New Delhi: Some scholars are now saying that
the two sisters, who were found starving in their Noida house
recently, may be suffering from a condition called `Lonely
Deaths`, a medical term used in Japan to define people who
choose to die in reclusion.
A Japanese researcher says his country has been dealing
with incidents of "lonely deaths" for some time now.
"There are growing incidents of lonely deaths in Japan.
We call it "kodokushi". Like the two sisters, these Japanese
live alone and die alone without asking for help," Yuichi
Hattori, director and chief therapist at Sayama Psychological
Institute, a private clinic in Sayama City, north of Tokyo
said in an email interview.
Anuradha (43) and Sonali Bahl (40) were found in a frail
and dehydrated condition by social activists and police who
had to break into their first-floor home in Noida, a satellite
city on the outskirts of Delhi. The older of the two died soon
after the rescue and the younger sister is undergoing medical
While psychologists in India attribute a combination of
social apathy and life stresses to be possible causes behind
the sisters` social reclusion, Hattori says people choose
"kodokushi" for different reasons.
"The core problems seem to be their inability to relate
to people and their desire to stay away from people. But I
can`t say for certain, as I haven`t checked the case of the
two sisters by myself," says the researcher who specialises in
treating dissociative identity disorder.
Author Michael Zielenziger who has spent time in many
countries as a foreign correspondent says India has issues of
class and caste that are not really found in Japan.
"I do not think India and Japan share very many
similarities...but I do believe `social isolation` is a
`coping mechanism` used to keep away from distress...," he
In his book "Shutting out the Sun", Zielenziger talks
about more than one million young adults in Japan known as the
"hikikomori", who withdraw from societies for months or years
at a time, not going to class, not working, not even leaving
their homes, and often not even abandoning their rooms.
These recluses become wholly dependent on their mothers
to feed them, writes Zielenziger.
Researcher Hattori describes `hikikomori` as the self-
imposed confinement of people, mostly in their teens,
twenties, and thirties. "They have reclusive life for years,
even decades while avoiding interactions with people. They do
not have psychotic symptoms."
While Hattori says there are no official explanations for
the causes of hikikomori and no official treatment, he has in
his book "Hikikomori and Family Trauma," explained the
condition as caused by a child`s failure to attach to its
mother. "The child without maternal bonding grows an adult
with distrust and fear of people, and inability to relate to
other people," says Hattori.