The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have raised concerns about hikikomori, a phenomenon characterized by prolonged confinement to one's living space. This literature review aims to highlight differences in understanding the psychological experience of hikikomori after being in a pandemic where physical isolation was warranted. We searched APA PsycINFO (March 2020-Current) for articles in English on the relationship between mental health outcomes (e.g., psychological distress, depression, and anxiety) and isolative tendencies. After screening 67 articles, we retrieved 21 articles for review. The studies revealed that subjective perceptions of social isolation and social support significantly affect mental well-being, while objective measures of social isolation were not associated with ratings of mental health. As such, interventions aimed at reducing loneliness and increasing social support may be particularly beneficial for those who are at risk of experiencing hikikomori-like symptoms. Furthermore, vulnerable individuals with pre-existing psychosocial adversities were more likely to display increased anxiety levels when facing pandemic-related stressors. The study highlights the need for clinicians to consider broader sociocultural contexts, such as institutional and illness-triggered factors, stigma, and discrimination. Future research can explore the long-term effects of isolation during and after the pandemic, including its impact on social and cognitive functioning, physical health, and the development of new coping mechanisms. The review also suggests that the previous understanding of hikikomori may no longer apply to those who have adapted to functioning remotely during the pandemic. Clinicians should consider this shift and evaluate their patients' well-being across various domains to ensure appropriate care.
Emi Ichimura, Seattle Pacific University, United States
Koji Tohmon, Seattle Pacific University, United States
Michelle Pei, Seattle Pacific University, United States
Keyne Law, Seattle Pacific University, United States
Joel Jin, Seattle Pacific University, United States