” Hikikomori (i.e., “acute social withdrawal”) is a Japanese term to refer to the phenomenon of reclusive adolescents or young adults who have chosen to withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation and confinement. The term hikikomori refers to both the sociological phenomenon in general as well as to people belonging to this societal group.”
“The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare defines hikikomori as people who refuse to leave their house and, thus, isolate themselves from society in their homes for a period exceeding six months. The psychiatrist Tamaki Saitō defines hikikomori as “A state that has become a problem by the late twenties, that involves cooping oneself up in one’s own home and not participating in society for six months or longer, but that does not seem to have another psychological problem as its principal source.” More recently, researchers have suggested six specific criteria required to “diagnose” hikikomori: 1) spending most of the day and nearly every day confined to home, 2) marked and persistent avoidance of social situations, 3) symptoms interfering significantly with the person’s normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, 4) perceiving the withdrawal as ego-syntonic, 5) duration at least six months, and 6) no other mental disorder that accounts for the social withdrawal and avoidance.
While the degree of the phenomenon varies on an individual basis, in the most extreme cases, some people remain in isolation for years or even decades. Often hikikomori start out as school refusals, or futōkō (不登校) in Japanese (an older term is tōkōkyohi (登校拒否)). The Ministry of Health estimates that about 3,600,000 hikikomori live in Japan, about one third of whom are aged 30 and older.”
“While many people feel the pressures of the outside world, hikikomori react by complete social withdrawal. In some cases, they lock themselves in their room, apartment or house for prolonged periods, sometimes measured in years. They usually have few, if any, friends.
While hikikomori favor indoor activities, some venture outdoors on occasion. The withdrawal from society usually starts gradually. Affected people may appear unhappy, lose their friends, become insecure, shy, and talk less.”
“The diagnostic category pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), as opposed to specific developmental disorders (SDD), refers to a group of five disorders characterized by delays in the development of multiple basic functions including socialization and communication. The pervasive developmental disorders are:
Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), which includes atypical autism, and is the most common;
Autism, the best-known;
Rett syndrome; and
Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD).
The first three of these disorders are commonly called the autism spectrum disorders; the last two disorders are much rarer, and are sometimes placed in the autism spectrum and sometimes not.
Parents may note symptoms of PDD as early as infancy and typically onset is prior to three years of age. PDD itself does not affect life expectancy.
There is a division among doctors on the use of the term PDD. Many use the term PDD as a short way of saying PDD-NOS. Others use the general category label of PDD because they are hesitant to diagnose very young children with a specific type of PDD, such as autism. Both approaches contribute to confusion about the term, because the term PDD actually refers to a category of disorders and is not a diagnostic label.”
“Symptoms of PDD may include communication problems such as:
Difficulty using and understanding language
Difficulty relating to people, objects, and events; for example, lack of eye contact, pointing behavior, and lack of facial responses
Unusual play with toys and other objects
Difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings
Repetitive body movements or behavior patterns, such as hand flapping, hair twirling, foot tapping, or more complex movements
Unable to cuddle or be comforted”
“Children with PDD vary widely in abilities, intelligence, and behaviors. Some children do not speak at all, others speak in limited phrases or conversations, and some have relatively normal language development. Repetitive play skills and limited social skills are generally evident as well. Unusual responses to sensory information – loud noises, lights – are also common.”
“Diagnosis is usually done during early childhood. Some clinicians use PDD-NOS as a “temporary” diagnosis for children under the age of five when, for whatever reason, they are reluctant to diagnose autism. There are several justifications for this. Very young children have limited social interaction and communication skills to begin with, so it can be tricky to diagnose milder cases of autism in toddlers. The unspoken assumption is that by the age of five, unusual behaviors will either resolve or develop into diagnosable autism. However, some parents view the PDD label as no more than a euphemism for autism spectrum disorders, problematic because this label makes it more difficult to receive aid for Early Childhood Intervention.”
“There is no known cure for PDD. Medications are used to address certain behavioral problems; therapy for children with PDD should be specialized according to the child’s specific needs. Some children with PDD benefit from specialized classrooms in which the class size is small and instruction is given on a one-to-one basis. Others function well in standard special education classes or regular classes with support. Early intervention, including appropriate and specialized educational programs and support services, play a critical role in improving the outcome of individuals with PDD.”
“Sometimes referred to as a social problem in Japanese discourse, hikikomori has a number of possible contributing factors.
Though acute social withdrawal in Japan appears to affect both genders equally, because of differing social expectations for maturing boys and girls, the most widely reported cases of hikikomori are from middle and upper middle class families whose sons, typically their eldest, refuse to leave the home, often after experiencing one or more traumatic episodes of social or academic failure.
