Examining the hikikomori syndrome in a French sample of hospitalized adolescents with severe social withdrawal and school refusal behavior

Xavier Benarous, Marie Jeanne Guedj, Cora Cravero, Barbara Jakubowicz, Julie Brunelle, Kunifumi Suzuki, David Cohen

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1 Scopus citations


While the term hikikomori (HKM) has spread internationally to describe a chronic and severe form of social withdrawal, its place in current nosography and its transposition into non-Asian cultures are still debated. A retrospective chart review was conducted to determine the rate and the clinical profiles of HKM among a French sample of adolescent inpatients. Data were obtained from 191 adolescents aged 12–18 years (M = 15.0, 44% boys) consecutively admitted in two inpatient units from January 2017 to December 2019. Using a retrospective diagnosis of HKM based on Teo and Gaw's criteria, we compared socio-demographic characteristics, clinical features, and treatment outcomes between HKM patients and those with other forms of social withdrawal and/or school refusal (SW/SR). At admission, 7% of participants met HKM criteria (n = 14, M = 14.3, 64% boys), one out of six adolescents with SW/SR. Among those with SW/SR, HKM + vs. HKM- participants had higher rates of anxiety disorder (Odd Ratio, OR = 35.2) and lower disruptive behavioral disorder (OR = 0.03). A minority of the participants with anxiety and depressive disorders met the HKM criteria (respectively, 15% and 9%), but those with HKM had a longer duration of symptoms, longer hospitalization, and required more daily care facilities at discharge compared to HKM-. While HKM syndrome could not be delimitated from anxiety disorder, it was associated with specific clinical features and treatment outcomes. The clinical characteristics observed were consistent with the features reported in Asian HKM adults, supporting face validity of this clinical concept in adolescent inpatients with different cultural contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-843
Number of pages13
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescent
  • anxiety disorder
  • hikikomori
  • hospitalization
  • social withdrawal


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