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What is Hikikomori Syndrome: symptoms and treatment of the disorder

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He Hikikomori syndrome it appears in an increasingly hyperconnected and stress-driven worldin which the vast majority live permanently ‘plugged in’ to social networks, to likes, emails or video games. A modern life immersed in a connected world to which more and more people around the world are signing up.

But there are those who, far from reflecting that connection in real life, decide withdraw from all social contact and stop socializing. That is when television, mobile phones, computers or video games become the only reference for these people, also known as Hikikomori.

An increasingly common problem in modern society that until recently was related only to Japan, but in recent years has spread to many other countries such as the United States, Italy, France or even Spain. A disorder that today affects more than a million people in Japan alone and especially the youngest.


Hikikomori is a disorder characterized by a asocial and avoidant behavior by those who suffer from it, which usually leads to abandonment of social life. It is a syndrome that mainly affects adolescents or young people who decide to isolate themselves from the world, locking themselves in the rooms of their house for an indefinite period of time.

These young people often They reject any type of communication and his life begins to revolve solely around the use of the Internet, social networks, video games and new technologies.

Hikikomori It is a Japanese term that encompasses all these people who choose to withdraw and abandon social life, to seek extreme degrees of isolation and confinement accompanied only by new technologies.

A disorder that usually affects men more, although it also It can occur in older people and women; It is also usually related to other underlying problems such as disappointments due to family, personal or social conflicts, social anxiety problems, agoraphobia, extreme shyness, experiences of bullying or social phobia, among many others.

among women

This syndrome is a mental health problem that also occurs in Spain and among women.

A study carried out by doctors from the Institute of Neuropsychiatry and Addictions of the Hospital del Mar has recently shown that This pathology is not only linked to Japanese culture, but is increasingly present in the rest of Europe and throughout Spain. During the study, cases with an isolation period of 39.3 months were evaluated, with 30 years being the longest and in most cases an associated mental disorder was observed.

“Until now in Spain only specific cases of Hikikomori and
This seems to be motivated because they are patients who are at home, do not ask for medical attention or have other behavioral disorders that can be detected by emergency medical services or outpatient teams,” explains Dr. Víctor Pérez-Solà, director of the Institute of Neuropsychiatry and Addictions of the Hospital del Mar and responsible for the study.

“The creation in Barcelona of a home care service for people with serious mental disorders has made it possible to bring to light the true dimension of this syndrome,” he concludes.

Another aspect that draws attention is that, although this disorder is usually associated with young men, in this study 73.8% of the cases were young men with an average age of 36 years, while Women who experienced Hikikomori syndrome had an average age of over 51 years.

On the other hand, the majority of affected people lived with their family and half had higher education. It also stands out that the majority of subjects who remained isolated for more than 4 years had a psychotic disorder, which shows that people with serious mental disorders are more likely to be isolated for a longer period of time.

The symptoms

But what really are the symptoms of this disorder and how can we detect them? These are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Social isolation that usually leads them to stay most of the time at home and in their room or even to lock themselves inside it.
  • Refusal to attend any work, academic or social activity.
  • Low self-esteem and depressive personality.
  • Insomnia and altered schedules, which make them more active at night.
  • Abandonment of personal care and healthy habits such as exercising or eating healthily.

The treatment

How can it be treated and how important is the role of family members in this process?

One of the bases of the psychological treatment of Hikikomori syndrome tries to force this break in social isolation, offering social alternatives that may be of interest to the affected person and at the same time Appropriate psychological treatment is started to put aside this social anxiety, which is usually common in the majority of those affected.

A recovery in which both psychological therapy and families have a relevant role, since in addition to being the main detectors of this disorder, they will also be in charge of offering that necessary support and accompaniment, facilitating the understanding, acceptance of this syndrome and its treatment to little by little help recover the person’s social skills.

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