What Is Schizoid Personality Disorder?

Schizoid personality disorder (SPD) is a chronic, widespread disorder that is characterized by social isolation and feelings of apathy towards others. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) describes defining characteristics of the condition as long-standing patterns of disengagement and restriction in relationships and emotional expression. Schizoid personality disorder presents itself early in adulthood, with social and emotional disconnection preventing individuals from having intimate relationships. Those living with the disorder are typically described as being distant or closed off, and they tend to avoid social situations involving interactions with others.

People with Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD) may not see the absence of a successful social position or relationships, for instance, as harmful. Some commentators, such as Nancy MacWilliams of Rutgers University and Parpottas Panagiotis of the European University Cyprus, have said the SPDs definition is flawed because of cultural biases, and it does not constitute a mental disorder, merely an avoidant attachment style requiring a more distanced emotional closeness. Schizoid personality disorder may lead individuals to appear distant and emotionless, rarely participating in social situations or engaging in relationships with others.

Because it starts early–you might notice someone with schizoid personality disorder has these traits, or prefers to stay to themselves, when they are children–a child with schizoid personality disorder can be socially isolated in school, and this disconnect becomes deeply embedded when they fail to form social relationships. Although patients with avoidant personality disorder have a characteristic of social isolation, that isolation is triggered by a fear of rejection, while someone with schizoid is just ambivalent about social contact. The authors speculate that, as a result of such ambiguity, individuals with schizoid personality may come to believe that the least painful resolution is to remain lonely, to avoid the ambiguity that comes from the agonizing ambivalence about social contact.

Being near a therapist may seem unappealing for a person who chooses to avoid face-to-face contact. People around you may just decide that you are a quiet, private person, or they suggest that human relationships are not your strength. They have trouble conveying emotions, and they do not have a strong desire for intimate personal relationships.

The schizoid patient rarely feels powerful emotions, shows little to no desire to engage in sexual activities with their partners, and is often ambivalent about criticism or praise. They rarely sustain intimate relationships, and often choose to engage in activities that are solitary in nature. Although individuals with schizophrenia can appear detached and distant when speaking, they actually have meaning when speaking, a difference from the hard-to-follow speech patterns often displayed by individuals with schizophrenia. If depressive disorder or depersonalization does, then Schizoid individuals frequently feel like being robotic, or going through life as in a dream.

This causes the hollow central core, and a person with personality disorders can attempt to fill that hollowness by using drugs, alcohol, or food, or can suppress and dissociate from a needy self by forgoing social interactions (in the case of schizoid personality disorder) or eating (in the case of bulimia). Some people with a disorder might choose to honestly tell others that they cannot live up to emotional expectations, accepting their limitations.

One approach that seems to be helpful is placing less of an expectation of emotional intimacy or closeness on those with this disorder. When you have trouble trusting others, and generally feel unsafe in social situations, it is only natural you will have little interest in physical closeness.

Personality forms in infancy, formed by an interaction between hereditary tendencies and environmental factors. Personality is shaped by a wide range of factors, including heritable traits and tendencies, childhood experiences, parenting, upbringing, and social interactions. Social factors–including interactions during childhood with family, friends, and other children–are also indicated, along with psychological factors, such as an individuals temperament, personality, and capacity for handling stress. A persons cultural and social context, genetic and brain factors, as well as similarities between symptoms of schizophrenia and symptoms of other psychiatric conditions, must also be considered.

It may be that the current clustering of risk factors is incomplete, and that other dimensions, such as physical illness (social isolation resulting from a prolonged, serious illness), geography and climate (lack of social interaction as a consequence of a small population and inhospitable conditions), socioeconomic position (social isolation as a consequence of social ranking), and marital status, have contributed to schizoid etiology. SPD has traits also common with other personality disorders, such as a lack of empathy for the narcissistic (NPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), withdrawal (self-sufficiently, in the case of NPD), withdrawal from others, and a failure to build human and social relationships, with the case of NPD), and the trait of avoiding personal relationships, in the case of NPD, and the traits of narcissistic personality disorders. While one’s personality may be what makes one unique as an individual, a disorder is characterized by thinking, feeling, and acting that diverge from cultural expectations, causes distress, or has problematic functioning, and persists over time, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). A person with schizophrenia can experience a combination of hallucinations, delusions, and highly disordered thinking and behaviors, drastically affecting his or her everyday functioning.

Social anxiety disorder (formerly known as social phobia) is a mental health condition in which an individual experiences an intense, ongoing fear of being judged or being evaluated by others. American psychoanalyst Salman Akhtar has stated that its profile has several advantages over the DSM, in terms of maintaining the historical continuity in use of the term schizoid, prioritizing depth and complexity over over-descriptive simplification, and helping to provide more meaningful differential diagnoses of schizoid personality disorder (from other personality disorders).

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