American Hikikomori
July 29, 2019 12:21 PM   Subscribe

When ‘Going Outside Is Prison’: The World of American Hikikomori: "Luca lives with his parents outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, though he might as well live anywhere. That’s because the only times the 21-year-old leaves his room is to buy Camels, which he smokes in his garage. Mostly he spends his time in his room posting on Reddit, gaming, and watching anime. He sleeps all day, wakes up at six in the evening, and pops Benadryl around nine in the morning so he can go back to sleep. He’s been reliving the same exact day — almost every day — for close to a decade."
posted by bookman117 (133 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
“Instead of the world telling me to go to school and get a job, I quit school and decided to go on a personal rebellion,”

“I refuse to work for $8 at Taco Bell and be another’s lackey when I am my own god.”


I sympathize with anyone who struggles with mental health issues which make full engagement with society difficult or impossible, and lord knows the youth of today have the deck stacked against them, but language like this just reeks of entitlement and privilege regardless of his socioeconomic status.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:39 PM on July 29 [87 favorites]


8$ is not a living wage and fast food is hard, often dangerous work with no benefits or opportunity for advancement.
posted by The Whelk at 12:44 PM on July 29 [71 favorites]


this just reeks of entitlement and privilege regardless of his socioeconomic status.

I got this feeling too - they've got someone who's willing to put up with their shit and pay all the bills and buy all the food and keep the internet turned on; if I had that I'd probably never leave the house either.

(But, also as a parent, I can sympathize with recognizing your kid doesn't have anything going for them and needs help, but this isn't really helping the kid; the one guy who had a social worker was on the right track and needs the followthrough to go back to their worker rather than giving up after the first failure)
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:45 PM on July 29 [21 favorites]


Weird, I wonder how you get hooked on cigarettes if you start staying inside when you're 11. (Maybe cadging mom's smokes?)
posted by spacewrench at 12:46 PM on July 29 [5 favorites]


I don't agree with the person's reasoning/outlook, but it's not that hard to empathize with him... The god talk is because he feels disempowered, and that's internalized oppression doing the talking, not some immoral entitlement that sociologically came out of thin air to manifest in the neoliberal self.
posted by polymodus at 12:56 PM on July 29 [31 favorites]


8$ is not a living wage and fast food is hard, often dangerous work with no benefits or opportunity for advancement.

That's true, but it is also work that's realistically available to someone young and unskilled and who doesn't have to pay their own rent yet.

Most importantly, for kids like these, it's a good life experience so that one can get out of the house and interact with people. Also so that one learns how hard work is for a lot of people, doesn't mistreat low-wage workers later on, and never takes their cushy office jobs (or whatever future upgraded work situation) (or bed) for granted.
posted by witchen at 1:00 PM on July 29 [43 favorites]


Why is this presented as exclusive to young men? The article itself admits that his mother is also what they used to call a "shut-in", but what he's doing is supposed to be a new phenomenon with implied social repercussions and we must handwring about it. Is it because they have the capacity and familiarity with the Internet to create a counterculture?
posted by Selena777 at 1:01 PM on July 29 [33 favorites]


8$ is not a living wage and fast food is hard, often dangerous work with no benefits or opportunity for advancement.

All true, but like, this dude isn’t taking out a red card or joining the DSA either. I give a lot of passes to people feeling they need to check out of capitalism, but not ones that also refuse to fight it and just kind of plan to exist forever until they die or someone else gets a revolution for them.
posted by corb at 1:06 PM on July 29 [71 favorites]


“I refuse to work for $8 at Taco Bell and be another’s lackey when I am my own god.”

To me that sounds like someone who is unwell engaging in heavy self-justification.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:09 PM on July 29 [41 favorites]


If my brother or I had decided we were going to stay home and shut-in, our parents would have marched us down to the Navy recruitment office. Maybe not the best way to deal with my shut-in tendencies and anxiety but hey, it was the option available to families that couldn't support extra mouths to feed even on government assistance.
posted by muddgirl at 1:12 PM on July 29 [15 favorites]


So, Holden Caulfield minus the tour of Greater New York?
posted by ocschwar at 1:16 PM on July 29 [6 favorites]


language like this just reeks of entitlement and privilege regardless of his socioeconomic status.

Hikikomori have been a pretty well-reported-on topic in Asia for decades now, and we had a family friend whose son had a milder case of it.

But something that always jumps out at me is the way that many hikikomori as well as the reporting on them engage in devaluation of the work of mothers and the female-coded work of keeping a family home -- you'll notice that Luca is staying in a house bought by family money, buying his cigarettes with disability checks that his mother receives. So who pays the real estate tax bills, so the sheriff doesn't take the house? Who pays the electricity bill and for Internet? Who buys everything else necessary for him besides his cigarettes? She might be a shut-in, too, but I'll bet that in each of those cases, she is making sure those things happen, not just with her money, but her time and labor.

And more to the point: when Mr. H was living in a closet, who do you think was bringing him the only food he was willing to eat, and cleared away the old, filled-up bottles of urine and excrement for an entire year? If there were two parents in the home, which one do you think it was?

There really is not anyone very significant in my life.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:17 PM on July 29 [307 favorites]


This is all sounds like severely impactful mental illness. I've had such extreme anxiety before that I was effectively nonfunctional, and while I'm sure it must have looked shameful, there was more to it than "this dude is a mooch." It's worth examining how you support people who can't support themselves, but the key there is whether you see it as "can't" or "won't." I'm sure someone, somewhere really is just an asshole, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea that they all are.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:21 PM on July 29 [51 favorites]


From the linked article: For his part, Luca says he gave the world one last chance after meeting a girl on Twitter a few years back, though decided to never leave the house again after she broke his heart.

What jumps out at me is the entitlement - the idea that the world is only worth participating in if it gives you enough good experiences, the notion that specific individuals you like are obligated to heal you, the sense that rejection is unendurable. And yes, I do think entitlement in this sense is immoral and a risk to people around you.

This entitlement is sometimes a feature of mental illness, but not always, and it can appear in the absence of mental illness. It's sometimes related to privilege, but sometimes isn't, and this specific guy is living off his mom's disability checks - not terribly close to economic comfort or power.

Unfortunately, I don't think the abusive mindset can exist without this type of entitlement - if someone is certain they are owed attention and consider refusal a grave insult, they may not be a safe or okay person to befriend.

I'm glad that "girl on Twitter" got away. It is entirely possible to be incapable of supporting oneself without being an asshole about it, but my experience has been that some people choose to be tremendous assholes to the people who try to help them.
posted by bagel at 1:27 PM on July 29 [64 favorites]


What happens to these people when their parents die? The article touches on it a bit, about the concern when their parents retire, but when Mom's funeral is over and they've never held a job or developed any skills, won't they effectively be homeless? Unless other family take them in?

There's a weird underlying tension in these stories, where you can feel yourself being invited both to look down on these guys (they're lazy moochers) and pity them (they must be mentally ill) but nobody seems to really know what to make of any of it.

It definitely has to be a privilege marker, though, right? There are so many families where this would never even be an option because the resources wouldn't exist.
posted by emjaybee at 1:32 PM on July 29 [29 favorites]


What would they do if the internet and power was cut and no one fed them? Hunger is a powerful motivator for a great majority of living creatures.
posted by Gwynarra at 1:33 PM on July 29 [7 favorites]


I'd like to hear from the parents, mostly Moms, as far as I can tell, willing to support this.
posted by theora55 at 1:34 PM on July 29 [26 favorites]


The Card Cheat: I sympathize with anyone who struggles with mental health issues which make full engagement with society difficult or impossible, and lord knows the youth of today have the deck stacked against them, but language like this just reeks of entitlement and privilege regardless of his socioeconomic status.

You (and others in this thread, not to single you out) didn't quote an earlier statement from this young man:
He’d get so anxious in class that he’d forget how to swallow, so his mom let him take online classes instead. Eventually he dropped out of online high school, too.
Yes, there sounds like a good bit of entitlement here, but the way it's told, his condition stems from social anxiety. It also sounds like his social anxiety lead him to finding a supportive community online, which may have then fed into or fostered his entitlement.

But the base of this was/is still social anxiety. As someone with close family who face significant to severe anxiety, it can be utterly debilitating. Fortunately, my family member can still manage. And they've found medication that doesn't flatten emotions but still curbs the spikes of anxiety, so they're coping. Home is still the refuge, but the world is manageable.

I feel for people who have this level of social anxiety, and for those who care for them. Unfortunately for this individual, it sounds like there's more at play, which muddies the water of what it can mean to be an "American Hikikomori."
posted by filthy light thief at 1:36 PM on July 29 [26 favorites]


A thousand years ago, he could have gone off to live as a hermit in a cave on a cliff in Ireland, be fed by charity, and be regarded as saintly. But it's better with internet.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:40 PM on July 29 [14 favorites]


He’s desperate for companionship, but he says he would rather die homeless than end up serving hamburgers.

Setting aside the problem that fast food work isn't a living wage, I think this is more telling, since it shows such contempt for being poor/working class, along with the idea that somehow he's fighting The Man by being completely beholden to his his mom. I can't help but think of the racist anti-immigrant vitriol that's so often similar, where immigrants are "stealing" jobs... that other people absolutely refuse to do.
posted by TwoStride at 1:44 PM on July 29 [80 favorites]


But the base of this was/is still social anxiety. As someone with close family who face significant to severe anxiety, it can be utterly debilitating.

Yeah, I have severe and debilitating anxiety, and part of the reason I'm more sympathetic to these guys is because I can see a lot of myself in them -- I've never lived exactly like this or wanted to, but it's certainly been bad enough to have completely derailed my life for chunks of time (including periods of time that I unhappily called myself a shut-in). I know other people have dealt with anxiety as severe as mine if not worse, so I'm not trying to lay claim to the condition -- and yes, I know that lots of people have dealt with far worse without becoming such burdens on the people around them. I was going to write more, but jeez, when even "the sense that rejection is unendurable" is presented as this awful feeling of entitlement, it's time for me to walk away from this thread.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:45 PM on July 29 [47 favorites]


These sound like people with severe social anxiety disorder and very little incentive to get better. First prize, you work at Wendy's. It's hard for me to judge, but their lifestyles are not sustainable. I feel very sorry for their parents, who still have dependents beyond any reasonable expectation.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:51 PM on July 29 [24 favorites]


Here’s the thing. I’m autistic. I have an anxiety disorder. For a couple of years when I was younger I went full agoraphobia and didn’t leave the house. And I have next to no sympathy for these guys. I was forced by my parents and society to get out and get over it, and I largely have. It. Sucked. But the upshot is that I’m psychologically healthy. The problem is entitlement and it is also the fact that they’re being coddled. And because they’re men they’re being allowed to get away with it. I feel very sorry for their moms, because they’re the true victims here. If only they had the nerve to force some real consequences on their sons they might get their lives back, and help their children.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:51 PM on July 29 [87 favorites]


I can't help but feel that gender is a big aspect here. I've definitely observed in my own family that boys and young men get far more support when they refuse to work and are allowed to express far more anger/resentment at family than young women are, and that jobs that are "not good enough" for young men - can't expect them to work for $8 an hour! - are good enough for young women. Obviously this is a multi-factor thing, but I think that one of the factors is still the idea that boys and men are more valuable than women and girls.

I think anger and fear of male anger are big unspoken pieces here. Without going into any details, I'll say that I've observed parents, especially mothers, to put up with work-refusal/help-refusal/rudeness/cruelty from male children because they are afraid of the violence of their sons' rage, where when the parents suggest counseling, part time work, volunteering, getting off the computer, etc, the result is invariably explosive, frightening rage that disrupts the rest of the household. Much easier to let a child stay in their room quietly than deal with the shouting, throwing things, etc.

This isn't the same as individual blame - I assume that no one enjoys this process, not even the child who "benefits" from it. But there's still a lot of structural stuff around male rage and the value of male children that undergirds it.
posted by Frowner at 2:03 PM on July 29 [181 favorites]


It definitely has to be a privilege marker, though, right? There are so many families where this would never even be an option because the resources wouldn't exist.

In journal articles I've seen about hikikomori and their parallels in other Asian countries, hikikomori are more common in families with middle or high socioeconomic status. You'll also note the line in there about high comorbidity with mental health issues, at least among those who seek help.

On the question of what happens to mom's body -- this incident got a lot of coverage when it happened. So attending mom's funeral may not be an issue.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:04 PM on July 29 [5 favorites]


] I can't help but feel that gender is a big aspect here.

This.

I’ve had crippling agoraphobia, but because as a woman I have never been told it’s other people’s obligation to take care of me, and instead is my job to take care of others, I got my ass to therapy and started the hard work of getting back to the world.