In The Anatomy of Dependence (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1973, translated by John Bester), Takeo Doi identifies the symptoms of hikikomori, and explains its prevalence as originating in the Japanese psychological construct of amae (in Freudian terms, “passive object love”, typically of the kind between mother and infant). Other Japanese commentators such as academic Shinji Miyadai and novelist Ryū Murakami, have also offered analysis of the hikikomori phenomenon, and find distinct causal relationships with the modern Japanese social conditions of anomie, amae and atrophying paternal influence in nuclear family child pedagogy. Young adults may feel overwhelmed by modern Japanese society, or be unable to fulfill their expected social roles as they have not yet formulated a sense of personal honne and tatemae – one’s “true self” and one’s “public façade” – necessary to cope with the paradoxes of adulthood.
The dominant nexus of hikikomori centers on the transformation from youth to the responsibilities and expectations of adult life. Indications are that advanced industrialised societies such as modern Japan fail to provide sufficient meaningful transformation rituals for promoting certain susceptible types of youth into mature roles. As do many societies, Japan exerts a great deal of pressure on adolescents to be successful and perpetuate the existing social status quo. A traditionally strong emphasis on complex social conduct, rigid hierarchies and the resulting, potentially intimidating multitude of social expectations, responsibilities and duties in Japanese society contribute to this pressure on young adults. Historically, Confucian teachings de-emphasizing the individual and favoring a conformist stance to ensure social harmony in a rigidly hierarchized society have shaped much of the Sinosphere, possibly explaining the emergence of the hikikomori phenomenon in other East Asian countries.
In general, the prevalence of hikikomori tendencies in Japan may be encouraged and facilitated by three primary factors:
Middle class affluence in a post-industrial society such as Japan allows parents to support and feed an adult child in the home indefinitely. Lower-income families do not have hikikomori children because a socially withdrawing youth is forced to work outside the home.
The inability of Japanese parents to recognize and act upon the youth’s slide into isolation; soft parenting; or even a codependent collusion between mother and son, known as amae in Japanese.
A decade of flat economic indicators and a shaky job market in Japan makes the pre-existing system requiring years of competitive schooling for elite jobs appear like a pointless effort to many. While Japanese fathers of the current generation of youth still enjoy lifetime employment at multinational corporations, incoming employees in Japan enjoy no such guarantees in today’s job market. (See Freeters and NEET for more on this.) Some younger Japanese people begin to suspect that the system put in place for their grandfathers and fathers no longer works, and for some, the lack of a
clear life goal makes them susceptible to social withdrawal as a hikikomori.”
“Honne and tatemae are Japanese words that describing the contrast between a person’s true feelings and desires (honne (本音?)) and the behavior and opinions one displays in public (tatemae (建前?), literally “façade”).
Honne may be contrary to what is expected by society or what is required according to one’s position and circumstances, and they are often kept hidden, except with one’s closest friends. Tatemae is what is expected by society and required according to one’s position and circumstances, and these may or may not match one’s honne.
The honne–tatemae divide is considered to be of paramount importance in Japanese culture.The very fact that Japanese have single words for these concepts leads some Nihonjinron specialists to see this conceptualization as evidence of greater complexity and rigidity in Japanese etiquette and culture.”
“Some analysts see honne and tatemae as a cultural necessity resulting from a large number of people living in a comparatively small island nation. Close-knit co-operation and the avoidance of conflict are considered to be of vital importance in everyday life. For this reason, the Japanese tend to go to great lengths to avoid conflict, especially within the context of large groups.
The conflict between honne and giri (social obligations) is one of the main topics of Japanese drama throughout the ages. For example, the protagonist would have to choose between carrying out his obligations to his family or feudal lord or pursuing a clandestine love affair.”
“Contemporary phenomena such as hikikomori and parasite singles are seen as examples of late Japanese culture’s growing problem of the new generation growing up unable to deal with the complexities of honne–tatemae and pressure of an increasingly materialist society.
Debate over whether tatemae and honne are a uniquely Japanese phenomena continues in the West, especially among those in the anthropological and art fields.”
“Loneliness is an unpleasant feeling in which a person feels a strong sense of emptiness and solitude resulting from inadequate levels of social relationships. Loneliness is not a subjective experience, since humans are social creatures by nature. Loneliness has also been described as social pain — a psychological mechanism meant to alert an individual of isolation and motivate her/him to seek social connections.”
“People can experience loneliness for many reasons and many life events are associated with it, like the lack of friendship relations during childhood and adolescence, or the physical absence of meaningful people around a person are a few causes for loneliness. At the same time, loneliness may be a symptom of another social or psychological problem, such as chronic depression.
