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Failure to Launch Syndrome

Failure to Launch Syndrome

Table of Contents

What is Failure to Launch Syndrome?

Failure to launch syndrome is a psychological condition that prevents social and economic independence in adults. This condition is most prevalent in males aged 18 and over. However, women are affected by the condition too. Failure to launch syndrome is characterized by the following traits:

  • Living with parents or guardians with no plans to move
  • Financially dependent on family and friends
  • Listlessness
  • Unable to maintain or general disinterest in work or gaining income
  • Emotional immaturity
  • Entitlement

A comprehensive examination that includes psychiatric and psychological testing can pinpoint failure to launch issues. Some types of failure to launch include:

Hikikomori in America

Hikikomori is a Japanese term defined as Acute Social Withdrawal. Hikikomori exhibits many of the same symptoms as agoraphobia. However, Hikikomori refers to an unwillingness to visit the outside world. This is caused by anxiety, apathy, or disinterest; as opposed to a fear of the outside world. The main difference between hikikomori and failure to launch is that the hikikomori may be financially independent and/or live alone but have no desire or will to build social bonds in real life. Hikikomori is considered a culture-bound syndrome. This means correct usage can only be applied to those of Japanese culture. Studies are seeking to find if there is a direct connection to hikikomori in American psychology. Currently, the equivalent of Hikikomori in terms of American vernacular would be recluse.

Peter Pan Syndrome

Peter Pan Syndrome, named so after the titular character, occurs when adults cling to childhood behavior and activities as a way to avoid adult life. This Peter Pan complex can include dating younger partners, fear of commitment, and avoidance of lasting responsibility. Peter Pan Syndrome can also be characterized by juvenile and nostalgic manners of dress. Unlike with failure to launch, people with Peter Pan Syndrome can lead a financially independent life. A Peter Pan complex more prominently affects relationships and hobbies.

Refuse to Work Syndrome

Refuse to work syndrome is characterized by an unwillingness to maintain or find a job for any significant period of time. The reasoning behind this mindset can vary from political, personal, or philosophical factors. This results in the person contributing little to their personal or household income.

Why is Failure to Launch Happening More Frequently?

Failure to launch occurs due to the psychological side effects of several factors. Studies have shown the number of Hikikomori is increasing rapidly and other countries may not be far behind. Some of the most common causes of failure to launch are:


An unstable or poor economy can cause feelings of defeat and depression. Typically, a poor economy offers low working wages. Because of this, a person may feel that the income isn’t worth the effort. People with failure to launch syndrome often internalize this defeatism.

Types of Jobs

Failure to launch can be caused by a small or uninteresting job market. If a person has no transportation or path to obtaining work that interests them then they may choose to avoid work altogether.


Fear of debt can cause failure to launch syndrome. This most accurately applies to those afraid to take on a potentially staggering college debt. This can result in stalling by taking a series of dead-end or low paying jobs.

Falling Marriage Rates

Millennial marriage rates worldwide are in a decline. This is due to social and economic changes. However, past generations more focused on marriage as a goal would seek out work as a prerequisite for a future partner. Now that marriage is less important; the connection between work and marriage is lessened. Thusly, women and men avoiding marriage that would’ve sought employment purely as a means to gain a partner have no personal motivation to find work.

These are only some of the causes of failure to launch. Failure to launch can be an intrinsic personality trait for some but more often than not it’s the side effect of a psychological condition.

How to Recognize Failure to Launch Syndrome?

Failure to launch can only be recognized after a period of time has passed or habits. This may not be until persistent unemployment or reaching a certain age and not leaving a childhood home, has been noticed.

Stalling Leaving Home

There are many people without failure to launch that live at home for years. The difference between a person with failure to launch and others who simply live with others is a contribution to the financial share. A person failing to launch will express a number of reasons as to why they can’t leave home. This can be, no available apartments, no money, poor credit, exaggeration of illness, or disability. However, in the end, they are the only thing preventing moving out.

Lack of Motivation

A sheer lack of motivation or aimlessness can often result in staying home for longer than socially healthy. A person may stay at home because of the ease and quality of life provided to them there. This can result in an unwillingness to leave.

Refusal to Participate in Life

In short, life can be overwhelming. Especially for those that have anxiety or depression. This can mean that in addition to being financially co-dependent this may also lead to avoiding social engagements, relationships, and other situations out of their comfort zone.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Refusal to participate in life can be caused by avoidant personality disorder. A person with this condition may feel severely uncomfortable in social situations or be overly concerned with how others perceive them.

Trouble Assimilating to College Life

For many, college life is the first step in adulthood, and the first time many leave the nest. The newfound freedom, culture exposure, and college workload can be troublesome. Because of this, some people may insist on returning home which further cements home life as a safe place.

Social Anxiety

Trouble assimilating can also be caused by general social anxieties. Many people with social anxiety go undiagnosed and untreated. Social anxiety can cause low self-esteem and a fear of adult life.

Learning Difficulties

Learning difficulties, especially in an academic setting, can cause a failure to launch due to low self-esteem and a fear of how others will view their intelligence.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can cause a person to build social anxieties and fear of leaving their comfort zone. It also contributes to fears of failure. Frequently, if someone believes they can’t do something, then they won’t.

How to Improve Failure to Launch Syndrome?

There’s no medical treatment for failure to launch syndrome. Therapy may be an option but even that runs the risk of becoming an excuse to not move on. Success means taking control over one’s own life to overcome the failure to launch and prevent relapsing into old habits.

Build Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem and fear of failure can be the primary causes of failure to launch syndrome. Building self-esteem can be as simple as completing a small task or goal. For example, working out for a short while each day can help build small habits of success while also improving self-image.

Encourage Self-Reliance

Self-reliance is the major difference between those with failure to launch syndrome and everyone else that lives at home. Practicing self-reliance over time can make the transition out of a co-dependent lifestyle easier. Many with failure to launch syndrome don’t move out of their parents because of the lifestyle afforded at home. If even a little self-reliance is achieved, especially financially, then the need for the parent or guardian is lessened.

Reduce Anxiety

Social anxiety can be overwhelming. Therapy is a great option to overcome anxiety. If needed, a doctor may prescribe anxiety medication. There are natural remedies to assist with anxiety such as herbal teas, exercise, yoga, and creative arts.

Increase Motivation

Setting a goal is a great way to build motivation. Additionally, diet and exercise can help build and maintain focus. Charting progress to see how far one has come is another option to increase motivation and commitment.

Treat Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues affect millions daily. Getting help for conditions like anxiety, depression, irritability is a step in the right direction.

Treat Failure to Launch By Building the Right Habits

Failure to launch is a real condition that’s affecting more and more millennials worldwide. Treatment for most varieties of this condition requires self-driven goals and motivation. It’s important to build the right habits to prevent relapsing into a co-dependent lifestyle whether it’s with a parent, guardian, or future partner.