What is happening to Japan’s young men? And, why do they choose to stay in isolation?
Hikikomori, or “withdrawn” in English terms, is considered a serious social issue in Japan. People with the condition are either confined inside their homes or wouldn’t even step out of their rooms. It can affect people of all ages – from young kids to even the elderly.
Parents of affected individuals carry the heavy responsibility of taking care of their children.
According to Tamaki Saito, a Japanese psychiatrist, being “hikikomori” is often misinterpreted as simple laziness. However, it is beyond that. Saito said that many hikikomori sufferers want to go out there and socialize. But for some reason, they cannot. It is also believed males are more prone to being a hikikomori than females.
One possible cause is due to their deep social fears. For some, it may be due to other factors. For example, young kids end up retreating in their rooms due to poor grades. On the other hand, teens may be triggered by school problems such as bullying or even problematic love life.
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While these factors should only be temporary, some seem to take it seriously which ultimately lead to extreme isolation. The longer the hikikomori stays secluded from society, the stronger its impact on his quality of life. They may even lose their confidence and self-esteem along the way.
Sadly, hikikomori is negatively perceived in Japan despite being a common occurrence. Rather than treating them with concern and support, they were often judged and dubbed as “good-for-nothing” individuals. Worse, some were left ignored by their own parents out of fear of being judged by the people around them.
There are individuals and organization aiming to get them out of their seclusion. One example is New Start, a non-profit organization that serves this exact purpose. Volunteers, called “rental sisters”, contact the hikikomori through letters or chatting through the phone.
It may take some time for these so-called “rental sisters” to convince a hikikomori. But the ultimate goal is to encourage them to stay in the organization’s dorm and participate in its productive programs. The organization also hosts meals to help sufferers regain their socialization skills.
On the other hand, a Japanese study recommends medications and regular exercise to improve symptoms. A hikikomori should seek therapy to determine the root cause of his or her condition. It may be due to school, work or family problems. Regardless of the reason, it should be addressed immediately and attend sessions to improve the condition.
More importantly, families are encouraged to have a strong foundation to prevent this from happening to one of their members. Families should also be able to deal with different issues can affect their relationship with each other. At the end of the day, it is their family whom they can run to for comfort, support, and unconditional love.