Social anxiety in young people: from the phenomenon of hikikomori to that of involuntary celibates - iO Woman

THEsolamento, eating disorders, self-harm: different ways of somatizing the forte social anxiety that kids live today.

Different faces, therefore, of a youth discomfort which can severely compromise the life of adolescents, giving rise to phenomena such as that, sadly known, of the hikikomori.

With this Japanese term, it literally means “Stay on the sidelines”in fact, we indicate those guys who decide to withdraw from social life for long periodslocking himself in his own room, without having any kind of direct contact with the outside world, sometimes not even with their parents.

A worrying and widespread phenomenon, according to the Italian Hikikomori Association, also in our country.

Social anxiety and hikikomori: the situation in Italy

“The numbers in Italy are not official but our estimate is at least 100 thousand cases – explains Marco Crepaldi, psychologist, as well as president and founder of the National Association of Hikikomori Italia – We receive dozens of requests for help every daycoming from all over Italy and this leads us to think that the phenomenon has a medium-large order of magnitude ».

Hikikomori, tips to help children get out of social isolation

Hikikomori, tips to help children get out of social isolation

The pandemic and the hikikomori

The health emergency from Covid-19 and the consequent forced isolation to which the boys were forced may have played an important role in this situation.

«The pandemic has certainly influenced – continues Crepaldi – because it has pushed some young people to make the problem chronic but not only: we have had cases of boys who were still attending school before the lockdown and had a social life but after the lockdown they struggled to get out. In the period following the closure, not surprisingly, we recorded a boom in requests for help ».

The causes at the origin of the discomfort

At the origin of the problem, there is no internet addiction, as is often mistakenly believed which represents a possible consequence of the phenomenon but not the triggering cause. The proof is that the hikikomori phenomenon broke out in Japan in the Eighties, before the advent of the web.

«There is certainly at the base the anxiety of social judgmentlinked to the feeling of being different from others or in any case from what is the winning model proposed by the company – explains Marco Crepaldi – All the boys who deviate a lot from this model tend to suffer serious pressures, to bullying but also to parental expectations and thus they end up looking for an escape route. In fact, hikikomori is born from difficulty in adapting to the social context and then translates into an escape from everything and everyone, in the desire to find a hiding place, which is one’s own room ».

Teenage social anxiety

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Identikit dell’hikikomori

«The average age of the hikikomori is around 15 years old – explains Crepaldi – the phenomenon mainly affects the 13-17 age group and concerns in a higher percentage the males: boys, in fact, are not alone more numerous but they often manifest too more severe symptoms than in girls. For more serious cases we are talking about people completely isolated, sometimes even from their parents, for years if not decades, often victims of situations adrift who hardly have a chance of recovery anymore ».

Why are kids more at risk?

“Often the boys they have a harder time expressing their emotions because of the education they receive – explains the founder of the Hikikomori Italia Association – they struggle to ask for help as a result. For the same reason they are more prone to too committing acts of self-harm: in the end hikikomori can be defined as a form of social self-harm“.

Social anxiety: the incel phenomenon

Less known but even more worrying is another phenomenon linked to social anxiety: that of the incel, a word coined starting from English terms “INvoluntary” and “CELibates” and that in Italian can be translated with the expression “Involuntary celibates”.

«It is a phenomenon that I have been dealing with in the last period because I realized that it is very popular – Marco Crepaldi explains to us again – Basically it is about boys, even in this case mainly heterosexual maleswho are unable to unlock from a sexual point of view and who arrive in adulthood, around the age of 30/40, without having been able to have sexual experiences “.

Incels, not surprisingly, include themselves in three categories: i virgini.e. those who have never had sexual intercourse, i kissless-virginthose who have never had sexual intercourse and have never kissed and the hugless-kissless-virgin those who, in addition to never having had sexual intercourse and never kissing, have never even hugged a potential partner.

Hikikomori and incel: sometimes there is a link

“This obviously involves enormous suffering and a deep sense of shame, with the consequent difficulty in relating to others – explains Marco Crepaldi – Not surprisingly, this phenomenon too can lead to the social isolation typical of hikikomoriin some cases these two issues overlap. The hikikomori, isolating itself, develops the anxiety of not being able to have experiences with the other sex and in the same way, the incel that focuses anxiety on this sort of relational, sexual and sentimental discomfort, develops dysfunctional behaviors such as ‘isolation but not only ».

The most worrying aspect is that often this phenomenon is also characterized by feelings of hatred towards women.

“Unfortunately, it is not so rare that a man who fails to be successful in this area tends to blame the other sex and develop attitudes that can trigger dangerous mechanisms and problems»- Crepaldi goes on to specify.

In fact, some incels accuse women of being attracted solely by physical appearance, money and status. And the “LMS theory”, acronym of “Look, Money & Status”, according to which those who do not excel in these areas will have no chance of being interesting in the eyes of a woman.

Incel: how widespread is the phenomenon?

«My perception is that the incel phenomenon is extremely widespread – replies Crepaldi – is also demonstrated by the many online forums full of people experiencing this type of problem. Even as a psychologist I am often contacted by people who experience this suffering: sometimes they are young people who just need help, because they are particularly shy, sometimes over 30 who have never had any kind of relational and sexual experience and who they cannot understand how to be able to unblock themselves ».

What is the origin?

As in the case of the hikikomori, the incel phenomenon also seems to be in some way linked the anxiety of judgment and the feeling of feeling different from a presumed normality.

“To this is often added a problem of social envy – concludes Crepaldi – which is one of the great problems of our society, in which there are more and more winners and more and more losers. The incel phenomenon in short, it deserves much more attention from social researchers since the levels of suffering and frustration that can be hidden behind this condition are not negligible and can give rise to forms of violence, as demonstrated by some cases in the news. As with hikikomori, it is therefore important raise awareness on the subject and invite those who suffer from it to ask for help from adequately trained professionals, especially sexologists ”.

Social anxiety: a meeting to talk about it

Marco Crepaldi will be one of the guests of the Youth sectioncurated by Paola Veneto, of GardaLo !, the cultural festival conceived and directed by Giordano Bruno Guerri which involves the Lombard shore of Lake Garda, and which starts this year – from 24 to 26 June – with a pilot edition in the spaces of the Vittoriale degli Italiani.

Specifically, on 25 June at 6 pm, Marco Crepaldi will hold a free meeting dedicated to the main psychological challenges facing young people they are faced in this historical period, starting from the phenomenon of hikikomori. To participate and book you can visit the official website of the event.

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In the gallery, we have collected a few advice from the Italian Hikikomori Association to help parents who struggle with the problem of their children’s social isolation.

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