Many of these men - and it is almost always men - refuse therapy, because why wouldn’t they? They’re not having to be responsible for anyone! And as Frowner says, people think they’re too precious and valuable to suffer the way non men do!
posted by corb at 2:09 PM on July 29 [77 favorites]


This topic always gets a lot of comments equivalent to a mental health version of "they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps", which is weird considering how the economic/class version of the same comment would be seen, correctly, as awful.
posted by Memo at 2:11 PM on July 29 [49 favorites]


I think anger and fear of male anger are big unspoken pieces here.

Bingo. I was thinking about this just when you posted your comment. It doesn't matter if the man in question has never raised his voice or a finger in anger; there's still an implicit threat to the mother's life simply by his existence as a white American male with access to the internet. That's why we can't put too much blame on the mother: as long as she caters to his every whim, he will never leave his room and buy a gun.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:11 PM on July 29 [35 favorites]


“Carnegie Mellon University professor Simon DeDeo did some back-of-the-napkin math using U.S. census data to put the number of incels (the self-chosen name for “involuntary celibates,” young misogynists who gather online to commiserate at their lack of romantic or sexual attachment) at an estimated 700,000.”

That number caught my eye, so I read the article linked to. And wow, no, that is not at all what professor DeDeo wrote.

He estimated* that there were 700,000 unmarried American men over the age of 25, who reported being unopposed to sex before marriage, and who selected “I have not had any sex partners” in response to a survey question about the gender of any sex partners they have had since they turned 18. He did not say that all 700k of them are young misogynist incels who hang out together on the internet.

I find myself not trusting this journalist much if that’s what they took away from DeDeo’s writings.

* using the General Social Survey and U.S. Census data
posted by Secret Sparrow at 2:17 PM on July 29 [53 favorites]


from the article: "“I refuse to work for $8 at Taco Bell and be another’s lackey when I am my own god.”

Yes, he is profoundly unself-aware - or maybe deluded. The only way that anyone can stay inside their room for years at a time is if they have someone else taking care of them constantly: not just paying bills, but also doing all of the reproductive labour (shopping, preparing food, cleaning, etc.) for them. All hikikomori have families who take care of them - probably at great personal costs to themselves.

My brother was "not in education, employment, or training" at 18-19, sleeping all day and up all night (he did leave the house sometimes - but probably wouldn't have if we'd had internet). Eventually, my mother set an ultimatum, hoping that would push him into doing something (anything). I don't know if he thought she was bluffing, but she wasn't: she made him leave, and he spent a couple of years on the streets. She feels torn about this, but if she hadn't, I can imagine he would have turned into a pre-internet era hikikomori. He's been close to it off-and-on in the 25 years since, but at least he's forced to do his own self-care and house-care; he's on benefits (which I totally support - he really isn't mentally well), but no one is forced to do all the care for him.
posted by jb at 2:32 PM on July 29 [25 favorites]


I've also had serious mental illness, but no one in my family were willing to enable me to isolate myself (which I probably would have done otherwise). In fact, they insisted on me getting out and getting a job - not for money, but for the mental health benefits. And they basically frog-marched me to therapy.

I have sympathy for the illness, but even the ill have the responsibility to seek and cooperate with treatment. Or their families end up paying the worst price.
posted by jb at 2:37 PM on July 29 [30 favorites]


If he needs therapy, he should be out getting therapy instead of lying in bed all day. If he doesn't need therapy, McDonald's vs wanking to anime is a false dichotomy. His mother doesn't need his help around the house? Or -- shudder -- that McDonald's paycheck?

But he's found a cool label that excuses him from everything forever:
“Instead of the world telling me to go to school and get a job, I quit school and decided to go on a personal rebellion,” he told me. “I learned of the term hikikomori and realized that was me and that was what I am.”
posted by pracowity at 2:47 PM on July 29 [17 favorites]


Doesn't have a job, spends all his timein his room playing video games, online or watching anime? Ten bucks says he's a GamerGater and/8Chaner, who spends his time online harassing women. Seriously, I think looking at his browser history would be illuminating.

These portrayals are always sympathetic, but they leave out the people who get harmed by them. Not only their immediate family, but the people that have to deal with their rage online.
posted by happyroach at 2:58 PM on July 29 [28 favorites]


As an extremely online cishet male who has suffered debilitating agoraphobia and ended up employed, married, a good parent, and a DSA member, I'm gonna suggest folks go easy on the assumptions of awfulness among extremely online young men who are afraid to go outside. Don't judge what you don't know.
posted by Lyme Drop at 3:08 PM on July 29 [42 favorites]


I can't even parse "I am my own god." What the hell is he saying? I could see "I am my own master," since he's comparing it to "lackey," but is there some bigger, weirder, delusion here?
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:08 PM on July 29 [7 favorites]


I feel like a lot of the discussion is around "what is wrong with people that they can live like this," but my response is more, "how can someone love the internet so much they don't just get bored out of their minds by this lifestyle?" I mean, I've had dark winter days where I hole up for a day and play Civ 6 while listening to history podcasts (don't judge), but really after just one day of that, I've pretty much exhausted the meagre joys afforded by my computer.
posted by panama joe at 3:11 PM on July 29 [13 favorites]


A definition of enabling is doing for someone else what they could do for themselves. In this case, the parents could stop providing internet service for him.
posted by larrybob at 3:15 PM on July 29 [6 favorites]


The assumption that poorer people don't have their mental health issues somehow "coddled" like this dude, and so this is an issue of privilege just seems squicky, weird, and counterfactual. It's true that it is a factor of privilege if you still get to live in a nice home and so on, but plenty of less privileged people are unable to cope with their mental health issues. They tend to end up homeless or similar. We have a huge problem with this here in LA county, and its getting worse.

But the privilege rests with the "still having a decent place to reside" part, not the "not working through his mental issues and walking it off" part. Lots of people from all backgrounds are troubled by mental health issues and unable to cope effectively. As others have said, there's an awful lot of saying-to-people-with-depression "have you tried not being sad?" kinda stuff going on here.

Admittedly this dude is not making it easy with the weird squicky "rebellion" and god-talkin stuff. No, dude, you're not rebelling. You're not sticking it to the system. You have untreated mental illness. Or ineffectively treated anyway.

Really. I've struggled with something like this to a much lesser degree. I wasn't striking a blow for the proletariat, I was fuckin anxietyd to the gills. That's it.
posted by Justinian at 3:17 PM on July 29 [40 favorites]


For a couple of years when I was younger I went full agoraphobia and didn’t leave the house. And I have next to no sympathy for these guys. I was forced by my parents and society to get out and get over it, and I largely have.

If your parents and society hadn't done it, you'd be in the same place, no? So maybe it's worth being more sympathetic? You should also be proud of yourself, of course, but mental illness is an illness. Even mentally healthy people don't do well without community support.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:25 PM on July 29 [16 favorites]


This topic always gets a lot of comments equivalent to a mental health version of "they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps", which is weird considering how the economic/class version of the same comment would be seen, correctly, as awful.

Absolutely. There aren't a lot of words that make me more immediately unsympathetic to an argument than "coddled," to be honest. I do think that the perspective of the family is missing from this article, because the specifics of that relationship makes all the difference in how these people ought to be perceived. But, still, a lot of folks here are jumping to the conclusion that these are 8chan guys because they like anime and while there are plenty of those I suspect the population of young shut-ins is somewhat more diverse than that.
posted by atoxyl at 3:27 PM on July 29 [15 favorites]


The issue is with the community, not the individuals. Of course someone with anxiety and depression who can't leave the house deserves sympathy (and perhaps tough love, but not condemnation). Someone who desperately wants to have sexual relationships but lacks the requisite social skills also deserves sympathy.

These communities are more like pro-ana, or suicide, incel, or crypto-disease groups. They are harmful to their members and self-reinforcing.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:38 PM on July 29 [24 favorites]


A thousand years ago, he could have gone off to live as a hermit in a cave on a cliff in Ireland, be fed by charity, and be regarded as saintly. But it's better with internet.

Either way, they're in cells
posted by Morpeth at 4:03 PM on July 29 [25 favorites]


The majority of the comments calling these people entitled moochers are equally applicable to all NEETs, not just hikikomori. That is, plenty of people sponge off their parents for as long as they can get away with it. What makes hikikomori different is they have succumbed to anxiety or other mental illness and have withdrawn from the world. I think maybe it would be more productive to focus on that aspect of their behavior and not on the issue they share with all other NEETs that someone else is paying their bills.

One thing I don't see discussed either here or in the article (or much in any articles on this subject) is the mental health of the parents or other enabling parties. I can't help but wonder, if you are caring for a deeply withdrawn hikikomori such as the one in the article who pees and shits in bottles, what is that saying about your own mental health? You can't leave the person alone for a significant period of time, therefore no family vacations. The house probably has an embarrassing pissy smell, so maybe no having guests over. No normal social life with friends because your misfit adult child is wearing you out with demands. These issues affect anyone who is caring for a bedridden invalid, but I wonder if there is in some few cases of hikikomori perhaps an unstated mutual parasitism. The son agrees to give up the best years of his life so the mother can achieve a kind of self-ordained sainthood. The mother agrees to give up her own freedom and autonomy so that the child can maintain his self-imposed prison.

I also wonder how often there are multiple hikikomori in one household. With no way of knowing, I imagine it's exceedingly rare. I do know families where a couple of the sons just never bothered to get long-term jobs and sponged off their parents their entire lives. But they were otherwise socially active, sometimes having kids of their own.
posted by xigxag at 4:10 PM on July 29 [16 favorites]


from the article: "“I refuse to work for $8 at Taco Bell and be another’s lackey when I am my own god.”

Yes, he is profoundly unself-aware - or maybe deluded. The only way that anyone can stay inside their room for years at a time is if they have someone else taking care of them constantly: not just paying bills, but also doing all of the reproductive labour (shopping, preparing food, cleaning, etc.) for them. All hikikomori have families who take care of them - probably at great personal costs to themselves.


Sadly, they are gods with one frightened follower - mom.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:31 PM on July 29 [15 favorites]


'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.'
(JRR Tolkien)

posted by philip-random at 5:01 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


So what’s the opposite of this? Because I think I have that.
posted by Young Kullervo at 5:08 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Not really loving the mom-blaming here. The fact is, dealing with anxiety in a child is very difficult, and the correct approaches are not self-evident (particularly if you have anxiety yourself). There are great evidence-based therapies, but they cost $250 an hour ... if you are lucky enough to be in a major city where you might even have access to those therapies.
posted by schwinggg! at 5:16 PM on July 29 [34 favorites]


This topic always gets a lot of comments equivalent to a mental health version of "they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps", which is weird considering how the economic/class version of the same comment would be seen, correctly, as awful.

Shut-ins are famously unpopular targets — see Grey Gardens for one example of how we can use art to ostracize. I think it comes down to tribal instinct, where for most people, being social is absolutely everything, and those who aren't, those who are outside that circle, by choice, by opportunity, or by economics or even anxiety-driven compulsions, deserve as much derision as can be heaped upon them by the tribe. Empathy is meted out "if, and only if they deserve it". If you're not in the group of people who "deserve" empathy, then you'll often find yourself on the outside: out of the tribe, and out of luck. This phenomenon will be found in most any tribe, this one included, with varying targets for opprobrium depending on situational factors, not just for being a shut-in.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:22 PM on July 29 [22 favorites]


It's so frustrating that this article lacks any interviews with the, presumably, moms. We could speculate all day long, but surely whoever wrote the article could've had a couple more chats while they were visiting and included that in the write-up? No one can live this way without (heavy) support, so let's hear from the support.
posted by bring a tuba to a knife fight at 5:24 PM on July 29 [33 favorites]


That's true, but it is also work that's realistically available to someone young and unskilled and who doesn't have to pay their own rent yet.


It's skilled work. It takes a lot to keep those places running. It's not like "intellectually skilled" work I guess, but that's also a matter of perspective (I know friends that work with developmentally disabled adults who would find this type of job very demanding.) These are also physically demanding jobs no matter what your age, and often employ a great deal of emotional intelligence. Dealing with the HANGRY GENERAL POPULATION who just want HOT CHEAP FOOD FAST NOW NOW NOW is truly awful.

Also, it's this type of thinking that enables power structures to exploit anyone who needs a job because poor / confused / abused / young / old / untrained etc...
When wouldn't it be great if he had a job where he could save up for his own place or, god forbid, morbidly overpriced college? Or any kind of technical training, really.
posted by erattacorrige at 5:30 PM on July 29 [16 favorites]


This writer is very excited about an exotic Japanese term when there are various flavours of "boring" anxiety disorder as understood by Western medicine traditions that could describe this kind of experience (I'm not this person's doctor and I won't diagnose them).