Many people experience loneliness for the first time when they are left alone as infants. It is also a very common, though normally temporary, consequence of a breakup, divorce, or loss of any important long-term relationship. In these cases, it may stem both from the loss of a specific person and from the withdrawal from social circles caused by the event or the associated sadness.
The loss of a significant person in one’s life will typically initiate a grief response; in this situation, one might feel lonely, even while in the company of others. Loneliness may also occur after the birth of a child (often expressed in postpartum depression), after marriage, or following any other socially disruptive event, such as moving from one’s home town into an unfamiliar community leading to homesickness. Loneliness can occur within unstable marriages or other close relationships in a similar nature, in which feelings present may include anger or resentment, or in which the feeling of love cannot be given or received. Loneliness may represent a dysfunction of communication, and can also result from places with low population densities in which there are comparatively few people to interact with. Loneliness can also be seen as a social phenomenon, capable of spreading like a disease. Learning to cope with changes in life patterns is essential in overcoming loneliness.
A twin study found evidence that genetics account for approximately half of the measurable differences in loneliness among adults, which was similar to the heritability estimates found previously in children. These genes operate in a similar manner in males and females. The study found no common environmental contributions to adult loneliness.
Enforced loneliness has been a punishment method throughout history.”
“Solitude is a state of seclusion or isolation, i.e., lack of contact with people. It may stem from bad relationships, deliberate choice, infectious disease, mental disorders, neurological disorders or circumstances of employment or situation (see castaway).
Short-term solitude is often valued as a time when one may work, think or rest without being disturbed. It may be desired for the sake of privacy.
A distinction has been made between solitude and loneliness. In this sense solitude is positive.”
“Symptoms from complete isolation, called sensory deprivation, often include anxiety, sensory illusions, or even distortions of time and perception. However, this is the case when there is no stimulation of the sensory systems at all, and not only lack of contact with people. Thus, by having other things to keep one’s mind busy, this is avoided.
Still, long-term solitude is often seen as undesirable, causing loneliness or reclusion resulting from inability to establish relationships. Furthermore, it might even lead to clinical depression. However, for some people, solitude is not depressing. Still others (e.g. monks) regard long-term solitude as a means of spiritual enlightenment. Indeed, marooned people have been left in solitude for years without any report of psychological symptoms afterwards.
Enforced loneliness (solitary confinement) has been a punishment method throughout history. It is often considered a form of torture. In contrast, some psychological conditions (such as schizophrenia and schizoid personality disorder) are strongly linked to a tendency to seek solitude. In animal experiments, solitude has been shown to cause psychosis.
Emotional isolation is a term used to describe a state of isolation where the individual is emotionally isolated, but may have a well functioning social network.”
“There are many benefits to spending time alone, freedom is considered to be one of the benefits of solitude. The constraints of others will not have any effect on a person who is spending time in solitude, therefore giving the person more of a scope to his actions. With increased freedom, a person’s choices are less likely to be affected by exchanges with others.
A person’s creativity can be sparked when given freedom. Solitude can increase freedom and moreover, freedom from distractions has the potential to spark creativity. In 1994, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that adolescents who cannot bear to be alone often fall short of enhancing creative talents.
Another proven benefit to time given in solitude is the development of self. When a person spends time in solitude from others, he may experience changes to his self-concept. This can also help a person to form or discover his identity without any outside distractions. Solitude also provides time for contemplation, growth in personal spirituality, and self-examination. In these situations, loneliness can be avoided as long as the person in solitude knows that they have meaningful relations with others. ”
“Too much solitude is not always considered beneficial. Many of the negative effects have been observed in prisoners. Often, prisoners spend much time in solitude, where their behavior may worsen.
Negative effects of solitude may also depend on age. Elementary age school children who experience frequent solitude may react negatively. This is largely because, often, solitude at this age is not something chosen by the child. Solitude in elementary age kids may occur when the kids don’t know how to interact socially with others so they prefer to be alone, causing shyness or social rejection.
While teenagers are more likely to feel lonely or unhappy when not around others, they are also more likely to have a more enjoyable experience with others if they have had time alone first. However, teenagers who frequently spend time alone don’t have as good of a global adjustment as those who balance their time of solitude with their social time.”
“Solitude does not necessarily entail feelings of loneliness. For example, in religious contexts, some saints preferred silence and found immense pleasure in their uniformity with God. Buddha attained enlightenment through uses of meditation, deprived of sensory input, bodily necessities, and external desires, including social interaction. The context of solitude is attainment of pleasure from within, rather than seeking it in the external world. In psychology, introverted individuals may require spending time away from people to recharge. Those who are simply socially apathetic might find it a pleasurable environment in which to occupy oneself with solitary tasks.”