Identification of the hikikomori syndrome of social withdrawal: Psychosocial features and treatment preferences in four countries

Alan R. Teo, Michael D. Fetters, Kyle Stufflebam, Masaru Tateno, Yatan Balhara, Tae Young Choi, Shigenobu Kanba, Carol A. Mathews, Takahiro A. Kato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Hikikomori, a form of social withdrawal first reported in Japan, may exist globally but cross-national studies of cases of hikikomori are lacking. Aims: To identify individuals with hikikomori in multiple countries and describe features of the condition. Method: Participants were recruited from sites in India, Japan, Korea and the United States. Hikikomori was defined as a 6-month or longer period of spending almost all time at home and avoiding social situations and social relationships, associated with significant distress/impairment. Additional measures included the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Loneliness Scale, Lubben Social Network Scale (LSNS-6), Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS) and modified Cornell Treatment Preferences Index. Results: A total of 36 participants with hikikomori were identified, with cases detected in all four countries. These individuals had high levels of loneliness (UCLA Loneliness Scale M = 55.4, SD = 10.5), limited social networks (LSNS-6 M = 9.7, SD = 5.5) and moderate functional impairment (SDS M = 16.5, SD = 7.9). Of them 28 (78%) desired treatment for their social withdrawal, with a significantly higher preference for psychotherapy over pharmacotherapy, in-person over telepsychiatry treatment and mental health specialists over primary care providers. Across countries, participants with hikikomori had similar generally treatment preferences and psychosocial features. Conclusion: Hikikomori exists cross-nationally and can be assessed with a standardized assessment tool. Individuals with hikikomori have substantial psychosocial impairment and disability, and some may desire treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-72
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Volume61
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 3 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Social isolation
  • cross-national
  • culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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