Hikikomori, problematic internet use and psychopathology: correlates in non-clinical and clinical samples of young adults in Italy

Simone Amendola 1, Rita Cerutti 1, Fabio Presaghi 2, Valentina Spensieri 1, Chiara Lucidi 3, Elisa Silvestri 3, Vassilij Di Giorgio 3, Fabio Conti 3, Alessandro Martorelli 3, Gaia Izzi 3, Alan Teo 4-6

1 Department of Dynamic and Clinical Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy; 2 Department of Psychology of Development and Socialization Processes, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy; 3 Psychiatric Residential Structure “Casa di cura Villa Armonia Nuova”, Rome, Italy; 4 Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care (CIVIC), VA Portland Health Care System, Portland, OR, USA; 5 Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA; 6 School of Public Health, Oregon Health & Science University and Portland State University, Portland, OR, USA


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.

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