Understanding The Japanese Culture-bound Syndrome Of


Studies reveal that the psychological condition affects 2.2–9.5% of the global population every year. 

In the 1960s, in Japan, children’s and adolescents’ refusal to attend school and their tendency to isolate themselves in their rooms attracted the attention of mental health professionals. 

Margaret Lock, in the 1980s, aptly termed this psychological condition as “school refusal syndrome”. 

However, in the late 1990s, Japanese psychiatrists led by T. Saito recognized the condition as more long-term, severe, and debilitating. They called it “Hikikomori”

Hikikomori is a crippling form of extreme social anxiety marked by social withdrawal, self-imposed isolation, and depressive symptoms. 

A person afflicted with this syndrome withdraws from society and remains at home almost every day for more than six months. 

Being a culture-bound syndrome, it is most prevalent in adolescents and young adults, especially Japanese men who shut themselves up in their parents’ homes.

Hikikomori is not recognized in psychiatric manuals. 

However, mainstream media, in Japan and internationally, did an excellent job of highlighting the devastating consequences of the shadowy hikikomori.  

Today, the condition is not restricted to Japan. 

It has a worldwide prevalence, with research claiming that it is a comorbid condition that accompanies depression, schizophrenia, and personality disorders.  

In fact, it is considered a disabling condition worthy of clinical attention. 

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