Two Types of Hikikomori

Hikikomori consists of two types: withdrawal and covert hikikomori. Hikikomori literally translates “pulling inward, being confined.”


I also call withdrawal hikikomori “classic hikikomori.” The Japanese government defines hikikomori as individuals withdrawing from people for six months or longer, without suffering psychotic disorders. It is not unusual for classic hikikomori to confine themselves in a room over a decade.


Case of Withdrawal Hikikomori
Miss A, 36, lived with her parents almost 18 years. Without signs of improvement, she recently moved to an apartment rented by her wealthy parents. Her reclusive life started after high school graduation. Due to her fear of people, Miss A avoids meeting people and therefore does not go out. Her only communication is weekly Skype counseling with me. Her personality development is so stagnant that she lacks awareness of her physical age. She speaks as if she were a teenager. She does not expect to have a normal life, has given up marrying or having her own family. Miss A has a long history of not expressing her true feelings to people, especially with mother.

Most of classic hikikomoris are more severely disturbed than covert types in terms of fear and distrust of people.


I coined the term “covert hikikomori,” to refer to socially functional hikikomori.

Covert hikikomori go to school or work, without showing withdrawal behaviors, but they suffer the same difficulties trusting and relating to people as classic hikikomori. Covert hikikomori are isolated from people emotionally, not socially.

Case of Covert Hikikomori
Mr. B, 34, works as computer programmer. He sought treatment for his difficulties relating to young women. He had had no dating experiences before. His initial complaint was his fear of lonely death in the future. He believed that, unless treated properly, he would remain unmarried because of his inability to love a woman. He said, “I have nothing. I just eat, sleep, and work. I live because I can’t kill myself.” Mr. B feels there is no reason to live a life without friends, a woman to love, marriage, and hope.

Covert hikikomori seem prevalent in the general population of Japan. For example, growing numbers of parasite singles---single women who refuse to leave home, marry, or bear children--may be convert hikikomori. Single covert hikikomori have difficulties to love men or women, according to my experiences.

Recovering clients, who can identify covert hikikomori, estimate more than 60% of Japanese people suffer from covert hikikomori one way or another.


The term “covert hikikomori” is privately used at Sayama Psychological Institute only. As it is not recognized professionally, no papers have been published regarding covet hikikomori.