This young man's life could have been very different if he received proper assessment and management at age 11. It makes me sad.
posted by chiquitita at 5:31 PM on July 29 [19 favorites]


It's also making me feel really bummed out, as a person who has floated between homelessness and housing for years, to treat housing as if it's a privilege. A privilege. This guy doesn't have to do anything to deserve a roof over his head, he's a human being and everyone deserves a roof over their head, whether or not they're working some shitty low wage job or any other kind of job/nonjob combo. I think that people's personal distaste for his lifestyle (if it can be called that) is putting on blinders to this.
posted by erattacorrige at 5:43 PM on July 29 [54 favorites]


8$ is not a living wage and fast food is hard, often dangerous work with no benefits or opportunity for advancement.

The entire director level of McDonalds is immigrants, because people who grow up in other countries don't hear "what are you going to do with the rest of your life?? FLIP BURGERS???" from birth onwards.
posted by sideshow at 5:55 PM on July 29 [9 favorites]


This guy seems very sick and this thread is very gross.

Overcoming severe mental illness is not a matter of how much willpower you can muster.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:59 PM on July 29 [41 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Folks can talk about what the profile covers and omits, and can talk about how families/society create or enable or deal with this stuff, or the effect on mothers/families/etc, and at the same time be compassionate and recognize serious mental illness is no easy thing. This is a big complicated topic and we can discuss it without reducing to an either/or blame-must-be-assigned thing.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:10 PM on July 29 [9 favorites]


... one learns how hard work is for a lot of people, doesn't mistreat low-wage workers later on, and never takes their cushy office jobs (or whatever future upgraded work situation) (or bed) for granted.

The idea that one pays one’s dues in underpaid, difficult work and then moves on to something better and “cushier” seems to be, increasingly, a relic (or fantasy?) of a pre-neoliberal economy. Rejecting the “take this abuse so that you eventually get something tolerable” narrative makes more sense when you see that you’re kept from reaching the carrot and will only ever get the stick...
posted by Edna Million at 6:25 PM on July 29 [28 favorites]


This young man's life could have been very different if he received proper assessment and management at age 11. It makes me sad.

Gosh if only there was some kind of health care system in this country that didn’t result in a debt sentence or had social workers that could afford to spend more than one hour a month on a client
posted by The Whelk at 6:33 PM on July 29 [49 favorites]


Wow, I was going to say something more articulate but I just don't have the energy anymore. I guarantee some of the people reacting to this article, not just here, also would say in other situations that mental illness isn't a matter of willpower or bootstraps or coddling. Nobody wants to be so sick they can't care for themselves, calling mentally ill people a burden is awful especially if you wouldn't do it for another kind of illness, engaging with the United States mental healthcare system is hard for someone who is mostly well, tough love is proven to make people worse. I'm really disappointed in this thread. I wouldn't be best friends with these guys either probably but illness is illness and compassion isn't something you give just to people who are mentally ill in a way you like.
posted by colorblock sock at 6:49 PM on July 29 [37 favorites]


Maybe these kids can be suffering from legitimate psychological problems, and engaged in entitled/privileged/problematic behaviors, at the same time. I don't really understand the impulse to categorize them cleanly as either victim or vicitimizer.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:50 PM on July 29 [64 favorites]


I have family members who suffer from crippling anxiety and problems with executive functions, who burden my household rather a lot. Meanwhile I have health problems of my own to deal with, and the regular explosions and tantrums actively make me worse.

I often look at my difficult family members and wonder what on earth happens to people with similar issues, whose families cannot sustain them, either because they are too poor, or have died, or because they have just plain gotten used up.

People have to put on their own oxygen mask first, but the form that takes is often that we have to be unsympathetic and just tell the panicking person "No." And I can tell you they can ramp up the demanding behaviors, a lot higher than I can withstand.

I am afraid of what will happen when I can't give them what they demand. And that day is coming, because I am not superman.
posted by elizilla at 6:53 PM on July 29 [46 favorites]


I used to be this person! Complete anxious mess of a shut-in with weird contempt problems! I'm doing a lot better now but not great, but it took me eight years to muster up the desperation to go to therapy, which was today! (It was so much easier than I convinced myself it would be, and I'm very hopeful!) I was coasting off of my parents' and a partner's support to everyone's frustration but not being told to do anything about it, and everything felt So Much that it'd be insurmountable to do anything about, so I did nothing. I...cannot overstate how oppressively powerful the inertia is for me and other people I talk to, even if I can't explain why it happens this way. I do wish they had people in their lives that engaged them instead of enabling them. I definitely remember feeling so much relief hearing about hikikomoris that at least I wasn't uniquely awful.

I still go on a forum for my particular issue that led to this that had to ban incel-type talk because it attracted so many men with that attitude. Sometimes they still pop up and I don't know what to do with them. Be compassionately nice, because no one else is being nice to them in their life? Tell them to knock it off with the entitled bullshit and stop pinning their whole life purpose on the closest girl they can't talk to? What would they actually listen to? I didn't listen to nice or harsh people when I was at my worst.

Also, yeah, it feels like a capitalism disease. I felt and still struggle with feeling like I can't make it out in the world like a normal person because of disability and neurodiversity, and I literally don't know what options there are between supporting yourself, being lucky enough to be supported, putting in tons of effort for the possibility of shitty disability benefits, or ... I guess be homeless? Shit sucks and I appreciate the people in this thread who can relate or have some sympathy.
posted by gaybobbie at 6:59 PM on July 29 [70 favorites]


This dude definitely plays into the stereotypes of incel gamergator whatevers that bedevil the modern web, but debilitating, life-destroying anxiety can happen to anyone. One of the most haunting news features I've ever read recounted how one such episode derailed and eventually killed a driven, successful woman in Florida, with passages that could almost be substituted here with the names changed:
In a 1995 letter to a friend, she said: "When I hurt most I hibernate until I can believe there is reason to go outside again."

[...]

"I have learned I attach myself to one person," she said, "and they become my safety person."
And if there's no safety person? "I stay within my home."

[...]

Neighbors talked. They decided she had been arrested for using the Internet to steal people's identities. It wasn't true, but she was on the Internet, leaving wee-hours posts on genealogy forums like Cousin Connect and Ancestry.com.

At the time, she was around 50 years old, and totally disabled. Her mental illness and now also a thyroid condition and a circulatory disease left her aching and fatigued, with dry skin, a dull mind and a slow heart. She was not who she was. The Internet didn't have to know.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:05 PM on July 29 [23 favorites]


I give a lot of passes to people feeling they need to check out of capitalism, but not ones that also refuse to fight it and just kind of plan to exist forever until they die or someone else gets a revolution for them.

I dunno. Bartleby preferring not to shuttered that one den of Capitalist machinery.
posted by notyou at 7:20 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


I obviously can't peer into the hearts of any of these people, but there's a strong note of "Oh YEAH? Well, I never even wanted this shitty thing I'm convinced I'm too worthless to have anyway, SO THERE!" that's coming through to me from some of the Taco Bell quotes. If you never even try, you don't run the risk of failing at even a "menial" job for teenagers or the "most basic" level of getting along with other people.
posted by threementholsandafuneral at 7:25 PM on July 29 [11 favorites]


I think it comes down to tribal instinct, where for most people, being social is absolutely everything, and those who aren't, those who are outside that circle, by choice, by opportunity, or by economics or even anxiety-driven compulsions, deserve as much derision as can be heaped upon them by the tribe.

I'm not seeing any of that in this thread. If he was a self-supporting shut-in with a job at home or accomplishments then we wouldn't be reading articles like this about him.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 7:26 PM on July 29 [8 favorites]


I think it comes down to tribal instinct, where for most people, being social is absolutely everything

But imagine these guys were going off into the woods to live alone in a self-sufficient manner. Would they still be attracting the same level of scorn? [on preview, Pruitt-Igor beat me to it] I don’t think most people have a problem with hermits, or even per se with those that choose not to contribute to society. What rubs people the wrong way is the idea that someone is benefiting without contributing, by choice rather than necessity. That’s the open question—to what degree is this mental illness vs. a lifestyle choice? My sense is that there would be much less disagreement on this point if the article concerned literally any other demographic.

Maybe these kids can be suffering from legitimate psychological problems, and engaged in entitled/privileged/problematic behaviors, at the same time.

Seconding this. There’s often a complicated interplay between mental illness, personality, and personal choice, such that the dividing lines are not always clear. You can be someone in serious pain and also kind of an asshole. Or you can be someone whose minor personality issues are magnified by being in pain. You can be someone who suffers from crippling anxiety but refuses to deal with it, or someone who’s developed counterproductive coping methods that actually make it worse. In some cases pushing someone to take responsibility for their own care can give them the nudge they need to get better. In other cases that nudge can be like pushing over a cardboard house. There aren’t simple answers to this stuff.
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:34 PM on July 29 [39 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Folks can talk about what the profile covers and omits, and can talk about how families/society create or enable or deal with this stuff, or the effect on mothers/families/etc, and at the same time be compassionate and recognize serious mental illness is no easy thing. This is a big complicated topic and we can discuss it without reducing to an either/or blame-must-be-assigned thing.]

The one comment you deleted was mine. It was two words long, and indeed delete-worthy in its terseness, but I have my reasons, which aren’t really any of your business, but hey, what the hell. Can I talk about myself? Is that allowed? Here, let me explain why this matters to me:

I, personally, myself, happen live with schizoid personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, major depression, and all the other fancy made-up euphemisms for “unemployed shut-in 30-something loser who lives in his parents’ basement.” (And I literally do!) I have lived like the people in this article for over a decade, albeit with considerably less anime and fewer jars of shit. I know what it’s like to be treated like a household pet that simply needs to be fed periodically, rather than a human being in need of more than that. I know what it’s like to feel, myself, like that’s all I need. It is not the great vacation many people in this thread would like to think it is.

Free comfort is a hell of a drug. Are you familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Yeah, well, the thing about those needs is that, when you hit a point in your life when the only needs that are being fulfilled are [1. Physiological] and [2. Safety], and even those through absolutely no effort on your part, it can become very easy to write off [3. Love/belonging], [4. Esteem], and [5. Self-actualization] as a bunch of bullshit for saps. You become completely institutionalized in your own (parents’) home, become unable to function as a human being in any other context, and don’t see any reason why you should bother anyway. And, more to the point, it can become very, very, very difficult indeed to shake that. Friends, shmends. Job, shmob. Outside, shmoutside. I push my button, I get my pellet; needs fulfilled, and all is well inside my little box. But every once in awhile I realize where I am. Sometimes I remember there isn’t even a lid on this box. But where the hell am I gonna go? What am I going to do?

Your condescending lecturing, LobsterMitten, while appreciated, is of no great help to people like me. If you want to encourage compassion, maybe try deleting the comments that call us entitled for having the audacity to have absolutely fuck all but a hot and a cot, and which cast our codependent emotional abusers as emotional labourers whose tireless efforts to keep us utterly dependent on them go woefully unrewarded. That is fucked up. You know those unbelievably fat guys on TV who are the size of a king size bed? Sure, it’s their fault for eating so goddamned much, but did you ever wonder how they got that way, despite being physically unable to leave the room to access all that food in the first place? Yeah ... it’s not because of love and caring that they get fed. It’s someone with a pathological need to be needed “helping” someone who stopped needing their help a long-ass time ago and now need help getting the help to stop helping. This is that, with sensible portions. My apologies for lacking compassion. Or even gratitude.

I moved in with my parents when I was between things, and, due in no small part to a lifelong tendency to cloister, got stuck in a rut that became a canyon. And, wouldn’t you know it, I’m completely, 100% self-aware about how shit I am for my own inaction every second of every day. But, seriously, people, don’t confuse your own perverse envy of my mental illness with me feeling entitled. Absolutely everyone is “entitled” to something that is simply given to them, unrequested, free of charge, over and over and over, until they lose all sembalnce of their own humanity. Anyone wanna trade?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:11 PM on July 29 [76 favorites]


mental illness is an illness. Even mentally healthy people don't do well without community support.

If we were over on AskMe talking about or to a partner who had significant mental health issues that were seriously negatively affecting their partner's life (but was not actively psychotic, i.e., still capable of engaging with reality), I think the consensus would be that mental illness is not your fault, that the struggle is real...and that you still owe it to your partner to pursue treatment that will help you find ways to live that don't hurt them, because you are still a human being with agency who is responsible for your actions. Doesn't the same apply here?

There’s often a complicated interplay between mental illness, personality, and personal choice, such that the dividing lines are not always clear. You can be someone in serious pain and also kind of an asshole. Or you can be someone whose minor personality issues are magnified by being in pain.

