Emotional and symbolic components of hikikomori experience: A qualitative narrative study on social withdrawal

Andrea Caputo


Hikikomori is a form of social withdrawal affecting adolescents and young adults that prevents social, school and work activities. The present study aims at expanding qualitative narrative research on such a social withdrawal from the participants’ perspective, as to detect emotional and symbolic components of the hikikomori experience. Emotional Text Analysis was conducted on the narratives of 17 Italian people (9 men, 18-39 aged), who posted their hikikomori stories via an online forum. Statistical multidimensional techniques were performed to detect some thematic domains (Cluster Analysis) and latent factors organizing the contraposition between them (Multiple Correspondence Analysis). Five clusters emerged as follows: refusal of intimacy (cluster 1), retreat to passivity (cluster 2), search for comfort (cluster 3), interpersonal distress (cluster 4), and performance anxiety (cluster 5). Then, four latent factors were identified dealing with a complex of dependency, tendency to introversion, refusal of agency, and ambivalence towards intimacy, respectively. The results provide new insights on the complexity and awareness of the affective experience of hikikomori to be integrated with the existing evidence in the literature.


Hikikomori; Social withdrawal; Narrative; Online research; Emotional text analysis.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.6092/2282-1619/mjcp-2312


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