How to Help an Adult Child with Schizoid Personality Disorder

Schizoid personality disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by an inability to form close relationships or to socialize much at all. It is often first diagnosed in early adulthood. If you have recently found out that your adult child has this condition, it may explain a lot of troubling behaviors that have concerned you. Now that you know what the underlying issue is, you can take steps to help your child get treatment, develop more positive behaviors, and learn to have better, more fulfilling relationships with you and others.

Finding out that your adult child has schizoid personality disorder (SPD) can feel overwhelming and terrible, but it also provides an answer. It can help you understand your child’s behaviors and difficulties.And now you have the opportunity to help them get treatment, make positive lifestyle changes, and be better able to function and live a fulfilling and more normal life. This is a difficult mental illness, but armed with knowledge and tools from a professional treatment program, you can help your child recover.

A diagnosis of a personality disorder can come as a big blow. You may never have even heard of this condition that your adult son or daughter has been diagnosed with, but now it is important to learn. The first step in helping them overcome their challenges is to learn what this condition is, how it affects their lives, and how it can be managed.

As a personality disorder, SPD causes unusual behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that cause dysfunction in relationships and daily life. Your child likely does not view their perceptions and behaviors as abnormal, but to others they are.

SPD in particular causes your child to avoid socializing and intimate relationships. People with SPD tend to be loners; they show few emotions and seem cold and distant; they show little interest in close relationships and lack the skills to develop them; they lack motivation; and they don’t seem to get much pleasure out of life. SPD tends to begin in early adulthood, but you may have noticed signs of it when your child was younger.

Help Your Child Get Treatment

Understanding what SPD is and how it affects individuals, you may feel a little better about the apparent coldness of your adult child. Their detachment is not your fault or related to you at all. To help them learn to change some of these patterns, to help them develop more relationships, and to enjoy life more, treatment is essential.

Because people with personality disorders have a hard time seeing that the way they behave or react is problematic, getting them into treatment can be challenging. Come to your child prepared with options for treatment and push for residential care. An extended stay in treatment is important for this difficult condition.

Explain to your child how treatment will help them gain more independence, be able to hold down a job, and enjoy being with people more. Although they seem uninterested in relationships, studies actually show that people with SPD are lonely. To convince them to accept treatment, emphasize how it will help them be more social and get pleasure out of relationships and socializing to combat loneliness.

Participate in Treatment

In choosing treatment for your child, or helping them select a facility, look for one that will not just allow but encourage family participation. Mental illnesses are family diseases. They are often caused or worsened by family relationships, and everyone in the family is impacted by them in some way. The best path to healing and lasting changes is one that includes healing for the entire family.

Some ways that you may be able to participate include:

  • Family visit days. The most basic level of participation may be just showing up on family days. These are days a treatment facility may set aside to encourage family to visit with patients. On these days, you may participate in some guided sessions or just casually visit with your child.
  • Family psychoeducation. Many treatment facilities offer this kind of programming, although it may go by different names. It allows family to learn more about the condition, how they can best support their loved one, and practical tools for coping with mental illness.
  • Therapy with family. Family or relationship therapy is an important way to help your child heal and your relationship grow. A therapist will guide you in learning how to better communicate, manage expectations, and use tools and strategies to deepen your connection. A therapist can also help you confront past issues and conflicts in a productive way.

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Accept the Reality of Your Relationship with Your Adult Child

With your child in treatment, you may have high hopes that they will come back to you the loving and affectionate son or daughter you always hoped you would have. It’s important to adjust those expectations, though. SPD is a difficult condition to treat, and while treatment will help make some positive changes, your child may never be affectionate or as close to you as you want.

Expecting more than your child can give you will be detrimental to your relationship and to their mental health. Step back if necessary, and let your child change at their own pace. Avoid pushing them for more closeness than they are willing or able to give. In other words, meet them where they are, and accept them for who they are and are trying to become.

One practical way to do this is to change the nature of your relationship. A person with SPD struggles to develop relationships based on emotion. They are better at relationships that focus on external factors. Engage your adult child with non-emotional activities to spend more time with them. Go to the movies, work out together, try a new hobby, or just watch TV together. Anything that doesn’t place big demands on their emotional involvement will help your child be more involved in socializing.

Be Patient with Your Adult Child

Change takes time, especially with a challenging personality disorder. There is no cure, and like many mental illnesses SPD is considered chronic. Loving someone with SPD requires great patience and understanding. You may never have the close relationship you want, but you can have a better relationship.

If treatment doesn’t translate into big changes right away, don’t lose hope. Even if your child fails the first round and drops out, try again. Treatment is effective, but it can be a slow process. Your adult child needs you to be patient and to not give up on them. Keep pushing for treatment and continued therapy.

Schizoid personality disorder is a particularly challenging mental illness. Someone with this condition has a very hard time realizing that the way they think and act is abnormal or damaging. This makes treatment difficult, but with time and persistence it can make a difference. You can help your child with SPD by providing steady support, meeting them where they are on their journey, and always pushing for continued treatment to manage this condition.

If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with schizoaffective disorders, schizophrenia, and severe bipolar as well as co-occurring substance use disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.