+1 to this. If we look at many, many abusers, we will find mental illness and past trauma. Rarely can you cleave the world neatly into victimizer and victimized. But that doesn't mean you don't have a responsibility to keep clear of the former category.
posted by praemunire at 8:15 PM on July 29 [20 favorites]


If you never even try, you don't run the risk of failing at even a "menial" job for teenagers

The Majority Of Fast Food Workers Are Not Teenagers, Report Finds

If we’re going to keep bringing up the food service industry it is important we know the facts of the workforce.
posted by The Whelk at 8:24 PM on July 29 [44 favorites]


I found myself changing my view multiple times while reading the article and the comments. I think one of the issues is that the best treatment for social anxiety is desensitization, a process of forcing the individual to progressively confront the social situations that cause their anxiety. This can be, as one comment pointed out, an expensive and time-consuming project. There really is a pulling-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps element to overcoming anxiety. Also, the family dependency issue is a real one. Someone, probably a female someone, is enabling the behavior, probably at the expense of their own mental health, and possibly as an alternative to greater discord in the home.

What happens to those who suffer from these issues who don't have someone who can support them? They end up unhoused, unable to put together the means to stay in the housing offered them, unable to reach out for the medical and social assistance they need, and often unable to connect with other unhoused persons who can offer (relative) safety in numbers with collective street camps, etc. It's not a problem that solves itself.
posted by drossdragon at 8:27 PM on July 29 [14 favorites]


Working at McDonald's is hard work. On your feet for hours and hours trying to perform tasks all slightly different from each other at top speed. And if it slows down, they send you home--you don't get paid! I once passed out next to the fryers--if I had fallen one way instead of the other, my life would've been significantly different from then on. So my reaction doesn't come from "what, you think you're too good for fast food?" place.
posted by praemunire at 8:28 PM on July 29 [13 favorites]


I have three kids but my oldest is almost eleven, so this is not something I’d given a lot of thought before reading this article. Now I find myself wondering how I would handle a situation like this. I like to think I’m pretty reasonable and firm with raising my kids, but honestly I’m not at all certain I would be able do any better than these folks.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:57 PM on July 29 [6 favorites]


....to what degree is this mental illness vs. a lifestyle choice?....
.....There’s often a complicated interplay between mental illness, personality, and personal choice....
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:34 PM on July 29,


It's an arbitrary cut off between illness and choice, in the eyes of the judge-er. US-centric psychiatry has its own terms, and when you take out the personally-experienced distress-of-having-the-condition from social anxiety disorder, the remainder could be called avoidant personality disorder (or schizoid, dependent, and others). Luca calling himself Hikikomori almost seems to be the step beyond that, where there is identity, a sense of self, in the label. But it's all a (very messy) spectrum.

If we were over on AskMe talking about or to a partner who had significant mental health issues that were seriously negatively affecting their partner's life (but was not actively psychotic, i.e., still capable of engaging with reality), I think the consensus would be that mental illness is not your fault....
posted by praemunire at 8:15 PM on July 29


Getting to this sort of situation usually happens gradually, I think. Imagine Luca as a horribly anxious boy, in immense emotional pain attempting to meet the expectations in front of him. And his mom wants to help. And so on. If we call it one thing, there is no fault. If we call it another thing, is there? What good comes from assigning blame or fault here? Moving from Hikikomori to conventional social engagement is a monumental endeavour, and it requires the individual to experience anxiety/distress, perhaps similar to what several commenters have described, usually by repeated choice. It is hard. I imagine parenting someone through this would be, at best, no less difficult than transitioning from Hikikomori oneself.
posted by sillyman at 9:15 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


And because they’re men they’re being allowed to get away with it

more like because they're men, they get splashy articles in what passes for big important magazines these days. girls and women in this situation are ignored by reporters, which I think is at least partly due to more of them having the basic sense god gave a raccoon and therefore, in spite of all their problems, knowing better than to unburden themselves into the quivering ear of a media person. young men seem to lack this basic sense and insofar as that is a real gender difference I join in the general condemnation.

however, I would like to think that everyone can decide not to be uncritically complicit in this determined media ignorance of unsexily fucked up women. just because magazines and websites don't find female misery and female shut-in subcultures to be of equal interest [*]- or, as I prefer to hope and believe, find them interesting but don't find them such easy marks for willing semi-anonymized public humiliation -- doesn't mean they don't exist.

by the grace of grad school I was never like this. but I know of girls who were.
also, the boys I knew who were like this had psychiatric problems that went FAR beyond severe anxiety.

[*] I see that this writer is female and I don't think it matters. or rather it matters in a complex but ultimately irrelevant way.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:23 PM on July 29 [19 favorites]


No one can live this way without (heavy) support, so let's hear from the support.

The hypothesis that a couple people threw around in this thread that mother and son mutually uh don't have a lot else going on certainly tracks with what I've seen of some of these types of situations, though I am sure there are also cases that are very unlike that.
posted by atoxyl at 9:26 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]



It's so frustrating that this article lacks any interviews with the, presumably, moms.


I can't imagine many of them being both able and willing to give those interviews. there's a lot of talk about imagined fear and trembling vis-a-vis their alleged monstrous sons but little thought given to fear for them. as opposed to fear of them, which doesn't enter into it for a lot of people, even if it should. especially if they aren't privy to the content of their son's internet ramblings, which why would they be, plenty of basement sons can compartmentalize just fine.

you underestimate the alternating dull depression and absolute terror of what could or would happen to their kids if they tried some tough-love gambit and it failed. the thing is nobody can assure them that it'll be ok, if you throw them out of the airplane the parachute will open halfway down. the truth is sometimes it will and sometimes it won't. one person's exposure therapy is another person's retraumatization.

a lot of the interviews so many of you long for would be a whole lot of sick sobbing and repetition of I don't know what to do, I don't know what's wrong with him, I don't know what I did wrong, or when it went wrong. because they don't know what to do, and they know it must be their fault, so now they're responsible, forever.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:40 PM on July 29 [36 favorites]


It's easy enough to find me, and I don't want to expose the relative that I helped through their hikikomori, so I am going to be very vague with details. I want to say very firmly: this is incredibly hard to deal with when it is happening to someone you love. Also, there's an element of "frog in the pot" to the situation. It's easy to tell yourself that "they are just going through a rough patch" or "puberty is harder on some than others, give them time to get used to their adult selves." But then through this time, their habits and sense of deep worthlessness will combine to make even the smallest interaction with other people a huge ordeal.

We helped by letting them live with us for free, which might sound like a terrible idea given the problem at hand. However, the key difference is that they weren't living with their parents AND they were living with weirdo nerds who didn't judge them and introduced them to the world gently. They had no ability to pay for anything, for they had no money nor means of making it. They were barely literate due to being pulled out of elementary school and insufficiently home-schooled (mostly due to poverty rather than maliciousness, though there is certainly some blame to go around on the neglect front - still, poverty SUCKS).

So, they came to live with us. And over the course of several years, we helped them get their GED. Coached them through opening a bank account, learning to drive, and getting a job. Even after 3+ years now, they are still a menial near-minimum-wage worker, but for the first time in their whole entire life, they feel a sense that they might have the ability to do something about it. Probably not school (still too terrifying), but they have met other menial workers (both older and younger), and seen how mind-bogglingly incompetent a "fully functioning" person can be. They had a sense in their head that they were totally worthless, but after some time spent in the workforce, now know that they are capable of competency.

One of the harder mental hurdles to get over for the hikikomori is that they have created an imaginary citizen in their head that they assume all other people must be, and they are not that. But since you stay in, and you don't talk to people, you never know how false your notion of what other people are (and what they can do, or who they are and what they want) is. That's just a small part of the pathology, but it's a mental echo chamber that is very difficult to escape.

This situation is far deeper and more complicated than just being coddled or entitled. And I was very annoyed with the conflation of this kind of crippling anxiety and the incel/4chan subgenre of internet bigot. In my case, this person was incredibly kind, considerate, and had totally opposite sensibilities. When they would bump into that culture, it would make them even more terrified of the world and other people in it. For them, they weren't a god, they were untouchable, and would always be inferior.

Tough love in their case (just kicking them out to make their way in the world by their own bootstraps) would have resulted in suicide or at the very least, wretched homelessness. I suppose it's possible that it might have worked out, but I only have an N of 1, and in this case, care worked.

I know that this person is totally capable of being a quirky genius. They still don't believe me when I tell them that. Though, I think they might be coming around. Very slowly.

So, in this case, they were lucky enough to have a relative who didn't think of them as a worthless piece of shit entitled, coddled, freeloading, millennial (as they thought of themselves) AND with the ability, patience, and resources to help. They were, at the end of the day, just lucky. Oh, not to mention that the state of their origin had ZERO services for them, and my state had very generous GED programs. Lucky. That luck is required for this to work out is just total horseshit.

You guys here already know all of this. You know mental health is no joke. But, ffs, let's be kind. There is too much cruelty in the world. Our default reaction to suffering should be kindness. Full stop. My heart goes out to anyone who is in their circumstances.
posted by pol at 9:43 PM on July 29 [140 favorites]


mother and son mutually uh don't have a lot else going on

"have you ever seen Grey Gardens" is how I put it to a therapist re: my two closest relatives, hoping to avoid a very long explanation. alas he had not.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:44 PM on July 29 [6 favorites]


Nothing brings out the worst in the Metafilter commentariat as an opportunity to hate on mentally ill men. You really ought to practice the empathy and appreciation for the lived experience many of you are so eager to lecture for.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:23 PM on July 29 [33 favorites]


I moved in with my parents when I was between things, and, due in no small part to a lifelong tendency to cloister, got stuck in a rut that became a canyon

But the fact is, that your parents could afford to support you indefinitely is a matter of privilege. You never would have gotten stuck in that rut in a family that didn't have the extra resources.
posted by tavella at 10:52 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


i want to share some personal experiences, and i also simultaneously really DON'T want to share those experiences because this thread just really isn't encouraging in the slightest.

1) i was definitely too prideful and egoistic, at some points in my life, to do a food service job, and then at other points I wasn't, and I tried it. It took a long time to get hired. These jobs are not guaranteed. They're not as "available" as you might think. Like most employers, they often want to hire people who don't need training. (for that matter, qualifying for military service is also not guaranteed, not even easy. This sort of mental illness is an almost total disqualifier.)

1a) I finally got a job waiting tables at an IHOP, through a personal connection. I deeply, profoundly did not fit in at all, not in the slightest. It started with language and race - me being white - almost everywhere you go, the food service industry is dominated by Hispanic immigrants (or second-generation) and black people, often with a criminal record. I was one of two white people in that workplace. (maybe 50 total employees.) A workplace with only two women is typically thought to be hostile to women. This clearly is a totally different thing, but it's a little bit the same. They defined a culture where I didn't fit in. And they had every right to do so, honestly, that's kind of just how life works, but my point is, dumbass white boys in that environment are at the short end of a racial dynamic; it's a real (if psychic) obstacle; a lot of people get over it; a lot of people don't or won't.

1b) To expand, more importantly, there's a stereotype of fat, lazy, white trash kind of people that I stepped right into. The (Mexican American) head manager assumed I was lazy when I literally actually did not know how to clean stuff properly. Even though they agreed to train me, everyone (peers and managers) looked down at me for every question I asked - and then they kept looking down at me. forever. Is that normal? it might be. Idunno. For me, personally, the language barrier and the racial dynamics, I'm used to that. That I could work with. Knowing that no one respected or valued me, feeling like i was lazy and worth less than everyone around me, that was almost unbearable. But I honestly don't know if that's something everyone else just lives with and I overreacdted to.

1c) I definitely thought, at some points, "this money is not worth it" and "I'm better than this". That was for sure coming from a place of ego. But also a place of psychic pain. At the exact same time, I thought things like "I'm not worth the money" and "I have nothing worthwhile to offer an employer". You can imagine someone's ego favoring and vocalizing one set of thoughts instead of the other.

1d) Now that I've been NEET for over five years, I look at a job application and I see it asking me "what is valuable about you" and I have absolutely nothing to write. No recent job history, no completed higher education. My anxiety reaction is severe. I do it anyway. I've learned to just accept that something will be upsetting, and I do it and then I go somewhere else and I calm down. Anyway, so I've done at least 20 job applications over the last five unemployed years and I know that's not a lot, but one of them should have at least called me back. Not even an interview.

1e) there's some talk going around mental health circles about "rejection sensitive dysphoria", and saying it's related to ADHD, or "atypical depression", or whatever. It's not in the DSM or anything. I don't know how rigorous this is.

1f) I started driving for Doordash recently and it's a huge, profound relief to feel valued without having to worry about anyone's standards.


2) Having someone else clean up your poop bottles?!?! is a wild and stupid privilege, but it's not privileged or relaxing or anything to feel like you don't have a place in the world.

