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Hikikomori in Spain: the social isolation syndrome not only affects Japan

Hikikomori in Spain: the social isolation syndrome not only affects Japan

September 26, 2022

Hikikomori is a psychopathological and sociological phenomenon in which an individual isolates himself from society for at least 6 months, locking himself in his room , without interest or motivation for work, school or social relationships. Until recently it was thought that there were only cases in Japan, but recent research suggests that there are also cases in other countries. For example: Spain, Italy, India, the United States or Korea.

This syndrome differs from agoraphobia because patients with Hikikomori feel apathy for society . In contrast, agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an irrational fear of being in situations where it may be difficult or embarrassing to escape or where help may not be available in the event of having a panic attack.

The term was coined by Dr. Tamaki Saito, a psychiatrist who estimated that in Japan 1.2 million people suffer from Hikikomori.

Characteristics of the Hikikomori

The effect of Hikikomori includes lto abstinence from society and avoidance of interaction with others . The individual profile that Hikikomori suffers is of young middle-class adults and of masculine gender who, apparently due to the pressures of modern life, escape the privacy and security of their bedrooms, living alone. On rare occasions they usually leave their room, so they spend time inside their world alien to society or within their virtual reality: video games, internet or manga comics (in the Japanese Hikikomori).

Experts claim that l as sensitive, shy, introverted people with lack of social skills and resources to tolerate stress are more likely to suffer from this syndrome.

Hikikomori has been the source of a great public debate: Does it have a social or psychological origin? Do parents have something to do with pampering their children? Why does it happen more often in Japan? At first it was thought that only happened in this Asian country, but there seem to be more cases outside the Japanese country.

Japan and its relationship with the Hikikomori syndrome

To better understand this phenomenon, first of all we must understand the peculiarities of the Asian giant. Japan offers a multitude of singularities that are hard to find anywhere else in the world. The Japanese country is today one of the most industrialized and advanced societies on the planet. Famous for its technological advances, it is a highly urbanized country. According to a recent UN report, its capital, Tokyo, is the most populated city in the world with 13.5 million inhabitants.

But despite the fact that Japan represents modernity, at the same time governing traditional patterns of behavior and social ethics continues to have a deep meaning and root . Japan mixes a millenary past and a highly technological future. That is, it is known for its fashions, trends, but its millenary culture coexists with the capitalist and consumerist model that characterizes it. In this context it is not uncommon for pathologies such as the Hikikomori to arise, since the capitalist system tends to individualism and traditional values ​​to the collectivity.

The culture of aesthetics, consumption and leisure, has taken a toll on many young people because it turns subjects into objects and mere consumers, and they lose the genuine identity that should characterize them. The coexistence of these two value systems can lead to serious emotional problems, because the well-being of people is very linked to being with oneself, something complicated in the culture of the Japanese country,

The psychological disorders associated with technology and the culture of image and consumption are not exclusive to this country, but western countries also experience different phenomena that are a consequence of this dehumanizing system. Then I leave some examples of the problems that can cause new technology and the culture of the image and consumption at emotional level:

  • Nomophobia: the growing addiction to the mobile phone
  • Tecnostros: the new psychopathology of the "digital age"
  • FOMO syndrome: feeling that the life of others is more interesting

Causes of Japanese Hikikomori

The causes of Hikikomori are varied and there is no consensus among researchers . Personal, cultural, environmental (family, school, etc.) or demographic factors may be behind this syndrome. Since the associated factors tend to occur to a greater extent in large cities, there seems to be more prevalence in urban areas.

Personal factors refer to problems of self-esteem, lack of social skills or stress management of these people, that in the absence of resources they would isolate themselves to seek the comfort and comfort of their room . Other experts think that new technologies have a lot to do, which cause a loss of contact with reality. Family factors would include parental pressure or work schedules. The socio-economic factors refer to the pressure exerted by the capitalist system and the culture associated with this model, as well as singular factors of Japanese culture. The demographic factors refer to the low birth rate of this country, which causes even more pressure on young people to be unique children.

