The phenomenon of hikikomori is increasingly widespread and there are more and more children who isolate themselves, definitively losing interest in relationships
A phenomenon that concerns the world of adolescents and young adults has recently been brought to the attention of the news: it is what concerns the “hikikomori“.
Who are hikikomori and what does the term hikikomori mean?
“Hikikomori” is a Japanese term that literally means “to stand aside” and it is used to refer to the youngest who decide to isolate themselves from society, living in the solitude of their own room.
This phenomenon, since it concerns people withdrawn or disinterested in interacting with others, tends to remain invisible to the outside world and is still little known, despite its widespread diffusion. We asked Elena Carolei, president of the association “Hikikomori Italy Parents Group “, to tell us more about this recent phenomenon. The association also manages the Facebook page “Hikikomori Italia”.
In this article
Hikikomori, who I am
The hikikomori are people, usually young, who, due to the suffering experienced in social relationships, they decide to close themselves at home, often without even leaving their room, and avoiding relationships with peers, people in general and often also with family members.
“Initially the discomfort manifests itself occasionally, with sporadic absences from school, or with the refusal to participate in certain social situations (parties, meetings, trips, etc.), then the retreat becomes more and more profound and affects all aspects of the life of the boy. The boys retired to their rooms spend their time devoting themselves to a pastime, which can be surfing the Internet, a video game, reading, drawing, music. Isolation can last for months or years and hardly ever resolves spontaneously ».
The data of the “Hikikomori” phenomenon in Italy
There are no official surveys on the incidence of the phenomenon, but there are projections that suggest 100,000 cases in Italy. Within the association “Hikikomori Italia Genitori”, which was born from a community involving 2000 families, a survey was carried out on about 300 parents, reported in detail in the book by Marco Crepaldi called Hikikomori: young people who do not leave house (Alpes Italia Publishing House).
“This survey has intercepted cases in all areas of Italy, found that the age of onset is typically around 15 years, and that the withdrawal can also be very long-lasting: as many as 41.7% of the interviewees stated that their child has been in retirement for a period ranging from 3 to 10 years. This shows us the need for an important institutional intervention ».
How does this discomfort arise in adolescents?
“We are in a society where people tend to simplify and want to attribute social withdrawal to laziness, illness, or video games. These are all very serious prejudices that produce wrong interventions and even aggravate the problem. From the observations we were able to make on the families of the association we found that it is instead a multifactorial phenomenon, which arises from a combination of individual, family and social factors“.
“As for the individual factors we note that hikikomori boys and girls are mainly introverted, sensitive and gifted with a very witty intelligence. Their parents, even encouraged by the attitudes shown by their child, are generally demanding and have high expectations of performance. The outside world, on the other hand, is permeated by growing narcissistic values, which require young people to be beautiful, brilliant, nice and admired by their peers ».
“Often, in this mixture of components, a painful triggering factor, for example an episode of bullying, an illness, a separation or a bereavement, puts the boy in difficulty: responding to all the requests coming from the family and from the outside world becomes too much difficult, and so the boy bitterly decides to withdraw from the stress of the struggle and competition, closing himself off in solitude ».
Technology and insulation. To what extent do you allow children to use digital devices?
“Isolation arises from the fear of relationships with others, and not from the use of the internet. Hikikomori and internet addiction are two different conditions. To understand if your child is a hikikomori or an internet addict, you need to analyze his relationship with others. If, despite spending many hours on the PC or on the phone, the boy has a peaceful relationship with others, goes out and socializes, he is not a hikikomori: the hikikomori, on the other hand, shuns relationships, especially with peers“.
“As for isolated children, the Internet is a salvation for the spirit and the mind, as it allows them to continue their personal growth and study, but above all to entertain relationships, despite the condition of self-exclusion. We therefore advise the parents of retired children to allow free access to the use of the internet. Preventing the use of the internet would condemn the boy to even more severe isolation ».
Tips to help parents dealing with “hikikomori” children
In order to help a “hikikomori” child there are several possible indications.
- “We need to put ourselves in the child’s shoes and understand his profound discomfort and the severe pain that comes from not being able to be with others. Often the boy, although he suffers a lot, does not confide in his pain, and says that he is well ».
- “Then you have to stop scolding your child for …