Schizoid Personality Disorder
Schizoid personality disorder is not overly common, but it still affects the lives of millions of Americans. Men and women with this condition seem detached from their own lives and have few if any close relationships with other people, and their ability to find happiness and fulfillment is limited as a result. Treating schizoid personality disorder is not easy, but with time and patience its most disruptive effects can be managed and its life-altering capacities controlled.
What Is Schizoid Personality Disorder?
People with schizoid personality disorder have a limited range of emotional expressions and remain detached from other people. They are in touch with reality and do manage to hold down jobs and function in society, but they make few if any meaningful social or emotional connections and seldom form close or satisfying relationships as a result.
‘Indifferent’ is a word often used to describe the personalities and behavior of people with schizoid personality disorder, because their emotional responses seem so flat or muted, or in some cases non-existent. They aren’t affected by the reactions or judgments of family members, co-workers, or other acquaintances, and usually won’t respond to provocations or attempts to get them engaged. Men and women with schizoid personality disorder are aloof and seem to prefer spending most of their time alone, even to the point of choosing jobs that can be performed in isolation.
People who suffer from mood or anxiety disorders often exhibit similar symptoms of avoidance or withdrawal, but these conditions are perceived as problematic and sufferers will make great efforts to overcome them. Men and women with schizoid personality disorder, on the other hand, are generally comfortable with themselves and feel no sense of loss because of their social isolation and limited emotional responses.
Facts and Statistics
Schizoid personality disorder is classified as a Cluster A personality disorder, along with schizotypal and paranoid personality disorders. It is the least common of these conditions, believed to be present in less than one percent of the adult population (although some experts believe the rate is somewhat higher).
Odd and eccentric behaviors are frequently observed in those with Cluster A conditions. They suffer from social maladjustment and a general feeling of disconnection from other human beings, but they tend to blame others for this and do not see anything wrong with their own attitudes and behaviors.
Overall, about 7.6 percent of Americans show symptoms consistent with a personality disorder diagnosis. Men are far more likely to be diagnosed with Cluster A conditions than women, but the condition may be underdiagnosed in women because mental health professionals don’t expect to find it.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Schizoid Personality Disorder
Personality disorders tend to show significant overlap in their symptoms. Nevertheless, there are specific signs of schizoid personality disorder that do betray its presence.
The telltale symptoms of schizoid personality disorder include:
- Disinterest in forming close relationships, even in the family
- Preference for solitary careers or hobbies
- An active fantasy life (but people with schizoid personality disorder still recognize the difference between reality and fantasy)
- Inability to find pleasure in recreational activities
- Indifference to criticism, praise, or other kinds of acknowledgement
- Low or no interest in sexual or romantic relationships
- Muted or limited emotional responses to circumstances or events that triggers such reactions in other people
- A humorless demeanor
- Lack of understanding of the rules of social behavior
- Living in the moment; a failure to develop long-term goals or ambitions
Men and women with schizoid personality disorders usually remain isolated, even when they are in a room filled with other people. Their intent to keep themselves apart is obvious, and others may judge them shy or anti-social because of their avoidant behavior.
But assumptions like this are incorrect. People with schizoid personalities aren’t intimidated by other people or hostile to them. They simply lack the motivation to socialize and would rather do or think about other things.
Diagnosing Schizoid Personality Disorder
People seeking a diagnosis for a personality disorder must undergo a full psychological evaluation, likely including questionnaires and specialized tests. For schizoid personality disorder specifically to be diagnosed, at least four of these seven symptoms must be uncovered:
- Lack of interest in forming close relationships
- Having no friends or confidantes outside of the immediate family
- Clear preference for solitary activities
- Limited interest in sexual activity
- Taking pleasure from few (if any) activities
- Unresponsiveness to criticism or praise
- Emotional coldness and detachment, demonstrated in a wide variety of situations
Treating personality disorders is a complex undertaking, and anyone diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder will be encouraged to consult with mental health experts to map out a comprehensive plan for recovery.
Causes and Risk Factors for Schizoid Personality Disorder
The established risk factors for schizoid personality disorder include:
- Family history of schizophrenia
- Long-term isolation and loneliness, beginning in early childhood
- Having cold, distant, neglectful parents
- Childhood sexual abuse
- Prenatal malnutrition or premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Traumatic brain injuries, especially in youth
Some mental health experts believe that schizoid personality disorder may be a mild form of schizophrenia, but the actual existence of a schizophrenia spectrum is still theoretical.
Because it is relatively rare, schizoid personality disorder has not been studied as extensively as most other personality disorders. More risk factors likely exist, but more research will be needed to uncover them.
People can develop symptoms consistent with more than one type of personality disorder, and schizotypal, avoidant, borderline, and paranoid personality disorders are most frequently diagnosed in those with schizoid personality disorder.
The emotional flatness or emptiness associated with schizoid personality disorder is similar to what is experienced during depression, and in fact up to half of all people with this type of personality disorder have experienced at least one episode of depression during their lifetimes.
Anxiety disorders are also common among people with schizoid personality disorder, and among those with personality disorders in general. In one study, between 35 and 52 percent of men and women with PTSD, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder also had at least one co-occurring personality disorder.
Despite their apparent self-assurance, people with schizoid personality disorder are still at increased risk for substance use disorders—as are men and women with other personality disorders. Studies show that somewhere between 65 and 90 percent of people who seek treatment for a substance use disorder also have a personality disorder, and if for some reason the personality disorder goes undiagnosed it could make substance use treatment less effective.
Schizoid Personality Disorder Treatment and Prognosis
Personality disorders are not as obvious as other types of mental health conditions, since those who have them are usually able to function. Consequently, people with personality disorders usually don’t get diagnosed or treated, and family members seldom see a need to intervene.
This is unfortunate, because personality disorders will respond to psychotherapy and other complementary forms of treatment if the correct disorder is diagnosed and any co-occurring disorders are included in the treatment plan.
Mental health professionals know that men and women with schizoid personality disorder often don’t make great patients, since they tend to resist the efforts of others to involve themselves in their lives. But in structured recovery programs, which offer individual, group, or family therapy sessions on a daily basis, patients and their counselors can begin to form bonds of trust, and once treatment progresses to this stage healing becomes possible.
As schizoid patients get more comfortable with the recovery process, they may be more willing to delve deeply into their schizoid symptoms, to explore their roots and evaluate their negative effects. This creates immense possibilities for personal growth, giving the person with schizoid personality disorder a legitimate chance to change both their behavior and the outlook on life that encourages it.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches people with mental health issues how to think more constructively in order to alter unproductive patterns of behavior, has been found to work well for people with schizoid personality disorder. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is another practical therapy that helps people relieve the stress and anxiety caused by traumatic memories, and it can help those with schizoid personality disorder come to terms with any childhood abuse and neglect they may have experienced.
Intensive outpatient treatment programs offered by mental health treatment centers are often sufficient for people recovering from schizoid personality disorder. However, if co-occurring substance use or mental health disorders have been diagnosed, inpatient treatment programs that can provide detox services, medication management, and 24-hour care are the more appropriate option.
With the assistance of compassionate and highly-trained mental health professionals, people with schizoid personality disorder can become happier, healthier, and more engaged in their own lives. Schizoid personality disorder cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be managed once its effects are understood and acknowledged.