’Experts in the Japanese phenomena of hikikomori say the condition of extreme social isolation is more widespread than previously acknowledged, and it deserves a clear and consistent definition to improve treatment across the globe.
In an article published in the February issue of the journal World Psychiatry, experts cite a lack of broad clinical understanding of the condition.
Although hikikomori is typically associated with young adults in Japan, the researchers say many of the same criteria of extended social isolation apply to people around the world, including among older adults and stay-at-home parents. A simplified and clear definition will improve the recognition and subsequent treatment for people who suffer from the condition, the authors write.
The article highlights four key aspects of the newly proposed definition of hikikomori:
- Confined at home: The proposed definition clarifies the frequency of time spent outside the home, while still meeting the definition of “marked social isolation.”
- Avoiding people: Some people choose to avoid social situations and interaction not because they’re anxious but because it meets their comfort level. The newly suggested definition therefore removes the avoidance of social situations as a criteria.
- Better defining distress: Many people diagnosed with hikikomori report that they feel content in their social withdrawal. However, as the duration of social withdrawal gets longer, their distress and feelings of loneliness increases.
- Other disorders: Co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression should not exclude patients from also being assessed for and diagnosed with hikikomori. “In our view, the frequency of co-occurring conditions increases the importance of addressing social withdrawal as a health issue,” they write.…’