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Hikikomori: the vicious circle of loneliness



One of the main risk factors, when it comes to hikikomori, is the progressive estrangement of the boy or girl from their group of peers. Often friends, even long-time ones, get rejected in a seemingly unjustified way.

This can be considered as the last step of the hikikomori, the major one and the one from which it is more difficult to get back. Because loneliness begets loneliness, in a vicious circle that slowly leads to chronicity.

A recent study conducted in Belgium and involving 730 adolescents supports that. Supporting this thesis is a recent study conducted in Belgium involving 730 adolescents. Two different scenarios were presented to participants:

- Social inclusion scenario: "A new sandwich shop is opening downtown. Some of your classmates are going there for lunch and have asked if you would like to join them."

Social exclusion scenario: "You see a picture on Facebook of a class birthday that you weren't invited to."

Participants who were previously classified as "more lonely" experienced the situation of social exclusionworstthan others (showing high levels of anger, disappointment and jealousy), attributing this exclusion to their own personal characteristics (appearance, character, etc.).

Even more interesting, however, were the reactions of these young people in the situation of social inclusion (i.e.,when they had been invited by their friends). Well, even in this case the enthusiasm shown was very low, simply because the invitation was seen asdue to chance or somehow linked to hidden purposes.


Loneliness be gets loneliness

This seems to be a mental mechanism that is quite commonamong hikikomori, people who have a high opinion of themselves, but tend to develop a strong distrust of others (due to character traits, but also for having experienced negative situations, such as bullying).

Hence even when they get spontaneously and sincerely invited, they tend to interpret those invitations with suspicion, making thoughts like, "He just did it because he felt obliged, he doesn't really care if I come along," or "They just want to make fun of me."

In reference to this loneliness-reinforcing mechanism, Weeks Molly, co-author of the study and researcher in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, says:

“These results show us that the loneliest adolescents seem to respond to social situations in a way that perpetuates their loneliness. Future research should investigate when and how temporary loneliness becomes chronic loneliness and understand how interventions can be undertaken in order to prevent this from happening.”

Her wish is ours too.

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