This shows a woman sitting alone in a dark room.
Hikikomori is a condition characterized by sustained physical isolation or social withdrawal for a period exceeding six months. Credit: Neuroscience News

Hikikomori: New Tool Sheds Light on Social Isolation Phenomenon

Summary: Researchers developed the Hikikomori Diagnostic Evaluation (HiDE), a new assessment tool for identifying pathological social withdrawal or hikikomori. This condition, initially identified in Japan, is characterized by extended physical isolation lasting over six months and is increasingly observed worldwide, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HiDE offers a practical and structured method for clinicians to assess individuals exhibiting hikikomori symptoms. It includes a comprehensive questionnaire and a screening form, enhancing early detection and contextual understanding of this growing global pathology.

Key Facts:

  1. Hikikomori, a condition of prolonged social withdrawal, is becoming a global issue, with the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to its rise.
  2. The HiDE tool, developed at Kyushu University, enables clinicians to effectively assess individuals for hikikomori, taking 5-20 minutes to complete.
  3. The assessment includes a detailed questionnaire and a screening form, aimed at identifying and understanding the extent of a patient’s social withdrawal.

Source: Kyushu University

Researchers at Kyushu University have developed a new tool to help clinicians and researchers assess individuals for pathological social withdrawal, known as Hikikomori. The tool, called Hikikomori Diagnostic Evaluation, or HiDE, can be a practical guide on collecting information on this globally growing pathology.

Hikikomori is a condition characterized by sustained physical isolation or social withdrawal for a period exceeding six months. It was first defined in Japan in 1998, and while thought to be a Japan specific ‘culture-bound’ syndrome, recent evidence has shown a marked growth of it worldwide.

Researchers and medical professionals also fear that the recent COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the increase of hikikomori patients across the globe.

However, there is yet to be a standardized tool to identify the hikikomori pathology. The new HiDE assessment tool, developed by Associate Professor Takahiro A. Kato of the Graduate School of Medical Sciences published in World Psychiatry, is intended to be the next step in a transcultural tool to help identify and assess hikikomori individuals.

In 2013, the Kyushu University hospital established the world’s first outpatient clinic for hikikomori in the hopes to research the pathology and find better methods of treatment. Over the years, Kato and his team have developed different methods for early detection of hikikomori and has even been investigating possible biomarkers of the pathology.

“HiDE is a questionnaire we’ve been developing at our clinic at the University Hospital. We’ve refined it over the years, and today it takes roughly 5-20 minutes to complete depending on the answers,” explains Kato.

“It’s primarily divided into two sections. The first section looks at the features of the patient’s behavior to see if they exhibit hikikomori. The second section is used to help us gain context to the patient’s extent of social withdrawal.”

The team has also added a screening form to the HiDE in case clinicians lack the time to administer the entire tool. They suggest that the full questionnaire be administered to patients who respond that they ‘spend one hour or less per day out of their home, at least three days a week’ and that ‘their family, others, or are personally bothered by this.’

“The HiDE has proven to be an indispensable tool for the structured assessment of pathological social withdrawal in our clinical practice and research. But more empirical studies must be done to assess its validity beyond our practice,” concludes Kato.

“We would like to see this used by our colleagues around the world, so we can work to refine the tool. Hikikomori is becoming a global phenomenon, and a collective effort in recognizing and treating hikikomori is going to be vital.”

About this Hikikomori and social isolation research news

Author: Raymond Terhune
Source: Kyushu University
Contact: Raymond Terhune – Kyushu University
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
The Hikikomori Diagnostic Evaluation (HiDE): a proposal for a structured assessment of pathological social withdrawal” by Takahiro A. Kato et al. World Psychiatry


The Hikikomori Diagnostic Evaluation (HiDE): a proposal for a structured assessment of pathological social withdrawal

Our social ties underpin the substance of our daily lives and exert a strong influence on our individual mental health and collective well-being. While these connections often imbue our lives with meaning and positive feelings, they can for some people go terribly awry. One of the more striking manifestations of this is called hikikomori.

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