Hikikomori: why Asian males are withdrawing at rapid speeds

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

Loneliness can be debilitating and isolating. It causes a person to withdraw and live within themselves, rather than socializing and learning how to interact with others. When a person is withdrawn, it can be very isolating and overwhelming. In Japan, when a person becomes withdrawn, it is known as “hikikomori.” It is used to describe young people who choose to withdraw.

It is a phenomenon that is sweeping across Japan and it is currently estimated that as many as 700,000 individuals in the country or more deal with this issue, many of them living inside of their rooms for months or even years at a time. They come to expect people to wait on them and they are so isolated and withdrawn that they are unable to function socially and won’t get jobs. 

“Hikikomori” is not a positive term by any means, either. It is often used as a way to show that the current generation is worthless and unimportant with little to contribute to society.  Parents that have children that are living with this disease of isolation are embarrassed and often wait too long to seek therapy for their children, simply because they are afraid of the stigma that comes with it, too. This means that the youth are deep in their depression and they are unable to reintegrate themselves into society successfully. It takes them a very long time to do so, and it also takes a long time to see progress in rebuilding their relationships with family and friends. (1)

Why is this happening in such record amounts? There are a variety of issues that may be the problem, with addiction to technology being one of them. With the Internet at the forefront of almost everyone’s lives these days, people that live with hikikomori simply don’t see the need to go outside for anything anymore. They can get everything they need online and the relationships they have formed online or in their games are good enough for them. Over time, individuals that become cooped up in their homes start losing their desire to do what they are good at, what they are passionate about, and they simply lack the power to do what it is that they really want to do. Essentially, their brain changes and they forget who they really are. 

Is one of your loved ones experiencing signs of withdrawal? Has gaming or technology began affecting their socialization and ability to interact and develop solid, lasting relationships? If so, it’s time to seek help immediately. 


1. Hammond, Claudia, Kremer, William. “Hikikomori: Why are so many Japanese men refusing to leave their rooms?” BBC News Magazine. July 4, 2013. Accessed online September 5, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23182523