Going woods-queer

Warning: If you thought this thread was going to be about changing sexual orientation, move along, people, move along.

Here in Maine, the phrase “going woods-queer” means going crazy (usually just slightly crazy) from lack of human interaction. A guy builds a little cabin in the middle of nowhere, doesn’t see another human being for six months, and when he comes out of the woods, he’s kind of nuts. I don’t know what they call the phenomenon in other parts of the world. It’s not specific to living in the woods. I expect someone sailing alone on a ship, or manning a lighthouse alone in the days before telephones and satellite communication would experience the same effect. Hunters and trappers in the old days probably went through it, too.

I’d really like to understand the phenomenon, but searching the Web with terms like “isolation” and “psychology” doesn’t do much good. It turns up sites about sensory deprivation, or POWs in solitary confinement, or wild children. Related, perhaps, but not very closely. The people who go woods-queer isolate themselves from society voluntarily (unlike POWs). There is no shortage of sensory input (unlike sensory deprivation). They have had reasonably normal childhoods (unlike wild children). There are any number of ways they could entertain themselves (building a cabin, tending a garden, hiking, hunting, fishing, reading, writing, etc.).
Note: I am not thinking of people like Ted Kaczynski. He was already crazy when he moved to Montana. His isolation probably magnified his problem. I believe that most people who go woods-queer are more-or-less normal when they go in and usually return to mostly normal after living in civilization again for a while. You can certainly make the argument they’d be crazy in the first place to go voluntarily into the woods for six months at a stretch. But the thing is that they come out a lot crazier than they go in.

So my questions are [ul]
[li]Exactly why do they go crazy? Why is human interaction after childhood necessary to prevent insanity?[/li][li]How long does it usually take to go woods-queer?[/li][li]Can some people isolate themselves for very long periods without going woods-queer?[/li][li]Are some personality types more likely to go woods-queer if isolated for long periods. Who’s safer, introverts or extroverts? (I can’t imagine why any extrovert would isolate himself voluntarily, but I guess it could happen).[/li][li]Can such a person stave off insanity if he has a dog? Or does he need specifically human company?[/li][/ul]

One method of correction in early Victorian prisons was to isolate inmates so that they could contemplate their crimes and improve themselves.

The methods used to do this were incredibly petty and mean spirited.

Prisoners had to wear masks that prevented them talking with others and seeing in any other direction but forwards.
The chapel whose attendance was compulsory had stalls designed so that the occupier could only see the chaplain.

The ‘treatment’ simply drove prisoners mad.

*Originally posted by bibliophage *

Here in Maine, the phrase “going woods-queer” means going crazy (usually just slightly crazy) from lack of human interaction. A guy builds a little cabin in the middle of nowhere, doesn’t see another human being for six months, a
nd when he comes out of the woods, he’s kind of nuts.

Just for the sake of argument here, how do you know he is the one who is nuts?

I’m afraid I might be going home-office-queer.

Interesting that you can’t find much of anything about it on the Internet, bibliophage.

Joke: Two trappers in northern Canada decided to hike over in the middle of winter to check up on old Pierre over on the next trapline. They snowshoed over through the forest and, as they approached the cabin they heard voices -

“Give me those damned nails, I need 'em!”
“No, I packed that nail keg in on my back and by God you can’t have 'em”
“Look, I really need those nails…”

They knocked on the cabin door and there was Pierre, alone. They drank some tea, talked trapping business, then put on their snow shoes and headed back to their cabin. They got a ways down the trail and one turned to the other and said “I wonder why Pierre wouldn’t let himself have those nails?”

I’m not sure that not wanting much to do with society is crazy.
I can see where someone would have a difficult time finding things in common to talk about after such a stay.
We live in the country because I got tired of my neighbors knowing more about my buisness that I did.
After work I can’t wait to get home where it is peaceful and quiet.
I would see it as a challenge to go into the deep woods to live.

Congrats, you seem to have come up with a real stumper. A quick surf with Google indicates that the words “woods queer isolation” will turn up gay sites with articles by people named Woods. Just “woods queer” brings up Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, with the line, “My little horse must think it queer…”

However, I do know what you’re talking about, if that’s any consolation.

Well, searching for woods-queer on Google turned up 2 articles, not very informative ones though…
Google results
Other search engines were little more helpful. Perhaps searching for isolation and mental health, especially on psychology websites, might work better?

My relatives in Alaska call those symptoms cabin fever.

You might also search under “stir crazy” to find more information on the phenomenon.

I always thought that Cabin Fever was not so much an isolation thing as a “winter madness” related to the Vitamin-D deficiency people get when they don’t have much exposure to sunlight. But I could be wrong.

All I know is that when I was working an isolated 3rd-shift job, the lack of human contact drove me a little…off. It may have something to do with the need to have someone to talk to and being left with nobody but yourself to talk to.
Once you talk to yourself a lot, you start figuring, “I must be going nuts! I’m always talking to myself!” Of course you say all this out loud.
That plus you need some kind of amusement, and you’re left with having to amuse yourself. Try that sometime. It’ll give you some interesting insights into the possible nature of some forms of mild insanity.