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Hikikomori and the fear of life: causes and consequences of the phenomenon of isolation not only in Japan

Hikikomori and the fear of life: causes and consequences of the phenomenon of isolation not only in Japan

The definition of hikikomori (ひ き こ も り) responds to a syndrome that leads people to withdraw and flee from social reality. He’s a psychological problem as well as behavioral. The phenomenon is not very ancient, and in fact in Japan it was classified as a new social problem that began to gain notoriety in the 1990s. Although several researchers recognize it as a pathology or disease, it is more of a behavioral problem that can hide a wide spectrum of psychiatric pathologies.

Hikikomori tends to be associated with agoraphobia e depression. I’m socially isolated people who avoid external pressure. It is a type of social phobia linked to a Japanese phenomenon. However, it also occurs in other parts of the world. Other countries where the incidence of hikikomori is high are Hong Kong (1.9% of the population) and South Korea (0.3% of the population). However, it is in Japan that the problem lies most, with nearly a million recorded cases of hikikomori (almost 2% of the population), in both young people and adults: the ethe average age of those affected is about 30 years, and they tend to be more male than female in proportion. The Japanese government also estimates that this is a problem it does not stop growing. However, the data is difficult to know, as there is a tremendous concealment of the hikikomoriboth by those affected (obviously), and by their families and the environment in general.

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Definition, causes and consequences of hikikomori syndrome

Hikikomori it translates as someone who withdraws, who is isolated from the world. They are people who have abandoned their social life to undertake a profound confinement, sometimes very long. They are also considered parasitic bachelors, a Japanese term known as parasaito shinguru (パ ラ サ イ ト シ ン グ ル). In other words, people of legal age who live off their parents.

Hikikomori is a condition where those affected refuse to leave their parents’ home, work or school to isolate themselves from society and their family in one room for more than six months. Hikikomori syndrome arises, by definition, due to various mental disorders. Among the main causes, the avoidant personality disorder, which responds to social inhibition, the fear of rejection that frequently occurs during adolescence. Nor should other factors be underestimated, such asadvent of new technologies and “disconnection” caused by the new digital communication systems. However, it has been shown that some games, such as Pokémon Go, they can help those affected to get out of their isolation to at least get out of the house in search of Pokémon. Some researchers also believe that i video games can help hikikomori to gain self-confidence, demonstrating that they can develop their skills.

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Depending on the nature of the cause, they can be distinguished two types of hikikomori:

  1. L’primary hikikomori: without previous mental problems. In this case, the problem usually stems from the person’s family background and personality;
  2. Hikikomori with Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

Another of the most important causes of hikikomori is Japanese society itself, for various reasons: such as the psychological profile of its inhabitants, the type of family relationships that are established and the socio-economic status. For example, in Japan it is common for parents to see well that their children live indoors until the age of 30. However, it is impossible to find a single explanation for the hikikomori phenomenon: the possible causes are actually many.

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Consequences what hikikomori can undergo:

Signs and symptoms of a hikikomori

Hikikomori usually develops his own social isolation during adolescence, although it is difficult for specialists to diagnose the problem if the affected person’s past is unknown. Childhood is believed to have a major impact on their development. Psychiatrist Tamaki Saito (who specializes in the psychology of puberty and adolescence) defined hikikomori with the following words: “Hikikomori is a psychological state that has become a social problem that involves locking oneself up at home and not participating in society for six months. or more. It doesn’t seem to be caused by another psychological problem ”.

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These are some of the criteria used to classify someone within the definition of hikikomori:

A very relevant fact is that hikikomori are said to often start out as futoko, that is, children and adolescents who refuse to go to school. However, in many cases they are difficult to diagnose.

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Why does this phenomenon occur more in Japan?

We have already seen that hikikomori syndrome is a definition coined in Japan, due to the popularity of the problem. But what are the reasons why the number of hikikomori cases is higher in Japan? Basically, we must talk about cultural aspects which are summarized in:

  1. L’ amae (甘 え), term that refers to a person who assumes a role of authority (father, tutor, teacher …), in such a way as to establish a relationship of dependence;
  2. Today’s society allows the parents to financially support their children indefinitely at home, at least in the middle classes. The lower classes, on the other hand, do not have hikikomori children, simply because they are forced to work;
  3. L’uncertainty about the future which fosters a stagnant economy in which, despite studying hard, one is not guaranteed to find a good job;
  4. The Japanese social norms they are restrictive and, for example, if someone tries to get out of the ordinary, they will be expelled from the group. This often leads the individual to isolate themselves from the environment as a means of protection.
  5. There culture of shame in Japan it prevents these people from seeking help, which can be devastating in dealing with the problem.
  6. Another very important factor is that in Japan a lot is expected of young people, and if the socially proposed or imposed goals are not achieved, one can fall into a frustrating feeling of incompetence. This can lead to wanting to escape from the world, the principle on which the hikikomori phenomenon is based.
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How to help a hikikomori: are there solutions or cures?

One of the great difficulties that hikikomori face is that parents usually see it as an internal problem, almost an embarrassment, which is why they hide the problem before seeking therapy. Other important issues in this regard are:

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There is a solution? Can a hikikomori be helped? Of course, and for this you need thepsychological attention. These are some of the aspects to consider:

  1. Maintain continuous contact with the affected person and try to see their point of view;
  2. Try to gradually reintegrate hikikomori into the social life of their environment;
  3. Other experts argue a more drastic position, forcing the person to abruptly stop the withdrawal, although it does not seem a priori the best option.