2a) My personal problems started when I was living in a college dorm. They continued over periods of living by myself, with roommates, and with various family members. It continued regardless of medication or therapy, regardless of how much time I spent online, regardless of how many friends I had or how much sex I was getting.

2b) I am lucky and privileged that my family chose to support me. But that didn't enable me into a rut. If I hadn't had that, I'd be in the same rut, just homeless and dead.


3) another cultural context to put this in is "Eleanor Rigby". This writer (and other writers) talks about hikikomori as a "culture-bound phenomenon", and then a "cultural syndrome". She even implies that "Luca" might not have gone this way if he hadn't had the internet to tell him he could. Other writers (and various tv show episodes) imply that this is a fundamentally new thing, in a modernity-is-bad sort of way. Yet: Eleanor Rigby. "All the lonely people." Lighthouse operators, bog witches, etc.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 10:56 PM on July 29 [43 favorites]


I am currently in a mental space that is very close to hikikomari. I get excited when I find the wherewithal to get groceries by myself, but I am able to leave the house for therapy. I often invite friends over for dinner, so they will walk with me to the grocery store or take out trash. It’s a regression, and similar to when I graduated college and really struggled to make the jump from student to worker bee.

I’ve got plenty of privilege in my life. But I also have a history of profound neglect and a history of my parents setting me up to be dependent on them. They discouraged me from acts of independence, like getting a job in high school or college. They would sometimes be uncharacteristically generous to get me to agree. They paid for me to live on campus, so I wouldn’t need a car and couldn’t get too much life experience.

It’s a form of control that privileged society has used for years to break down the next generation, so they won’t question the immoral reigns they are expected to take up. Usually they have an end game they’re grooming their kids to take up. Take over the family business, or at least a similar path. While the hikikomari are the identified patient, I doubt you would find that the family system is healthy and blameless.

For my parents, they didn’t have an end game. They didn’t have an idea of who they wanted me to be. They were just terrified of who I might be, if left to my own devices. Apparently as a small child, I had traits similar to my abusive grandfather. So I’ve lived my whole life terrified to be myself, and bereft of a template of who I should be.

I was able to find my footing. But it was a lot of luck, privilege, and exposure to people outside my fucked up family dynamic. Specifically, my grandmother was able to give me both financial support and a willingness to trust me with independence and forging my own identity and path. But I was also ignoring a lot of my trauma. Continually retraumatizing myself, because I was used to ignoring my window of tolerance. It started popping up in my health, and through disruptive dissociative episodes. So I’m back at basics trying to learn how to leave the house with the help of my therapist and psychiatrist.
posted by politikitty at 11:43 PM on July 29 [22 favorites]


My husband and I have three children between the ages of 34 and 27. Each of them have bounced back into our home in varying degrees of need. Sometimes financial, sometimes psychological, sometimes on the verge of a complete breakdown. And we've been lucky.

Each time, trying to figure out how hard to push, when to push, where to draw the line, hell, if to draw a line. We are now kicking ourselves for ever putting in that damn extra room in the basement in the first place. WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING! Because it makes it too easy.
It is easy for them to disappear into themselves and away from us. Because they are adults we think we have to give them their space. Like I said we've been lucky. Because the regression had been self limited, and they had been open to treatment, things worked out. The biggest thing we watched for during a mental health crisis was isolation, they had to come out. We didn't invade their privacy. Well, we didn't use any sort of monitoring. but checked on the one concerning us constantly, no locked door. Come up, use the bathroom. Sit at the table. Drink water. Looking back, I get a little sick thinking, I SHOULD have violated their privacy and used a baby monitor, or something, it did get that bad. Or I think it got that bad, maybe it didn't. But they are still here. omg, I can't believe I just thought that.

My god, the Late teens, mid 20's for a couple of my children were hell.

Seriously. For all future parents of teenagers. My suggestion is this. If you have a basement, Never, and I MEAN NEVER, put anything remotely like a bedroom in your basement. Sure, it seems like a good idea. It seems like wasted space, your 8 to 11 year olds love having a place to hang out and play and make noise. But then, you put in a couple of walls, a couple of doors and you have a fortress of solitude.

A room of one's own is great when you are a teen. But IMO, not the basement for teens. Daylight, where people, and Parents are people, pass by frequently. Where they have to pass by others to get places. Yeah it can be annoying for all involved.

This is totally unreasonable I know. The basement is one of the few places that most families have for a spot for a teen's developing need for privacy. But I think that the internet with the mobile network is also another type of private space that is not taken seriously enough.

And my oldest daughter was so happy at the time. We thought we were doing a good thing. Each of the kids fought for the right to that room when the "time" came.

I don't post here much at all, if ever. But my heart goes out to the families of these stunted adult children. Each time a crisis occurred we were worried how we were going to ride it out, how long it was going to be, and were we doing the right thing. And the behavior and needs were nowhere as extreme as what the parents in the articles are dealing with. I know they are enablers. But we did put in that basement bedroom.
posted by moonlily at 12:24 AM on July 30 [46 favorites]


Despite the rough edges, I really appreciated all the perspectives in this thread. I went through what seems like a moderate to severe episode in this vein after graduating from high school. What I feel is missing from a surface characterization of the hikikomori mindspace and lifestyle is how crushingly compounded all of the problems seem from the inside:

A) You are extremely socially anxious.
B) You have a hard time with executive function. This is exacerbated by A because you don't know how to deal with other people's expectations when you fail at things.
C) All the material attributes of your life are shameful, causing social interactions that refer to them to be terrifying. The majority of useful interventions to change your situation involve these social interactions. See A, B.
D) The longer you stagnate, the worse all the above problems get.

I empathize deeply with Rainbo Vagrant's post above. The point about Doordash is very interesting to me. I also would have found Doordash or Uber a much, much, much, much more accessible starter job than something involving direct, unscripted social interactions, like food service. It never occurred to me that the depersonalization and transactionalization characteristic of "gig economy" work might have this other side.

It seems to me like unreasonably good fortune that I had just enough supporting structure in my life (emotionally accepting and financially supportive parents, economically valuable computer skills that I got by tinkering as a kid, a chance offer of a job when I wasn't even looking, a real-world hobby that made me learn to drive and go outside, some philosophy of mind to help me conceptualize my emotions and behavior) that I was able to climb out of this pit. I know a number of people online who are in similar situations and I am trying hard to be one handhold that they can use to climb out themselves. But they need more than one, that's for sure.
posted by value of information at 1:36 AM on July 30 [15 favorites]


If nothing else, this thread has been a valuable exploration of the limited value of feelpinion-based privilege analysis in judging people who none of us has ever met
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:38 AM on July 30 [23 favorites]


feelpinion

Thanks, I hate it
posted by ominous_paws at 2:40 AM on July 30 [20 favorites]


the best treatment for social anxiety is desensitization

"Desensitization" refers to a carefully planned out process overseen by a medical professional after a careful evaluation in which the various options and risks are weighed. I don't know anyone with this sort of crippling social anxiety, but friends with PTSD have to put up with this sort of attitude a lot, and it's really counterproductive: a poorly done, unprofessional attempt at "desensitization" can significantly add to trauma. The analogy with desensitization as a treatment for allergies is apt: whether it is a useful approach or not depends on the allergy and the individual in question, and needs to be evaluated by a trained medical professional; and small, controlled doses under medical observation is key, since too much "desensitization" will cause larger health problems and can potentially be fatal.

The fact that medical care of any sort is largely unavailable for many folks in the US is a serious problem. The fact that mental health care is so unavailable in so many parts of the world, including many countries that have some form of universal health care, is a compounding significant problem.

The chan/incel/male entitlement thing is a separate very serious problem, which may or may not be comorbid with severe social anxiety or other mental health struggles in any given individual.
posted by eviemath at 4:27 AM on July 30 [25 favorites]


Selina777 wrote way up there: Why is this presented as exclusive to young men? The article itself admits that his mother is also what they used to call a "shut-in", but what he's doing is supposed to be a new phenomenon with implied social repercussions and we must handwring about it. Is it because they have the capacity and familiarity with the Internet to create a counterculture?

There's a lot to look at there. First, his mother is on disability for basically the same thing; they're both living off of her disability checks -- but they both have a similar disability. He has a cooler name for it, and she, presumably, had a point in her life where she had the disability managed well enough to create and raise a kid, as well as having enough of an employment history to earn disability payments. And we don't know anything about hers -- whether she's shut in from a physical disability, or what, but, yeah, like other people have said, SHE'S the person I want to hear from.

What's HER story? Does she have a similar agoraphobic condition? Is there a genetic component here?

panama joe wrote, a little while on: I feel like a lot of the discussion is around "what is wrong with people that they can live like this," but my response is more, "how can someone love the internet so much they don't just get bored out of their minds by this lifestyle?" I mean, I've had dark winter days where I hole up for a day and play Civ 6 while listening to history podcasts (don't judge), but really after just one day of that, I've pretty much exhausted the meagre joys afforded by my computer.

Speaking for myself, and having been in a similar situation for a while, although not for THAT long: depression. Feeling bored out of one's mind would be a step up -- when you're in that situation, you don't have the emotional energy to manage to work your way up to boredom.
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 4:48 AM on July 30 [7 favorites]


What happens to these people when their parents die? The article touches on it a bit, about the concern when their parents retire, but when Mom's funeral is over and they've never held a job or developed any skills, won't they effectively be homeless? Unless other family take them in?

At a get together at my neighbour's place recently, I got to chatting with one of her friends who is a social worker (albeit in Finland, with a different structural social safety net) and this was a topic that was top of mind for her.

It was a matter of concern that there were a significant number of young men (yes it tended to happen with boys) whose moms would do everything including putting snacks down next to the computer - a complex mix, she said of the often divorced or older mother wanting someone in the house and thus pampering the boychild, often an only child, and perhaps the existing solitary tendencies of the child being exacerbated - and then, when the mother passed away, that's when the full challenge of the problem came home to the social services department. They had to deal with what were effectively adult men who were incapable of even washing a spoon and often had no clue whatsover how to adult it in life. Not everyone could be helped with training and support. And some needed institutional care.

But most often they were not technically homeless as the mother would have owned her flat.
posted by Mrs Potato at 4:54 AM on July 30 [8 favorites]


I'm sure that if their parents or other authority figures had been hard asses and marched them to the military recruitment office or equivalent that some of them would have snapped out of it and gone on to lead productive lives.

I'm also sure that some of them would had had their preexisting mental illness exacerbated; for some of those, the consequences would have been serious and potentially fatal.

I have absolutely no idea how many would fit into each category.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 5:52 AM on July 30 [6 favorites]


Well, also, like, we don't punish people with mental illness by making them go into total institutions where they might have to participate in killing people.

It also doesn't make you a better person to have a paying job. Obviously, because we all rely on each other and are social creatures, it's generally seen as better to do something for others. But in the US we've warped that into a twisted idea that only making a profit for capitalists really makes you a full person.

Maybe these kids can be suffering from legitimate psychological problems, and engaged in entitled/privileged/problematic behaviors, at the same time. I don't really understand the impulse to categorize them cleanly as either victim or vicitimizer.

I have a kid and the idea that he would be victimizing me if I were treated this way is really off to me. For one, he's my child and I brought him into this world without his permission. I have both a responsibility and a general fundamental emotional need to ensure that he's taken care of. To the extent that he's ever dealing with a severe mental or emotional issue, god forbid, I would never consider him to be victimizing me.

Is the love of a parent a privilege? I guess so, but what a fucking dreary race to the bottom we're all in for some reason (it's because it's a way to weaponize legitimate resentment as a tool to lower collective standards and let the wealthy off of the hook.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:06 AM on July 30 [24 favorites]


If we were over on AskMe talking about or to a partner who had significant mental health issues that were seriously negatively affecting their partner's life (but was not actively psychotic, i.e., still capable of engaging with reality), I think the consensus would be that mental illness is not your fault, that the struggle is real...and that you still owe it to your partner to pursue treatment that will help you find ways to live that don't hurt them, because you are still a human being with agency who is responsible for your actions. Doesn't the same apply here?

In the US there just isn't treatment for most people. Also, psychosis isn't the only way people are detached from reality. Delusions are real and can be entirely disabling. I was agoraphobic for a year? Two? And would say that it was much more like a delusion than something like feeling anxious before a party or whatever. (Not that the latter can't be a problem, but calling them both "anxiety" really doesn't begin to cover it.) When everything in your brain is actively working to convince you not to go outside, it isn't just the conscious parts of your brain telling you not to do it. It's also your subconscious spinning a bunch of lies about how you don't need to do it.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:13 AM on July 30 [7 favorites]


My own feelings reading this article are so mixed, mostly due to circumstances in my own life. I recently had a mental health issue that was triggered by being put on a medication to treat chronic pain that I'd specifically asked my doctor to not use because another medication to treat mental health issues with a similar chemical makeup made me suicidal. I was put on this (convinced to try it, anyway) and lo and behold, back in for a 3-day for an attempt I didn't even realize was bubbling up.

