A new study by Peter Muris and Thomas H. Ollendick has uncovered a worrying trend among young people worldwide – “extreme social withdrawal” (ESW), also known as “hikikomori” in Japan. This phenomenon refers to young people who retreat from society and spend most of their time at home, disengaging from education and work.

According to the study, the prevalence of ESW is significant, with figures showing that a substantial subset of young people are affected by this issue. The study delves into the underlying causes of ESW, which include a range of factors such as aberrant brain processes, unfavorable temperament, psychiatric conditions, adverse family processes, societal pressures, and excessive internet and digital media use.

The study also highlights the associated concepts of loneliness and “aloneliness,” school absenteeism and dropout, the ‘new’ developmental stage of adultolescence, and the labor force categories of freeter (‘freelance arbeiter’) and NEET (a young person not in employment, education, or training). The paper provides a comprehensive developmental psychopathology framework to understand the origins of Extreme Social Withdrawal.

The authors of the study point out that the impact of ESW is far-reaching, as it not only affects the individuals suffering from it but also has societal implications. They call for immediate attention and action to address this growing problem. The study concludes with a discussion of possible interventions for young people with ESW, providing a guideline that describes the temporal order of various components that need to be included in such treatment.

In light of this study, it is clear that more needs to be done to understand and address the issue of ESW among young people. The authors urge for increased awareness and support for those affected by this phenomenon, as well as a concerted effort to address the underlying causes.

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