CRG’s Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist, Dr. Joshua Lowinsky, recently came across some fascinating research in Asia that may provide insight into a growing American phenomenon. Today nearly 500,000 young adults in Japan (almost all males) live as modern-day hermits. They voluntarily withdraw from all face-to-face social contact and often do not leave their homes for several years. They are known by the Japanese word for “withdraw,” which is hikikomori. People with this condition are now being studied in South Korea, Spain, Italy and France as well as here in the U.S. In Japan, a person’s ability to fit in and be accepted is a critically important skill. When this is not possible, the individual and his/her family can experience tremendous shame. Many hikikomori report comfort in only having online interactions, often by playing video games. They note that restricting their interactions with others to online venues reduces conflict and allows them to feel more in control. Interestingly, researchers and mental health professionals in Japan are beginning to develop software and even hardware (i.e., small robots) designed to help hikikomori leave their homes while engaging in structured, “safe” interactions with the real world. Read more about this intriguing new line of research here.