The Hikikomori around the World

Two weeks ago, BBC published a piece about the hikikomori, those people in Japan who “refuse to leave their bedrooms.” There are as many as one million of them in Japan.

This week, BBC compiles a sampling of other hikikomori people around the world. A sample below:

I am a retired professor of astrophysics. I have only just avoided being a hikikomori myself. Since I was a child I felt awkward in society, and have tended to avoid human contact. I was fortunate to live in a rather short period of time when mathematical and scientific skills, which are easily acquired with minimal human interaction, were reasonably well rewarded. But I always felt that I was clinging to a cliff by my fingernails. Both my ex-wife and my wife have commented on the fact that I don’t seem to have any friends of my own. That’s not quite true, but not far wrong. I remain with the feeling that in the long term I am going to end up living, and dying, on the street. P, California, US


In sixth form I more or less stopped going to school. My grades were always good, but by the time I finished at 17, I had an attendance rate over the two years of less than 30%. I retreated to my room, became obsessive, paranoid. I wanted to go out and be social but felt that it was difficult. When I did go out, I tended to drink heavily, which made things worse. I went to uni immediately after finishing school. Those three years were a black hole of drink and isolation. About halfway through my second year I was diagnosed with “some sort of agoraphobia”, but no one could decide on treatment. I’m not sure how or why things changed. Some days I feel it start to take over me again, usually after a period of enforced confinement due to illness. I drag myself out for a walk. In a way this is confinement – I’ll often walk on my own, listening to music. I’ll arrange to do things with people, which helps. Eddie, Merseyside, UK


I loved withdrawing myself from the whole world, which includes my family and best friends. I found isolation a safe retreat. But it was eating me up, I lost 9kg (20lb) and knew that eventually it would kill me. I tried to fight back by reading books which made me laugh because essentially I was depressed. Facebook, games, slowly opening up to friends and telling them I was down. I sought help and said a lot of prayers. But the first step is to say I want to come out of this darkness. Watila, Tamil Nadu, India


I withdrew from society for at least five years, maybe longer. Honestly, that time is mostly a blur. For the most part, the farthest I’d travel was my mother’s backyard, and maybe to the store. I have social anxiety disorder, and it almost ruined my life. Crippling anxiety most of the time that is somewhat managed now by medication and therapy. I also go to group therapy sessions so I don’t isolate myself again. Maybe meeting Eric, now my fiance, on the internet brought me out of my shell. It gave me a reason to go out. I suppose I needed that push. Andrea, Wisconsin, US

Of course, the true hermits are selectively excluded from this compilation: they aren’t checking the Internet and could not have responded to BBC’s query.

In case you are wondering, hikikomori is in the Oxford English Dictionary as “In Japan: abnormal avoidance of social contact.”

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