First-hand reports of prolonged social withdrawal: contributing factors, experiences, and change processes

Or Hareven, Tamar Kron, David Roe, Danny Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to gain deeper understanding of the experience of PSW and pathways to recover. Prolonged social withdrawal (PSW) among young people has been widely reported; however, the voice of those who withdraw is rarely heard. Illuminating these firsthand experiences is important as the phenomenon becomes widespread, calling for increased attention and creative solutions to promote recovery processes and re-inclusion in society. Design/methodology/approach: This study conducted nine in-depth semi-structured interviews with young people who have been reclusive for 2–19 years and inquired about their perspectives and experiences around times of PSW and beyond. These data were analyzed and categorized according to three main areas: factors contributing to PSW, subjective experiences and general functioning during PSW and processes involved in coming out of PSW. This study presents the main findings and illustrates them using a case of a young man in PSW for 19 years. Findings: The findings reveal that young people may turn to social withdrawal in response to varied personal and familial challenges, and often experience intense loneliness and psychic pain. Attempts to cope and recover from withdrawal involve inner motivation combined with support from significant others and a strong therapeutic alliance with professionals. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to report findings from in-depth interviews with people who spent very long periods in PSW, and accordingly it contributes to the growing body of knowledge on this phenomenon. Based on this unique firsthand perspective, the authors propose potential guidelines for caregivers and mental health professionals trying to help people in PSW to reintegrate into society.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMental Health and Social Inclusion
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Hikikomori
  • Isolation
  • Mental health
  • Prolonged social withdrawal
  • Qualitative research
  • Reclusion
  • Seclusion
  • Young people

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Health(social science)


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