Hikikomori, the new disease of the digital age


Hikikomori (Social Withdrawal Disorder) (more often pronounced simply as ‘Hickey’), which first started in Japan and the Far East countries and affects individuals all over the world, including Turkey. Among her new disorders is Hikikomori (Social Withdrawal Disorder) as a phenomenon.

The Ministry of Labor and Welfare of Japan defined Hikikomori illness as not leaving the house or room for at least six months or more by limiting the communication with others. Individuals with hikikomori do not do anything other than stay out of their rooms, listen to music, browse the internet, read manga series and watch movies, play computer games all the time, and sleep. They can even meet their toilet needs in their rooms.

The person who first named hikikomori as a disorder is Japanese psychologist Tamaki Saito. In his groundbreaking book “Hikikomori: Adolescense Without End” (Hikikomori: Adolescence Without End), which was published in Japan in 1998, Saito created the definition of social withdrawal by first realizing the phenomenon of “social withdrawal” based on his clinical experience with his patients.


Hikikomori:Adolescense Without End Tamaki Saito

Causes of Hikikomori

Hikikomori begins mostly in adolescence (13-14 years old) The first symptom of hikikomori in children is often refusal to go to school. While the families think about this situation by saying that they do not encounter problems outside by studying at home or playing in a safe environment at home, this habit turns into virtual addiction and virtual kingdom. In this virtual kingdom, the individual introduces himself as he wishes and relaxes his ego with his approved identity without criticism. This situation is especially seen in middle-class families, intelligent and talented children of over-controlling, oppressive and successful, career-oriented families, and children of foster families. These inactive individuals, who are out of education, work and working life, lead a parasitic life alone in their rooms, and are indecisive and incapable of solving the problems and problems they experience and taking action. These individuals, who are dependent on the family authority at home, prefer to stay away from the stressful life outside by shutting down in their rooms. In this process, the excessive dependence and protection of parents on their children are also attracted to these individuals, who are drawn into their own world; It causes delay in necessary rehabilitation and treatment processes.

Generally, some emotional problems such as bullying at school, failing exams and problems in the family, shame, career stress, competition, unsuccessful love relationships, parental oppression, digitalized world, traumas, social incompatibility, anxiety of disapproval, overprotective parental pressure, etc. can cause this disease.


This withdrawal experienced by the individual over time; It turns into habit, addiction, unresponsiveness, numbness and inactivity. Psychologically, these problems turn into anger, anxiety and depression. The communication of these individuals turns into a form of correspondence and ordering food via the computers and mobile phones in their rooms.

In Japan, Hikikomori disorder is viewed as a social-cultural mental health phenomenon. It affects at least 1.2% of the population (approximately one million people) and is expressed as an important social, health and economic problem. According to the 2010 data of the Japanese government, it is stated that there are currently 700 thousand people suffering from Hikikomori disease in Japan. It is stated that the average age of these people is 31 years.

Behaviors of Hikikomori

* Not leaving the house and room

* Disconnecting from social life, ending friendships, not wanting to talk to anyone, not talking

*Extreme irritability, aggression, psychological disorder

* Awake at night, sleeping during the day and being disturbed by outside sunlight

* Relaxing with computer games

* Relying on your family

Feeling guilty and reproaching themselves for their own mistakes

*Individual attachments

* No problems with marriage and work power

*The state of being messy

* Distortion of time perception. Inability to program life activities in numbness and meaninglessness

*Usually making a living with money given by his parents

Treatment and Management of Hikikomori

Priority in Hikikomori treatment;

* The person’s family and relatives should make the person feel valued, accept that it is an inconvenience, be tolerant for his treatment, try to communicate

* Families should make joint activities and shares for their children and be positively supportive

*Must get psychiatric support and ensure the regularity of the psychotherapy process in order to be treated

* Positive activities should be done with the family.

*Family and surroundings should show interest,

* A family therapy that includes both the individual and their parents should be taken

*Professional and social environment rehabilitation should be provided

* The process of adaptation to social life should be ensured with group therapies

Situation of Hikikomori disease in Turkey

There are also cases of hikikomori in Turkey. However, overprotective parents are not conscious that their children have Hikikomori, or “social withdrawal disorder,” and that it can be treated. Parents, as the solution to their children’s problem; expects them to attend school or work. Individuals experiencing discomfort; They imprisoned themselves in their rooms because they were unsuccessful in success, pressure, social cohesion, problem solving, implementation and had high levels of anxiety expected by the family, school and society. Parents are not aware that they need expert support as part of the solution to the problem as much as their children. As a result of this situation, the treatment process is delayed and the recovery period is prolonged.

With the social isolation that developed with the pandemic process we are experiencing; There is an increase in the situation of children, youth and adults who are isolated from their own world, do not communicate, do not take responsibility in computer games, betting and other digital internet environments with their virtual identities. After the pandemic, it would be beneficial to conduct scientific studies on raising awareness of children, youth and adults on the process of adaptation to school, work and society, and the family, school and society.

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