I left the facility on a Friday and was back at work on a Monday, because I don't have the opportunity to stop working. I have a partner without a job, and a mother and a brother who need my financial assistance, and I'm solely responsible for my own bills and rent and everything.

So a lot of what I feel for these guys is, frankly, envy. I would love the opportunity to drop everything for a couple of years and have no interaction with the outside world for seemingly no consequence. And I know that's not at all how it works, but the way our country (I'm in the US) is set up, there's not any opportunity for those who don't have a personal safety net to take a break, even a very necessary one, to recover, whether it's from illness or burnout or just because you don't have the next paid gig to go to.

So my anger at these subjects (wherever I see them reported on) is largely because the world is kind of crushing unless you're able to keep walking on the treadmill over and over again until something takes you down. And that really sucks.
posted by xingcat at 6:14 AM on July 30 [23 favorites]


If we were over on AskMe talking about or to a partner who had significant mental health issues that were seriously negatively affecting their partner's life (but was not actively psychotic, i.e., still capable of engaging with reality), I think the consensus would be that mental illness is not your fault, that the struggle is real...and that you still owe it to your partner to pursue treatment that will help you find ways to live that don't hurt them, because you are still a human being with agency who is responsible for your actions. Doesn't the same apply here?

Also responding to this again...don't we, as a society, have some responsibility to help this person (two persons, by my read) who don't quite have the tools? In a sane, healthy society we'd all be arguing about exactly which social services agency or church group or volunteer visitors should be assigned to go over there and just talk to this kid. And yet.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:16 AM on July 30 [12 favorites]


The more extreme cases, like in the article, seem clearly to be un- or poorly-treated mental illness, and it's hard to see a lot of solutions available in our current fractured and inadequate health care system.

got stuck in a rut that became a canyon

Less extremely, though, I see this in a number of children of friends and coworkers. I think the more gentle expression is "failure to launch," but in a few cases instead of just returning home for a short while and then relaunching, it seems to settle into a somewhat comfortable pattern with no clear end point.

Not everyone is well-suited for modern wage labor, but right now your choices are basically a) get a job, b) become a dependent, or c) live on the streets. Having a few more options would be good for a lot of people.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:40 AM on July 30 [13 favorites]


I'm also sure that some of them would had had their preexisting mental illness exacerbated; for some of those, the consequences would have been serious and potentially fatal.

Now, this is where my observation comes in (and I'm going to withhold identifying details): While I would never assume that this is a universal trajectory, I've definitely seen situations go from a combination of stubbornness/don't like school or job/willingness to yell/some unhappiness to an ingrained and pathological situation after years of loneliness, shame and fear about the situation.

In these situations, it's easier at first not to push the child - the yelling is scary and difficult to deal with, the family can adjust, not wanting to have a lousy job or school experience seems reasonable, the child is obviously unhappy. And then years go by, and where once the child could have held down a part-time job or gone to school or participated in the household if they really had to, the years of isolation have resulted in someone who has lost the ability to talk to people, lost the ability to focus on tasks, lost the ability to do things that require overcoming anxiety, etc. It's a process of deterioration.

And of course, it's hugely scary to the child, so the stress and the struggle to suppress anxiety eat up whatever energy exists.

While obviously this isn't everyone's trajectory, I have definitely observed situations where the child probably should have been supported to maintain the social abilities that they had when the situation started.
posted by Frowner at 6:52 AM on July 30 [15 favorites]


To the extent that he's ever dealing with a severe mental or emotional issue, god forbid, I would never consider him to be victimizing me.

if this is really so unimaginable / your confidence is really so absolute, I surmise that your kid is either still a minor or very nice. if the former, don't tempt the universe. if the latter, congratulations but you have no idea what messes are hiding in some people's domestic spheres. it's great when parents think the way you do, but when adult children think that way ('I can never victimize my mom because it's her fault I'm alive, so anything I do to her she brought on herself') - and some do - things go to hell.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:58 AM on July 30 [23 favorites]


So I work with young men a lot, both in terms of my work's client base, and the majority of my coworkers are men 17-24 years old. And I have met two individuals whose situations were pretty close to this one. This is rambly but here goes.

I remember a piece on homelessness that my publication edited quite a while ago where we spoke with experts who pointed out that while mentally ill people are at higher risk of becoming homeless, homelessness itself is a cause of mental illness. Sometimes, just preventing homelessness will prevent mental illness, or at least will keep mental illness at a more easily treatable level.

I feel like this trend in youth is similar. There are some young men who are mentally ill enough that they needed health care before they needed to address their shut-in status. But there are also structural causes contributing to this trend.

And from my small window into this issue, I would generally categorize it like this...I think between the ages of 12 and 20 there is a deep need to both connect to tribe and also to become a contributing member of the tribe - to go from recipient of things to contributor of things. In capitalism we historically see this as economically contributing, but really, I don't think it has to be A Job. But it does need to be something that adds value -- real value, not fake value.

Because of our winner-takes-all societies (Canada being headed that way), there's a lot of pressure towards the academic solution, or the MBA solution. But there are a lot of young men who really need to be able to...go out and build a boat, or take care of an aging grandparent, or some other contribution to the tribe that is not about GPAs.

And there's a swath of parents (and villages, and online groups) who are hamstringing them.

As an example, I have 17-18 year old staff working for me where we are depending on them to deliver summer camp. They and their parents had meetings with me personally when they signed the contract where I explained that we have 30 kids coming every week, and they need to be there. Everyone in the room nodded and signed documents to that effect.

And now I have parents calling me to take their kids out in 4 days for vacation next week because it's a short week and they can book it. But they clearly DO NOT understand that their kids are my leaders and staff. They are not giving their kids a sense that their commitment and what they do every day matters. And...their kids don't need this job, economically. It's a lark before their real life. And for a lot of them, it will be fine. This is just my particular issue (and yes as a business we have a plan for it.)

But I see that over time, it makes the kids so vulnerable to ennui. Either you are a startup king with a whack of venture capital, or a YouTube star, or else people are saying "well it's not worth it for $8/hr, screw the man." This is a continued hollowing out of middle of the road options for middle of the road people.

I'd be going off and getting my dopamine hit on online games too.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:19 AM on July 30 [53 favorites]


If we were over on AskMe talking about or to a partner who had significant mental health issues that were seriously negatively affecting their partner's life (but was not actively psychotic, i.e., still capable of engaging with reality), I think the consensus would be that mental illness is not your fault....
posted by praemunire at 8:15 PM on July 29


But any advisor worth their salt would follow "mental illness is not their fault" with "but you're not obligated to ruin your life if they won't cooperate with treatment".

Or, from the other side (as Sys Req notes): if you don't make your ill family member get treatment, you're an enabler.
posted by jb at 8:01 AM on July 30 [2 favorites]


Or, from the other side (as Sys Req notes): if you don't make your ill family member get treatment, you're an enabler.

One of the things that people don't like to discuss here is that a large, strong, young man who is angrily determined not to get treatment can be pretty scary and/or impossible to deal with. Even "making" a very ill, physically frail person "get treatment" can be really brutal and difficult*. If things aren't too bad, it's possible, but the sicker someone gets, the harder it is to get them treatment if they don't want it. And of course, if the first therapist you find isn't very good, getting them to a second is virtually impossible.

I feel like it's almost an intractable problem, actually, because it's not reasonable to expect the average caring parent to force their child out of the home when the parent has reasonable fears that the child will end up homeless and it's often impossible to "force" a child into treatment even when treatment is available. We talk as though the average parent should be, as a matter of course, able to achieve things that skilled mental health professionals find difficult.

Probably supported housing would be the best option for a lot of people - get away from the protections and strangulations of home and maybe there would be enough mental space to recover a bit. If you knew that you would have housing forever if you needed it, you might be able to deal with taking some small, assisted steps toward doing other things. And it might even help to be in a group situation with other room-dwellers, since you could maybe be around people just a tiny bit but they would be in the same boat.



*I know this very well - one of my older relatives, now gone, had a flare up of a serious condition which caused her to resist medical care. We were able to get her to the hospital but it was pretty ugly and traumatic all around and TBH would not have been possible if we were not white and middle class, since she was endangering herself and we chose to call the cops. If we were poorer or POC, we wouldn't have had that option. Anyway, she was small and I probably could have wrestled her, but that didn't mean that "making her get treatment" was easy at all. (She recovered completely and the remainder of her life was happy and peaceful.)
posted by Frowner at 8:22 AM on July 30 [36 favorites]


Or, from the other side (as Sys Req notes): if you don't make your ill family member get treatment, you're an enabler.

"Making" someone get treatment for just about anything, if that someone is an adult, is really, really difficult. Even with severely ill people (like all my relatives who succumbed to Alzheimer's over the years) who are demonstrably unable to care for themselves, it takes a tremendous amount of time, paperwork, doctor's visits and money to be in a position to "make" them get any sort of treatment at all. For a socially anxious/depressed man? You could kick him out of your house, but if he's not violent or making threats or harming himself, you're just pushing him out of the house. Which may be enough to get some people to do something to help themselves, but it may not, and really, that's the issue that is being discussed from a lot of angles here. What do you do when what you can do is either let them stay for free or refuse to let them stay for free, because that's the only thing you're able to do?
posted by xingcat at 8:28 AM on July 30 [13 favorites]


I keep thinking about this article, and about My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a novel I just finished that's about similar behavior (but with obvious differences in material circumstance--in many ways, it's an extended thought experiment re: "what if Hikikomori guys from the article, but outwardly opposite in every way?"). The Goodreads description covers it:

"...about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance."

It's no spoiler to tell you that the attempt at narcotic hibernation ends up being deeply unpleasant for the protagonist. You can probably imagine. And otherwise, it's a super fascinating book, seeing where things go when someone embarks on a year of "hibernation."*

*with an end goal in mind, with no resource scarcity, etc. etc.
posted by witchen at 8:30 AM on July 30 [2 favorites]


I have a friend like this, not a full shut-in, but NEET and not very functional. After high school he moved out on his own and worked in fast food, then quit and moved back home less than a year later. He's in his late 40's now, with just his mom left. It's impossible to talk to him about any of this: he just stops talking. He doesn't have internet access, so that's not critical to this sort of life.

There's a rather slow-paced documentary (Youtube) that centers on one Japanese solution to this: group homes to help people relaunch their lives. It seems like it would be tough to engineer a gentile solution like this in the US.
posted by netowl at 8:43 AM on July 30 [10 favorites]


"Making" someone get treatment for just about anything, if that someone is an adult, is really, really difficult.

Yes, it is - I've been on both sides of the problem and I'm currently on the care-giver side with someone who is consistently resisting doing anything to maintain their health.

I should have thought more carefully about what I was typing. It was a sarcastic response to the people in the thread who are claiming that others are engaged in a "bootstrap" discourse (when many are actually talking about their own experiences).

What I meant was that when people here in this thread are talking about this situation and how it's bad to let it continue, they are not blaming someone for having a mental illness or the families for continuing to support the people with the mental illness. What they want to recognize is that a) having a mental illness is very serious and very difficult to deal with, but also that b) the families who are supporting the person are themselves victims, and c) people with a mental illness do have the duty to try to cooperate with treatment to the full extent of their ability (wherever that extent is) - just as the people who care for them have a duty to try to get them to change and not just enable them.

Please note my use of "try" - duties like this aren't duties to succeed, but to make an effort. People made a LOT of effort for me when I was (more) mentally ill; I also owed it to them to make an effort to cooperate, which I didn't always fulfill. Yes, I was sick, but I wasn't completely detached from reality and I was capable of more effort than I sometimes engaged in. That's not to say that I could just sit up and "feel better"; I'm still not what I was.

I know some people are radical individualists, but I'm not. I like living in a family and community and I believe that I do owe things to the people around me who make that possible, just as they owe things to me. There are mutual obligations.

What the young man in the article seems to be utterly unaware of is that he is not living independently, a lone wolf detached from the world: he is still relying on his family to fulfill their obligations to him without making any effort to try to get better.
posted by jb at 8:59 AM on July 30 [18 favorites]


But any advisor worth their salt would follow "mental illness is not their fault" with "but you're not obligated to ruin your life if they won't cooperate with treatment".

This is not true in every society, particularly a number of East Asian ones where hikikomori have been a recognized social issue for decades now.

