The Hikikomori phenomenon affects about 1.2% of Japanese society-this represents about one million people. Despite how many cultural differences there are between Asian countries and European or American countries, people all over the world suffer from this affliction. What is life like for a person with this syndrome? What is its cause? Is there a remedy for alienation? Loneliness disease is a huge problem in modern society, which was first noted in Japan in the 1990s.

Table of contents

What is Hikikomori

Hikikomori is a Japanese disease of loneliness that leads the sufferer to isolate himself from society.

The word Hikikomori consists of two members: Hiku- to retreat and Komoru- to hide.

Many specialists are still wondering how to classify this phenomenon. Some say it is a mental disorder that results from very high social anxiety, while others say it is a syndrome caused by the peculiarities of Japanese culture.

Read also: Change is a woman- Portrait of Chizuko Ueno


The symptoms of Hikikomori vary widely, and all people with the syndrome experience it differently. The most common symptoms of Hikikomori are:

  • Breaking contact with family and friends
  • Giving up an active social life
  • High insulation

People who experience isolation spend as much time as possible at home in seclusion. Very often, they have an inverted home mode – they are active at night and sleep during the day. They use delivery and online shopping, if they already have to go out to store, they also choose late night hours to minimize the number of people they encounter.

Nationwide network focusing on cultural and business promotion of Japan (1920×200 px)
Hikikomori-Japanese disease of loneliness 5

Mysterious causes

Researchers have so far failed to unanimously determine the cause of this affliction. Given that the largest number of people with Hikikomori live in Japan, it is believed that it is the Japanese lifestyle that is considered to be the aggravating factor for a person with the syndrome. This is influenced by the high hierarchical nature of employment and within the family, constant competition, workaholism, and the pressures that have been imposed on the Japanese since childhood. It is also believed that certain personality traits are capable of increasing the risk of being affected by the syndrome. This includes shyness or lack of assertiveness.

Hikikomori - the Japanese disease of loneliness
Loneliness in Japan

Japan’s pain of existence

A country where loneliness is very common has a huge suicide rate. This is due to tremendous pressure, competition, workaholism, and the fact that psychotherapy in Japan is not at the highest level. People suffering from depression often have no one to turn to for help or are ashamed- because the older generation has a different view of mental health, which is just as important as physical health, With the younger generation, awareness is increasing and the situation is fortunately improving.

The problem with harassment

One of the biggest problems in Japanese education, bullying in schools is very common. Children affected by bullying and harassment by peers are particularly vulnerable to Hikikomori. The government has repeatedly tried to combat this phenomenon with numerous campaigns, classes or training courses-unfortunately, to no avail. In the adult life of Japanese people, bullying at work is very common, which also leads to numerous mental problems.

“For hikikomori, winter is painful because everything is cold, frozen and lonely. For hikikomori, spring is also painful because everyone is in a good mood and therefore enviable. Summer, of course, is especially painful…” – Tatsuhiko Takimoto

Possible forms of therapy

Fortunately, there is a form of treatment that is effective in Hikikomori syndrome. Psychotherapy usually takes a very long time-it depends on the time of isolation. Convincing a person with this affliction to leave his room or home is really difficult. However, an organization has been formed to assist Hikikomori people. The people who are active in it are the so-called “people of the world. “Sisters for Hire. They are therapists who try to get those affected by the disorder to break through to leave their comfort zone. They do this by talking to them through the door, sending letters or chatting.

Loneliness is spreading in the Land of the Cherry Blossom
Hikikomori – the Japanese disease of loneliness

Hikkikomori in society

The country of Cherry Blossom has a high rate of loneliness. Fewer and fewer people are choosing to marry, relationships with family are not strong and many people fall into the whirlpool of work while neglecting loved ones. This factor is also considered one of the causes of Hikikomori. Lack of showing love and care from a loved one, a mother or a friend adversely affects a person who should not live solely by his career.

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Modern forms of Hikkikomori

Nowadays, the term Hikikomori can be used in the context of many people from Ukraine, who, fleeing the war, do not know what is happening to their relatives, have lost their homes, property, and live in uncertainty when this nightmare will end. They are afraid of what they will find when they return to their homeland. Their fate, is a very sad kind of Hikikomori that many refugees suffer from. It is the internal isolation of oneself, one’s thoughts and the gradual abandonment of hope that the situation will improve.

The enormity of the problem

Unfortunately, more and more people in the world are being affected by the disease of loneliness. A major complication is that a Hikikomori person is difficult to encourage to leave his safe zone. Psychotherapy can take up to several years, but the thought that there is a way out of this unpleasant syndrome is comforting. It may take decades for the culture of Japanese society to change, but more and more people are choosing to live their own way and defy the cult of work or neglecting family and friends in favor of a career. Gradually introduced small changes, are able to bring satisfactory results – also in this case.

You can read more about the changes in the article: Small steps to big changes 6 – GentleWoman Poland

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Hikikomori-Japanese disease of loneliness 6

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