What is Hikikomori?

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What is Hikikomori?


Hikikomori is derived from the verb hiki “to withdraw” and komori “to be inside”. The term is now used to describe young people who are seen to fit the criteria with the said mental health condition involving but not limited to extreme withdrawal and distress.

Hikikomori came to be recognized formally in Japan around the time of 1990’s by Saito Tamaki (psychiatrist). In the year 2010 a study conducted in Japan highlighted the fact that 1.2 percent Japanese population that included people between the ages of 20-49 having identified with the condition.

The condition is at present viewed as and within the light of sociocultural mental health phenomenon, psychiatrists world over are yet to define it as a part of distinct mental illness. The term is however used globally to describe people who fit the said criteria.

People 'diagnosed' with Hikikomori are known to display the following traits:

  • Extreme physical isolation at home for a span of at least 6 months
  • Disengaging completely from social or any significant relationships
  • Showing extreme distress and suffering functional impairment
  • Avoiding tasks even to the extent of self-care needs
  • Psychological detachment from the social world altogether

It was originally thought that hikikomori arose as a result of sociocultural conditions specific to Japan, such as the education system and the economy. Many countries with broad cultural differences have recorded hikikomori since, including the United States, India, Nigeria and many other countries.

It is believed that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, hikikomori rates have increased significantly.