I'm Chinese-American, and in traditional immigrant Chinese culture, for example, you are supposed to sacrifice everything for your family, particularly your children. You aren't supposed to draw limits on what you will do to keep them fed and physically safe and to make their lives as good as you possibly can. It is, in fact, your duty to do that. I understand that in Japanese society, there is a powerful sense that any problem in your closest in-group is "your" problem, and that "your" problems must be kept from burdening others, even at great cost to yourself.

Does everybody stick to it? No. People are human, after all. They have limits. Not everybody buys into the norms in the same way, or to the same degree. There is also a growing recognition that in some places, the issue has transcended the ability of individual families to handle. And I'm Americanized enough to recognize that the Chinese standard that my parents have imposes horrible burdens on people, particularly women.

But insisting that any advisor in any culture would say that you aren't obligated to ruin your life for anyone -- yeah, no, that's not how it works in all places.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:08 AM on July 30 [22 favorites]


if this is really so unimaginable / your confidence is really so absolute, I surmise that your kid is either still a minor or very nice. if the former, don't tempt the universe. if the latter, congratulations but you have no idea what messes are hiding in some people's domestic spheres. it's great when parents think the way you do, but when adult children think that way ('I can never victimize my mom because it's her fault I'm alive, so anything I do to her she brought on herself') - and some do - things go to hell.

Don't tell me what I do and don't know about the "messes...hiding in some people's domestic spheres." You really have no clue what I have and haven't experienced.

Severe mental illness can be hellish but it is a severe illness. I would no more feel "victimized" if my child experienced it than I would feel "victimized" by him having MS or another issue which imposed severe burdens on my life. Would I be thrilled? No, obviously not. But it would make no sense to consider me a victim of my child because of my child's illness.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:38 AM on July 30 [10 favorites]


I don't think this is in any way only a male issue, by the way; it's just the social space for the co-morbidity to develop for for females is comparatively limited in most Western societies these days. If you read 19th century/early 20th century works, you'll recognize an analogous figure: the "invalid aunt". It wasn't particularly unusual for an unmarried or widowed woman to essentially declare themselves too ill to cope and retreat to their room, to be supported by their mother or daughters, nieces or cousins. There was one in my family, Aunt Addie, who upon the early death of her daughter moved in with my great-great-aunt, her husband's niece. There she took to her bed where she was waited on hand and foot by Kate for 15 years, including having her chamberpot emptied. The kids, my parents and aunts, would come up and play cards with her on her bed. When Aunt Kate died, she promptly moved to Vermont and took up a very active social life.

Invalid aunts mostly disappeared as the extended family frayed and women worked more; there just wasn't the same indulgence where a niece would feel obligated to take up intensive care for a physically healthy relative. And girls are seldom indulged in the same way by mothers (and it seems to be nearly always mothers). No matter her mental issues and burdens, it is highly unlikely that any American girl would be allowed to make it to 18 without knowing how to wash a spoon.
posted by tavella at 9:41 AM on July 30 [26 favorites]


Two things I’d like to emphasize: sunlight and exercise. Going outside!

I totally emphasize with the downward spiral that is anxiety around dealing with other people—the more the situation builds, the harder it is to get out of it. But the human organism needs to be outside and moving, in order to be well. I question current hospital protocol for the same reason—I can’t see how the body will have a fighting chance of getting better if it is deprived of exercise and the opportunity to create vitamin D.

When I neglect these things (e.g. over a weekend) my anxiety symptoms get way worse, even though at the time I feel like I’m enjoying myself more by staying inside and keeping to myself. And then my sleep gets worse, which prevents me from restoring, which compounds the issue.

So I’d encourage people suffering from this to research ways to take care of the body. Maybe the mind will follow, maybe it won’t, but at the very least you’ll be heading off even more health issues.
posted by mantecol at 9:44 AM on July 30 [6 favorites]


I don't think this is in any way only a male issue, by the way; it's just the social space for the co-morbidity to develop for for females is comparatively limited in most Western societies these days.

The other difference is that women sometimes have the option of finding a romantic partner who will commit to them even though they are incapable of working outside of the home. I have seen this work out disastrously in more traditional communities, where women who really aren't functional end up at home with the sole care of one, two, or more children. Sexist beliefs about women generally being less capable or interested in engaging in work/school cover for the lack of ability to get along in the world more generally, and the result is terrible all around.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:47 AM on July 30 [17 favorites]


As usual, metafilter seems to be lacking nuance here. I'll echo what someone else managed to say: you can be both extremely mentally ill and an absolute asshole at the same time. I'm currently taking care of someone who is a step away from being hikikomori, has been at that level in the recent past, and has been NEET for about 6 years. He has and will be abusive. He does this to protect himself due to his paranoia, but that doesn't disregard the abuse. Abuse that occurs due to mental illness is still abuse, and labeling it as abuse isn't blaming someone for their mental illness. He uses male privilige, entitlement, and male anger to try and get his way sometimes. Mental illness doesn't exist in a vacuum, and mentally ill men aren't somehow immune to male socialization and male privilege. I honestly laugh at anyone who tries to implicate me in his bad behavior because i provide him with a roof and food and medicine, when he decides to take it.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:56 AM on July 30 [36 favorites]


I also come from a culture where it is expected that children will live at home until they're married, but this sort of thing would still be anathema, because said children are expected to contribute back to the family, whether in babysitting, rent, cooking, cleaning, or what have you. It's not as simple as "tough love means booting them out." Tough love is the same stuff that I do for my teenager currently. You have to get up out of bed in the morning and show me your face. You have to do a minimum of chores.

There are ways to set expectations and boundaries that aren't "throw them mercilessly out of the house."
posted by corb at 10:08 AM on July 30 [14 favorites]


Tough love is the same stuff that I do for my teenager currently. You have to get up out of bed in the morning and show me your face. You have to do a minimum of chores.

There are ways to set expectations and boundaries that aren't "throw them mercilessly out of the house."


And the steps after, no matter what you do, they don't get out of bed?
posted by jb at 10:46 AM on July 30 [5 favorites]


There are ways to set expectations and boundaries that aren't "throw them mercilessly out of the house."

Yeah. My parents would never have done that. But during my lost years they drove me to doctors, they encouraged me to cook which got me to eat, and when I wouldn't leave the house, they encouraged me to start up a few herbs in the garden so I'd have something to take care of, and a non-video game hobby. I'm still a homebody. I'll always be like that, work-home-a few places I'm comfortable with, I'm very neo-phobic. But by having some non-internet hobbies and firm/loving parents I have a life. It's not so much "tough love" as it is "Love with expectations of good behavior".
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:50 AM on July 30 [14 favorites]


And the steps after, no matter what you do, they don't get out of bed?
posted by jb at 1:46 PM on July 30 [1 favorite +] [!]


I really hate the trend of this thread of nitpicking the women here for exact details about how they're choosing to care for people. But I'll answer this question, seeing as how the person I'm caring for isn't a child, isn't my child, isn't at all my responsibility, even.

When he doesn't get out of bed then he doesn't get out of bed. He feels ashamed. Trust me, despite him being an occasional entitled prick, the only person he hates more than the one telling him to do the dishes is himself. If I let him stay in bed, if I give up the fight, it spirals. He gets behind on things and undoes all the progress he made the last time he pulled himself out of a spiral. We fight. Or, rather, he starts yelling at me, or goading me, or turning to one of his "friends" on the internet to make up stories to get sympathy. Sometimes I handle it okay. I let him stew until he eventually comes to me to apologize, and we go from there.

Sometimes he doesn't come to me to apologize. Sometimes it takes days of constant back and forth, of me enduring emotional and verbal abuse to get him to get it together. Thankfully these occurrences are getting less and less frequent. Sometimes he checks himself in the hospital, sometimes he has a friend come pick him up. But his friendships don't last long, because he ruins them in one way or another, or because he's been drawn to a codependent person, and recognizes they're unhealthy, and breaks it off.

I absolutely have had my own mental breakdowns because of this. I've self harmed. I've felt trapped. I've done shitty stuff like take the phone I lent to him away. he would probably make this list longer, adding "taking away internet access" and such things when he doesn't do his chores. I don't find that to be shitty, tbh.

He's getting better, though. He's had jobs on and off, the longest was maybe 6 weeks. But he consistently does chores. He did make a therapy appointment, though he didn't show up. That's still progress. He's been working hard to make it as a "contributor" on this niche interest internet community, and he's finally made it. That gives him outside expectations he has to uphold, he gets weekly assignments, basically. The work expected of him maybe takes 4 hours a week, but it's progress. He reached a goal and is doing much better for it.

So, to more succinctly answer your question - the steps after he doesn't get out of bed are the same as the steps before, just tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. It is constant steps, like Sisyphus.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:45 AM on July 30 [25 favorites]


I really hate the trend of this thread of nitpicking the women here for exact details about how they're choosing to care for people.

I felt my mother was being nitpicked on how she chose to dealt with it. She chose to ask my brother to leave, because as a single mother working & commuting 55 hours a week, she didn't have the financial or emotional resources to deal with him at that point.
posted by jb at 11:48 AM on July 30 [7 favorites]


"have you ever seen Grey Gardens" is how I put it to a therapist re: my two closest relatives, hoping to avoid a very long explanation. alas he had not

it's funny (as in odd, not funny) - when I was writing my response to the attitudes of some people in this thread I was thinking first of some friends' sibilings and second of some people I've encountered online and it wasn't until your comments that I thought of my reclusive aunt who still had all her mother's things preserved in their shared apartment when she died. To be fair she died 15 years ago - and she had had a working life in the past so it's not quite the same thing - but it's not quite not the same thing either.
posted by atoxyl at 1:03 PM on July 30


I feel like I'm missing something, firstmatekate / jb, it seems to me like you two mostly agree with each other...? It is both important for people who can take responsibility, to do so, and for women who are faced with difficult choices to receive some room (and some grace) to do what they feel they need to do without being picked to death for it. There are certainly mothers who enable shitty guys and understanding the mechanisms which reproduce sexism is important; at the same time, we should also be wary of how easy it is to pin things on the nearest woman.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:06 PM on July 30 [5 favorites]


As FirstMateKate said above, there is a real need to bring some nuance to this discussion, both in terms of the severity of the symptoms and a lot of complicating psychological/social factors WRT the person and their situation. I'm thinking especially of two of my sisters, both on disability mostly for mental illness, and myself.

One of them--I'll call her J--has been on disability the longest, mostly due to chronic depression, as well as physical problems that are caused or exacerbated by lack of physical activity. Her isolation is made worse by her habit of making plans with others when she's feeling better, then, whether it's bipolar cycling or anxiety regarding the upcoming meeting or both or whatever, she'll cancel, often with little or no advance warning... and then do the same some weeks or months later, with no acknowledgement of the previous incident, and even an extraordinary amount of defensiveness when the previous incident is mentioned. (The link that Rhaomi posted above, with the woman repeatedly calling people for help but refusing to open the door when they responded, has a lot of parallels.) After having her cancel out on me more times than I can count, including holiday and family reunion plans for which she insisted on making the arrangements, then refusing to turn the reservations over to me when she cancelled, I've stopped making any plans with her that involve making any significant investments of time, money, or commitment to holidays where she is in control of the arrangements. Her very obvious and real psychological problems are complicated by her need for control and unwillingness to acknowledge her past behavior patterns. Some of the other siblings have given up on her completely. She still has her own car, as did the lady in Rhaomi's article; she only uses it for her various medical and therapy appointments, and would probably save money by giving it up and using taxis, rideshares, etc., but her stubbornness precludes that.

The other sister, let's call her K, lives with J, mostly for financial reasons; she has tried to get her own apartment on many occasions, but, being on disability herself, her options are limited. She hasn't given up on outside employment (as J has), but nothing seems to stick. She has some of the same constellation of physical and mental problems as J. I worry a bit that she won't get better, and may get worse, as a result of living with J, because of J's manipulation; she's developed a bit of J's habit of cancelling out on plans to get together with me, and I never know if J has something to do with that when it happens. She made plans to attend a recent family reunion with J, and J made arrangements twice... and cancelled out twice. K almost did as well, until I convinced her that she could afford to go by switching to a nearby motel that was cheaper. She skipped out on some of the events, and seemed pretty happy to get back home, but also seemed to enjoy herself for the parts of it that she was up to.

And then there's me, and I'm not anywhere near as bad off as J or K... but I feel that pull. Some of it is straight-up anxiety when I'm planning a trip for longer or farther away, and some of it is just a certain reluctance to go out at all; it's just so much easier to plead fatigue or general malaise and stay at home and suckle at the Netflix teat. But then I think of my sisters. My problems with anxiety and depression may simply not have ever been as bad as theirs was and is, but I also wonder if there is an accelerating effect, a slippery slope that gets progressively harder to reverse the farther down it you go, and I'd rather not find out.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:13 PM on July 30 [11 favorites]


Yeah, so, I more or less lived this lifestyle for a summer. One summer, but it was enough.