The concept of "amae" and its relationship with the Hikikomori

In Japanese society highlights the impossibility of young people when leaving home , different from European or North American society. Although in this country solidarity is emphasized, Japan is a vertical society, since it fosters all kinds of hierarchical structures. For example, the male precedes the woman, and the older ones precede the younger ones. This concept of ancestral order supports the social architecture of Japan.

When talking about Hikikomori, many are surprised how it can be that a father lets his son lock himself in his room without doing anything to get him out of there. The fact is that Japanese society does not react in the same way to Hikikomori as Western societies. To give an example, while European psychologists recommend that hospitalization is the best treatment for this syndrome, Japanese psychologists and psychiatrists think the opposite. Further, the Hikikomori has become an acceptable behavior within the society of the Asian country ; It has normalized.

As we have seen, Japanese society is a very vertical and hierarchical society that values ​​the group over the individual to, in this way, alleviate tensions and conflicts and achieve the social harmony of the group. A characteristic concept of this culture is the "amae", which governs many of the personal relationships in Japan.

The amae or "permissive dependence" is expect indulgence and acceptance of others . Amae can be seen in the West too. For example, in the relationship of a child with his parents, that no matter how bad the child behaves, parents will always forgive him. In Japan, but, this behavior is present throughout life: in personal relationships of friendship, in a couple, between company colleagues and even between boss and employee. The Japanese have a hard time saying "no" because they are afraid of destroying the relationship. It is one of your social norms. While in our culture the individual achievements are rewarded, in Japan it is reinforced to achieve objectives collectively.

The role of the family in Japan

Japanese families barely divorce, and the stability of the family is very high compared to the western countries . The relationship between the spouses shows a strong tendency to separate roles.

The husband adopts the role of bringing money home, and on the other hand, the woman assumes exclusive responsibility for the house and the children. Regarding parenting, parents pay close attention to their academic development. Saving for your education is one of your priorities.

Education and work in Japan

The educational system of Japan reflects the organized and hierarchical political-social structure of which I have spoken, in such a way that all members of society have a duty to contribute to the collective improvement of the country and to direct to this end all his dedication throughout his life, from birth to death.

Japan has a very elaborate education system and is one of the populations with the highest cultural level. But its education system offers little opportunity for self-expression , and the children have little free time, because they have a great academic load. At school, Japanese children learn not to move, not to cry, not to ask, they must also have a very severe work capacity, so they educate submissive beings to obey their superiors in the future.

In addition, it is usual for children to attend academies after school to take extra lessons, as Japanese society is highly competitive . In Japan, society is divided according to education and the place where it has been studied, as well as employment, income and the position held within a company.

Hikikomori outside of Japan

For a short time now, researchers have been wondering if this syndrome is a consequence only of the peculiarities of Japanese culture, of capitalism or if it is a reaction to any culture. Research has confirmed that Hikikomori exists outside Japan, but with some differences. Oman, Italy, India, the United States, Korea and Spain are some of the countries in which cases have been reported.

Isolated cases in Oman or India may indicate that this type of isolation is a reaction against culture and society. But due to the large number of cases that have been reported in Japan, seems to confirm the idea that Japanese culture and its socio-economic characteristics could favor this reaction of apathy against society characterized by social isolation. You could say that it is not an exclusive syndrome of Japan, but that the conditions that occur in that country cause more pathological cases.

In Spain there is also Hikikomori

A study carried out by the Institute of Neuropsychiatry and Addictions of the Hospital del Mar (Barcelona) has reported 164 cases of hikikomori in Spain . The study was published in the Journal of Social Psychiatry, and researchers have stated that "this syndrome has been underestimated in Spain due to the difficulty of accessing these people and the lack of specialized home care teams".

There are certain differences between the cases of Hikikomori in Spain with respect to those that occurred in Japan. The majority of Spanish patients suffer from associated mental disorders , such as psychotic disorders (34.7%), anxiety (22%) or affective disorders (74.5%), which is known as Secondary Hikikomori. The Primary Hikikomori it is the one that does not present comorbidity with other psychological disorders. The Spanish patients, mostly men, are older than the Japanese, with an average age of 36 years. Likewise, the majority of those affected live with the family and half have higher education.

Below you can see a video about the Hikikomori in Spain:

Hikikomori (September 2022).

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