditions of the disorder include:

  • A constant 6 months or longer time spent in heavy clothing worn 24 hours a day,
  • Cramped living quarters in igloos or wooden/animal-skin huts with dogs and family, and
  • 6 months of continual darkness yearly at the top of the globe.

All these affected some Inuits in Alaska and Canada, and other northern peoples, with plubukto.

At some threshold of disturbing impact of combined such stimuli, the Arctic person would arise screaming, and dash outside into the harsh, cold environment. He would rip off all of his clothing and run off and most often, die. He may have been hallucinating and most likely could see nothing naturally, because of a blizzard or harsh sunlight on the snow, if the sun appeared during the day.

Constant frigid temperatures and a white and blue frame of reference can result in confusion and stress

Constant frigid temperatures and a white and blue frame of reference can result in confusion and stress

Building an Igloo in a Blizzard

Arctic Circle Wonders

Visions of White and Static

Hallucination is a possibility inn extreme cabin fever in the Arctic, given the hallucinations that sensory deprivation experiments of the 1950s and 1960s US Space Program research for deep-space readiness revealed.Potential astronauts saw all types of creatures and shapes.

Even Walt Disney Presents showed them on TV. The effects of sensory deprivation or of constant irritation - like that of water dripping onto the forehead in "Asian water torture" - can drive one "mad as a hatter" (the effects of continuous glue sniffing in hat factories). Either extreme - constant non-stimulation or constant stimulation - can cause hallucinations, psychosis, or surrender, even death. The Arctic dwellers sometimes surrendered to plubukto. I understand this feeling of extreme cabin fever. The term has been removed from the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals after the 1980s, but it exists nonetheless.

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During the heavy snow falls and long-term icing of streets and sidewalks for three consecutive winters in my area, extreme cabin fever was at the edge of residents' minds in this city. Cars were completely snowed under and many cars were crushed and made worthless. Snow plows left mountains of plowed snow eight feet high in parking lots. We were overjoyed to see summer begin early in February of 2012! We avoid our glaciers.

During the heaviest snows, commercial plowers at my office lot plowed huge amounts of snow up against my office doors, blocking me in and I had to call them back to free me. I wondered what it would be like to be blockaded this way by snow for a full month -- A friend had moved to Alaska with her husband and found this experience to be the case. It was difficult for her, especially since the only way into her property was by dogsled.

Thankfully, the plubukto style of coping, this final reaction to over-confinement, was not chosen by us Ohioans. The weather warmed up suddenly and considerably each year after two weeks of 4-foot high snow accumulation. W were finally free again.

To outsiders, plubukto is madness in which a person that has been living in an isolated Arctic area in heavy snow accumulation in a small dwelling seems to have a psychotic break, tears clothing off, and runs away in the nude. They are usually found frozen at a later date.

When you suffer cabin fever, take action to relieve it before it progresses to plubukto -- The medics today may not even know what it is.

More On Polar Living

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 22, 2008:

Thanks for the great comments - extreme to extreme is correct!


topstuff on February 20, 2008:

Extreme climates breeds extreme coping.

Tony Sky from London UK on February 20, 2008:

Great hub Patty..and a great place to chill out!!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 20, 2008:

Gamer - thanks, it's just that I felt these things and was reminded of what the Innuit experienced. There is certainly nothing about this term on the Internet that I can find so far. I used Google and Altavista as well as others.

Guru - thank to you too! Beware the crampy igloo, lol.

Cory Zacharia from Miami Beach, Florida on February 20, 2008:

This is so interesting, Patty!

Kiz Robinson from New Orleans, Louisiana on February 20, 2008:

I think I'm looking at today's winning hub.

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