I was sick. I was sick. It's an illness. My parents cared for me because I'm their kid and they did the same thing they did whenever one of their kids got sick, not because I was manipulating them into doing it or because it's their fault I was born or because they blamed themselves for what I'd become (even though I think they did). Yes, I was not a nice person to be around. That's the illness talking; it makes you into the worst version of yourself. I was also sleeping 14 hours a day. Something was actually wrong with me, and it's very complex, and therapy (even if I'd had it at that point) isn't like an antibiotic I could have taken to make it all clear up. It's not even all gone yet even though I've left that lifestyle behind in the dust. And no, going outside and getting sunshine and looking at flowers may have made me feel better briefly, but it sure as hell did not cure me.

(That said, no, I'm not male, and yes, I do think gender plays into how this is seen in our society.)
posted by capricorn at 1:51 PM on July 30 [14 favorites]


I'm glad people are bring some nuance into this. I feel like a lot of these discussions about mental illness are odd in that they treat it like an on-off state and something that no one ever has any control over. I think people get upset and confused because there are things you can work your way out of, that doesn't mean everything is. I believe that mental health is physical health, everyone is born with a set of circumstances and some things will develop on those lines, some aspects are a direct result of your actions, and everything in between. It's all grey area.

And as someone said, it's impossible to tell about someone in a random story where they fall.

Really, there are people who are judgemental in the same way about physical health. Lots of people will act like anything wrong with you was the result of something you did, others will act like there's nothing you can do about any of it, it just happens.
posted by bongo_x at 2:18 PM on July 30 [6 favorites]


~~sunshine~~~

i used to do my groceries and errands in the middle of the night to avoid the feeling of people seeing me.

and while we're talking about therapy I've had exactly one useful, effective therapist in 15 years of seeking help. I've seen exactly one useful psychiatrist. Both were part of a university system in Philadelphia. Since then, everyone else has just been ... ineffective. Talking with various therapists has been about as useful and effective as talking with my friends - probably helpful, but not therapeutic - and instead of a psychiatrist I've only been able to see various NPs for medication maintenance, who never questioned why i wasn't getting better. never questioned the medication or the diagnosis.

i want you to understand that it's possible to have a lot of resources and privilege, and to sincerely want to get better, and sincerely try to get better, and have nothing get better. It's possible to try and try for 15 years and still not get better. It's even possible for medical treatment to make things worse.

(one semester in college I switched antidepressants, which is normal while you're finding one that works, and I very suddenly started sleeping much longer hours and missing classes and not caring. I came to the conclusion that this pill wasn't working for me. But I'd already bombed more than half the semester. and that was when I just gave up on college. And after that I couldn't go to the university psychiatrist anymore.)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 3:03 PM on July 30 [20 favorites]


Oh, good, sunshine and exercise. Nobody has ever suggested that to a mentally ill person ever.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:44 PM on July 30 [33 favorites]


Two things I’d like to emphasize: sunlight and exercise. Going outside!

This is unfortunately identical to stereotypical condescending advice but I think more appropriate here with this at least agoraphobia-adjacent issue! What I see for agoraphobia is to not let your safe space shrink down to one room but go out in the living room, stand on your porch, in your yard, on your sidewalk, walk down the street, slowly expand the area where you can exist. I can say that it's helping me, anyways, and I agree that I notice when I slack off even for a few days that I immediately sink back into holing up mode.

Wanted to say this last night but the thread went in all kinds of directions, so I'll sneak it in now. There is a self-centeredness behind thinking you're the worst. You think you're uniquely awful in ways no one has been before, and you think everyone else has a quality that makes them normal that you lack. Someone above called it a delusion, and that's accurate for me. And it's easy to flip that around into contempt for other people as a hurt lashing out or as a self-protection mechanism, and that is almost certainly related to the general attitudes of reactionaries, incels, chans, men and white people, etc., but also just normal mental illness, trauma responses, marginalized people who are isolated. I wish this was in public conversation not because of terrible men, because I think it's an interesting and very human problem to have, and kind of the only solution for it I know of is self-love? Not bootstraps, not military, not capitalism, unfortunately definitely not Getting Over Yourself. Fully automated luxury gay space communism would probably help, though.

Also, rereading the article, I see a lot of mentions about trying to find work appropriate for them - through the social worker, through doordash, the online videos, Luca's hope for a government program to transition them to the working world. I see this a lot, too, people who can't make traditional employment work so they try literally any option they can, which usually means getting even more exploited by the gig economy/online work for pennies (me!). Capitalism disease!
posted by gaybobbie at 7:02 PM on July 30 [21 favorites]


I don't want to understand this, but I think I do. During the financial crisis I was laid off of my job and my bf was unemployed due to a lengthy hospital stay and recovery from being physically attacked in our old neighborhood. A year later I found a job. A year after that I was laid off again. My boyfriend had started volunteering. Which probably saved him, as it gave him structure, a schedule and a place he had to be a functioning human being every few days.

As social as he is and as hardworking as he used to be, not working for a long period of time and surviving what he has survived has taken a toll. I had to keep being the person who insists on things (therapy, volunteering, working). His experience has made him precarious. He gets very depressed and I know he has days where he doesn't get out of bed. He hides this from me, but I know. I feel he could slide back into not working very easily. And there seems to be a point of no return. Luckily he has never crossed that point.

When we were both not working and had just moved into the coach house (where we now pay rent, but did not while I was unemployed). I had all these rules for myself: no matter what I had to bathe at least once a day and leave the house and walk somewhere once a day. I had to stick to a schedule. I constructed all these fail-safes to supposedly prevent me rolling all the way back down to the bottom of the hill. So, sliding into some folie-a-deux, shut-in situation with my bf back when I wasn't working sounds far fetched, but the pull was strong (and the struggle was real). I can identify. I know he can, too.

That said, I also identify with the caregiver/enabler: a woman caring long term for an adult male. BF is mostly employed, now, and has been for for years. But there was a time where I couldn't say whether he wouldn't work, couldn't work, or had temporarily lost the ability to work. It was the latter. In this case, complicated by serious life derailment and trauma. But maybe that's the point. My boyfriend's trauma was (is) physical, obvious and emergent. Maybe theirs is just a quieter, half forgotten or buried deep trauma–?
posted by marimeko at 7:53 PM on July 30 [8 favorites]


I appreciate the many comments here of lived experience and nuance. The alternative I suppose would be simple explanations and simple solutions, which would be wrong. I only recently converted from lurker status, and would like to refrain from pulling my own experience into this. My hunch is that for every comment about personal experience, there are many people reading the thread living through similar situations.

“Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake
posted by sillyman at 8:45 PM on July 30 [8 favorites]


This is unfortunately identical to stereotypical condescending advice but I think more appropriate here with this at least agoraphobia-adjacent issue!

Yeah, on second thought it does seem like fairly typical advice and maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it. But being fair skinned, I avoided the sun for a long time, and I don’t think I did my body or mind any favors. Wish I could go back and rejig my thinking, to consider a day successful if I went outside and walked around in the sun for 30 mins a day.
posted by mantecol at 8:46 PM on July 30 [2 favorites]


"The general attitudes of men and white people", wow.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:53 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


I'm so grateful for the stories here from people with this experience, especially yours, SysReq. I definitely feel the pull of it myself but, there but for the grace of [DEITY] go I.

I've been unemployed for most of the last six years. So many expectations of you as a person, including my own expectations for myself, revolve around such markers as your income, your possessions, your number of friends. It feels like if you don't have these things you've failed as a person and it turns into a vicious Catch-22 of failure and longing versus the inability to fix it yourself.

When I'm unemployed I rarely leave my house except for my daily trip to the liquor store and I spend all day and frequently all night on the internet or playing video games. I woke up the other day to find that drunk me had invited 59 people to a party at my house. There's a huge disconnect from reality but, for me, a huge desire to fit in or find friends.

My justifications to myself for staying inside are along the lines of, "I haven't showered for a few days and I smell rank," "I hate doing things alone," "It's too hot out," "I'm in the middle of reading stuff or playing a game that's so interesting I don't want to leave." I've recently switched to a daily diet of 700 calories a day in Ensure and the rest in spiked seltzer. No need to be exposed to the outside world with a trip to the grocery store, Amazon delivers sustenance to my door.

I'm lucky enough to have financial support from my mom and her husband, but I have a such a strong sense of financial obligation that to me it's a loan and I'm determined to pay them back. Last year when I was working I paid off about half of the money I owe them, but during this current period of unemployment, I've been living off credit cards and the money in the shared bank account where I deposited all my payments to them.

I'm also extremely lucky now, after years of isolation to have three close friends and a therapist who has changed my life for the better. Roll that in with prescription drugs that are working for me and the knowledge that though they cost almost $700/month without insurance, they and therapy are almost the most important things my life.

Am I living with US-ian white, "middle-class" privilege? Hell yeah, I am. I live by myself in the ZIP code in Portland, OR with the highest median income. I own outright two vehicles that I haven't had to sell. I spend an embarrassing amount of money daily on alcohol. I don't do it as much now but I'm able to go out for food and drinks with friends on a regular basis.

Am I currently racking up debt that will live in my financial house for a significant amount of time? Hell yeah, I am.

I only tell this story to communicate that I understand a level of the mindset and the guilt and the vicious circle that can come with hikikomori and I empathize, my friends, and I love you and wish you all the best. ❤️
posted by bendy at 11:32 PM on July 30 [9 favorites]


Just as a minor aside, there's a lot of "get sun" advice in this thread, and in life, and honestly makes me tired because I've been depressed, and isolated, and I also have a pretty serious skin condition that basically makes me a vampire as far as the sun is concerned. I can slather on SPF a million sunblock, cover myself up with clothes, and carry a parasol and be functional for things like a commute to work, but even all that isn't enough to keep me safe for e.g. a day at the beach, or in the park, especially in the summer.

I do get outside at night, go for walks, get fresh air, and that does help. So if you can't get sun, getting moon is still better than nothing.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 2:59 AM on July 31 [9 favorites]


[There's a recent MetaTalk thread asking for input from neurodivergent MeFites, in case people here haven't seen it yet, and would like to participate or just read along.]
posted by rather be jorting at 12:48 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


“In Japan, there's a newspaper by people who couldn't leave their homes,” Abigail Leonard, PRI's The World, 19 April 2018

“Expanding the Notion of "Hikikomori" - Reflecting on a Time When Everybody Becomes a Hikikomori : Part 1,” Vosot Ikeida, Hikipos, 07 March 2019

“Expanding the Notion of "Hikikomori" - Reflecting on a Time When Everybody Becomes a Hikikomori : Part 2,” Id., 27 March 2019

“The prison inside: Japan's hikikomori lack relationships, not physical spaces.” Andrew McKirdy, The Japan Times, 01 June 2019
Fifty-three-year-old Kenji Yamase doesn’t fit the traditional image of a hikikomori, but then perceptions of Japan’s social recluses are changing.

“People think of hikikomori as being lazy young people with personality problems who stay in their rooms all the time playing video games,” says Yamase, who lives with his 87-year-old mother and has been a recluse on and off for the past 30 years.

“But the reality is that most hikikomori are people who can’t get back into society after straying off the path at some point,” he says. “They have been forced into withdrawal. It isn’t that they’re shutting themselves away — it’s more like they’re being forced to shut themselves away.”
posted by ob1quixote at 6:17 PM on July 31 [9 favorites]


Cross-posting this here from ask:

This is my brother to a T. He just turned 30 and he's been doing this for the better part of a decade. He graduated college with a degree in screenwriting shortly after our father died, and after a miserable year in LA of getting internships and then quitting them when asked to do scut work he moved back in with my mom. He spent most of the next 8 years like the kid in the article, sleeping all day and then staying up all night to watch anime and play video games, with brief detours to work at my sister's restaurant (he was too awkward for front of house and didn't know how to cook, he did deliveries for a little while then quit) and then later as a warehouse worker at amazon (it was physically grueling and he quit after less than a year).

It's clear that he has fairly significant depression and anxiety, but he refuses any sort of mental health tcounseling so we don't really know. They live in a relatively expensive area of the country and my mom would love to sell the house and move closer to her remaining family, but she's worried he might become homeless if she doesn't give him a place to live.
posted by Oktober at 1:15 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


You never would have gotten stuck in that rut in a family that didn't have the extra resources.

This reads in an extremely ugly way. I have spent a bunch of cognitive effort figuring out what to say beyond "WTAF" - this is so blatantly saying that mental health shit is the result of being coddled I don't understand why it hasn't been deleted.
posted by PMdixon at 8:04 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


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