The aims of this study were to explore hikikomori (prolonged social withdrawal) as well as its relationship with problematic internet use and other psychopathology.
A total of 66 young adults in Italy were recruited for this study consisting of: a non-clinical sample recruited through an online survey (n = 47), and a clinical sample of patients with a psychiatric disorder at onset (n = 19).
Our findings demonstrated the occurrence of hikikomori in both the non-clinical and clinical samples (n = 5). Brief episodes of social withdrawal (i.e., duration between one and three months) were also reported by participants (n = 10). Hikikomori symptoms were associated with overall personality dysfunction in both samples (r = .643, p < .001; r = .596, p < .01, in the non-clinical and clinical sample, respectively). Problematic internet use was related to interpersonal sensitivity (r = .309, p < .05) and depression (r = .475, p < .05) in the non-clinical and clinical samples, respectively.
We demonstrated the occurrence of hikikomori in both non-clinical and clinical samples of Italian young adults. Clinical features of psychopathology (e.g., self- and other-directed aggressive behaviors, substance misuse) were more prevalent among hikikomori participants of the clinical sample. Moreover, symptoms of hikikomori showed strong associations with overall personality dysfunction. Our results highlighted the need to disentangle the intricate relation between hikikomori and psychopathology and they were discussed considering scientific advances. Finally, findings of this study suggested that online survey is a useful methodology to identify young adults with hikikomori. Further research with larger sample sizes is needed to confirm our data.