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Isolation Isn’t Always Loneliness - A Commentary on Neuroscience News

I’ve been increasingly troubled by the conversations surrounding loneliness and social isolation, especially when the pathological lens is applied to the individual.

"Researchers developed the Hikikomori Diagnostic Evaluation (HiDE), a new assessment tool for identifying pathological social withdrawal or hikikomori." Neuroscience News

Isolation Can Be A Reflection of Ableism

People with disabilities, chronic illness, elders and others who are homebound make up a huge segment of the population served by home care infrastructure. Add economic, transportation and other challenges of a society still in the midst of COVID, along with continued ADA inaccessibility, and you have a challenging environment for many to navigate - something that family and friends don’t always understand. Placing a HIDE label on the individual just adds to the isolation by demonstrating a failure to understand on the part of an ableist community. #wearebillionstrong

Art by Heather Thompson, Novelorica

Solitude Does Not Equal Loneliness

There are rich contemplative spiritual traditions that involve intentional isolation as vocation. From my theological perspective, this includes Anchorites (Julian of Norwich), Hermits (Thomas Merton), Poustinia (Catherine Dougherty), Modern Monastics - churched and unchurched - and that’s just off the top of my head.

Clinically Speaking

Perhaps there’s value in seeking to understand more than trying to assess/treat for HIDE in certain circumstances. At the very least, the narrative must include awareness of alternate perspectives, lest clinicians misinterpret and marginalize the very patients they are trying to support.

Researchers developed the Hikikomori Diagnostic Evaluation (HiDE), a new assessment tool for identifying pathological social withdrawal or hikikomori.

This condition, initially identified in Japan, is characterized by extended physical isolation lasting over six months and is increasingly observed worldwide, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The HiDE offers a practical and structured method for clinicians to assess individuals exhibiting hikikomori symptoms. It includes a comprehensive questionnaire and a screening form, enhancing early detection and contextual understanding of this growing global pathology.

Key Facts:

  1. Hikikomori, a condition of prolonged social withdrawal, is becoming a global issue, with the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to its rise.

  2. The HiDE tool, developed at Kyushu University, enables clinicians to effectively assess individuals for hikikomori, taking 5-20 minutes to complete.

  3. The assessment includes a detailed questionnaire and a screening form, aimed at identifying and understanding the extent of a patient’s social withdrawal.



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