The hikikomori in Italy are increasing, they are over 50 thousand

The hikikomori in Italy are increasing, they are over 50 thousand

The hikikomori in Italy are increasing

A sense of inadequacy so strong that it pushes young people to voluntarily decide never to leave their room again. This is how the phenomenon of the so-called Hikikomori could be summarized, a social withdrawal investigated in a particular way in Japan (hence the name) but which in reality is also spreading like wildfire in Italy. This was revealed by a study conducted by the Institute of Clinical Physiology of the National Research Council of Pisa (Cnr-Ifc) which established that there are more than 50,000 adolescents in our country who live exclusively within the four walls of their own room, communicating almost exclusively on the Internet. The age that proves to be most at risk for choosing this withdrawal from society is that which goes from 15 to 17 years, with an incubation of the causes of self-reclusion behavior already in the middle school period. There are those who have not been out for a time ranging from 1 to 6 months (8.2%), up to the most serious situations, with more than 6 months of closure.

“We too were quite impressed by the results, we didn't expect such striking data but society has changed a lot compared to 20 years when we started talking about Hikikomori – explains Dr. Sabrina Molinaro, manager of research by the Cnr-Ifc – today even in our culture there is a whole world of virtual realities and relationships that are very widespread in the new generations” .

Frustration due to the inability to relate to peers

The research started from the Espad Italia study (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs, also conducted annually by the Cnr-Ifc compared to the consumption of psychoactive substances), involving a representative sample of over 12,000 students aged between 15 and 19. The adolescents were submitted to a questionnaire. The Hikikomori would be 1.7% of the total number of Italian students and 2.6%, which corresponds to about 67,000 young people, could become so or are highly at risk. The causes behind the social withdrawal of these kids are not to be found in episodes of bullying: there would really be a difficulty in communicating with one's peers which leads to frustration and also to self-devaluation. The phenomenon therefore seems more linked to performance anxiety, typical of the performance society: “Some clinical colleagues underlined that perhaps these kids are so isolated that they aren't even bullied. The inability of these young people to relate to their peers and adults leads to such strong anxiety that it drives them to social withdrawal".

The fact that is perhaps most surprising, however, concerns the feeling of abandonment which they also perceive from their family: one out of 4 claims that their parents have accepted this condition without asking themselves too many questions: "This is a fact that has left everyone embittered: parents seem not to realize how long they stay locked up at home between 15 and 19 years old is not normal but something that should be considered as an alarm bell - continues Dr. Molinaro - perhaps Covid has influenced this, perhaps parents are more used to always having children in the room, indeed paradoxically due to the parent is reassuring to know them at home. If we think about it, many kids today carry out many of their activities with their peers, such as sports or scouts, together with adults, and one of the few places where they are free in their relationship with peers is the internet. This factor could have an influence” .

In short, the reference adult population to which these kids silently send an alarm signal seems impervious to a cry for help. “ Parents need to be trained and explained the importance of learning how to create live relationships. Surely closing their eyes is not necessary, they must learn to understand the fragility of their children, which are different from what they had. Basically there is always the insecurity typical of the adolescent phase but now everything is amplified with the web”.

Strong social expectations and the anxiety of not being able to meet them

More and more young people, in order not to disregard social expectations and pressure, are self-treating even using psychotropic drugs that they may be able to find in the locker of the parents who instead are following a therapy prescribed by the doctor: "One thing I always say about the misuse of psychiatric drugs is that, contrary to what was thought until a few years ago, not all psychiatric drugs are used to get high : many kids, about 20% of those who use it, do it, it is true, to take advantage of the psychoactive effect but there is an increasingly important percentage of kids who use it without a prescription in a "competent" way - continues the researcher - 75% of girls who use psychiatric drugs for diets do so to improve their physical appearance, over 60% of those who use attention drugs do it to improve school performance” .

Going back to the Hikikomori phenomenon, 81.6% of managers explained that in the 2020-2021 school year there was at least one student in the school involved in the phenomenon of early school leaving, while 26.7% % said that at least one student has been involved in social isolation . "I found the schools very prepared on the subject - continues the Cnr researcher - There are already regions that have implemented ad hoc modules to meet the needs of those children who suffer from social withdrawal and ensure that they do not lose the school year, perhaps by holding the lessons remotely” . Boys who withdraw from society play video games most of the time, while girls report that the main activity they do when they are at home is sleeping. Students who have isolated themselves for more than six months said socializing with other people creates anxiety but 31% said they have no close friends and 13.7% say they are lonely. It's not just kids who become Hikikomori: "I wouldn't refer to the phenomenon only when talking about very young people - concludes the Doctor - there are also adults who experience this sense of isolation, maybe they can't be real Hikikomori because to maintain themselves they have to work but excluding the strictly and indispensable, such as going out to go to the office, they still live withdrawn from society" .

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