Some years ago, media told us about hikikomori, the extreme social withdrawal among young (and not so young) males in Japan. Their behavior — not coming out of their rooms or going out — both frightens and embarrasses their parents. But at least hikikomori is considered of social and economic as much as strictly psychological factors. In this sense it is not unique to Japan or to males.
On personal and community blogs, agoraphobia and other phobias are freely acknowledged by participants, and they want to share honestly feelings and support. Phobias and hikikomori may have as much to do with positive alienation (a la R. D. Laing) from a corrupt, aimless, and amoral culture. What Sartre’s “Nausea” title suggested for a previous generation. In this frame of mind, there often seems a potential to follow an authentic life of simplicity as much as any evidence of what society may label as mental disease. The desert fathers, the sadhus of India, the Japanese mendicant-poet hermits, the Chinese mountain hermits and so many other eremites all may have shared this sort of positive alienation and a touch of universal insight … a touch of what has been boxed into the labels of hikikomori and agoraphobia.