A psychological ailment called ‘hikikomori’ is imprisoning 500,000 Japanese people in their homes — and it’s more of a threat than ever


Hikikomori is a psychological condition which makes people shut themselves off from society, often staying in their houses for months on end.
There are at least half a million of them in Japan.
It was once thought of as a young person’s condition, but sufferers are getting older and staying locked away for longer.
It is an economic as well as a social threat to the country, and is seriously worrying Shinzo Abe’s government.

Hayashi Kyoko started becoming a social recluse when her high school principal started talking about university entrance exams on the first day of school.

“The fun high-school life I was looking forward to transformed into nothing more than a period of test preparation,” the Japanese native told the online magazine Nippon.com.

“It was a huge shock. I’d sensed before that I didn’t belong in the strictly regimented education system. This feeling manifested itself in physical symptoms, and I stopped going to school.”

And as she grew older she started working a part-time job and, facing pressure from her mother, Kyoko said she “hit her limit” and could no longer face leaving the house or meeting people.

Kyoko wasn’t alone. She had become one of half a million “hikikomori,” a Japanese term referring to people who avoid shut themselves at home and avoid social contact. (The term refers to both the person and the condition.)

Her lowest point was in her mid-twenties, she said: “I spent all my waking hours criticising myself… All I did was get up afternoon, eat, excrete, and breathe. I was like a living corpse. I couldn’t find the tiniest bit of worth in myself. I thought my life was meaningless.

“I had this terrible kind of fury I didn’t know where to direct, and I was always exhausted.”

‘A middle-class malady’

The Japanese government officially defines hikikomori as people who haven’t left their homes or interacted with others for at least six months.

But hikikomori can come in various forms: One person’s condition can be so severe that they lack the energy to leave their sofa to go to the toilet, like one hikikomori who spoke to the website Quartz.

Another could suffer from obsessive compulsive disorders so serious that they shower several hours a day or scrub their shower tiles for hours, such as who spoke to The New York Times. A third hikikomori said they played video games all day “as if it would tranquilise me.”

Professor Jeff Kingston, an Asian studies professor at Temple University in Tokyo, told Business Insider:

“Sweeping generalisations are always misleading… [But] it seems they are mostly males who exhibit extreme symptoms of social withdrawal who often live at home with parents who take care of them.

“They rarely leave their rooms or their homes, and reportedly live in and limit interactions to the virtual world.

“It is considered a middle class malady because only hikikomori from such backgrounds can rely on the support of their families.”

As of 2015, there were 541,000 hikikomori aged 15-39 in Japan, according to government statistics. There is no data on other age …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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