What is schizoid personality disorder?
Schizoid personality disorder is a psychiatric condition where a person is indifferent to other people. A person suffering from this disorder prefers isolation to social interaction. The schizoid personality disorder belongs to a group of disorders known as eccentric personality disorders (also known as cluster A personality disorders). The affected individuals behave in a peculiar way which is not considered normal by the general population.
The term “schizoid” means “schizophrenia-like”. Schizoid personality disorder is similar to schizophrenia, but the symptoms are not severe enough for the patient to be termed schizophrenic. In addition, these patients do not exhibit hallucinogenic tendencies, delusions or a complete disconnect from reality that is characteristic of schizophrenics. Since schizoid personality disorder is not as disabling as schizophrenia, these cases are rarely reported or treated.
Although schizoid personality disorder is currently considered separately from similar personality disorders, some researchers believe that there is not enough scientific evidence to categorize this as a distinct disorder.
How common is schizoid personality disorder?
The sufferers of schizoid personality disorder do not think that they have a problem. Since these individuals usually do not seek medical help by themselves, the condition might be under-reported. The fact that schizoid personality disorder is not as disruptive as schizophrenia also makes it difficult for other people to spot it in an acquaintance. This underreporting of cases makes it difficult to arrive at an estimate of the incidence of this disorder.
In cases that are reported, it is observed that men are more frequently affected than women and the disorder usually begins in early adulthood. The affected persons are likely to have relatives who are schizophrenics. Therefore, it can be argued that the incidence of schizoid personality disorder is similar to incidence of schizophrenia in the general population. However, these are speculations at present.
Signs and Symptoms
The main signs and symptoms displayed by a person with schizoid personality disorder involve behaviors that demonstrate emotional coldness and social withdrawal. The affected individuals show deficits in six areas of psychological and social functioning:
- Interpersonal relations
- Social adaptation
- Ethics, standards and ideals
- Love and sexuality
- Cognitive style
Others might notice the following behavioral traits in these individuals:
- Aloofness : The affected person shows an emotional detachment in relationships with other people, including family members. Therefore, these individuals have difficulty in maintaining relationships.
- Avoidance of social contact: The affected individuals prefer being alone and avoid social gatherings. .
- Lack of pleasure in activities: The affected individuals do not get any pleasure from activities that involve emotional bonding with others. In fact, they hardly get any pleasure out of any activity.
- Difficulty in expressing emotions: These individuals have a very narrow range of emotions when interacting with other people. They do not show anger even upon direct provocation.
- Indifference to praise and criticism: These individuals do not show any emotional response to praise and criticism from others. This also makes them hard to motivate.
- Lack of sexual desire: Individuals suffering from the schizoid personality disorder do not get pleasure out of sexual activity and intimacy. Therefore, they lack sexual desire and avoid sex. Most of these people do not marry.
- Preference for solitary jobs: In order to minimize their interactions with people, these individuals usually take up solitary jobs and activities.
- Difficulty in relating to others: These individuals have difficulty in seeing things from the other person’s perspective. Consequently, they do not relate well to others.
- Daydreaming: These individuals usually enjoy solitary activities, daydreams and complex fantasies.
- Drifters: Schizoids may seem to drift through life because of their passive reactions to circumstances and significant life events.
- Loneliness : Despite the appearance of emotional coldness and aloofness, the sufferer of schizoid personality disorder might be acutely sensitive to neglect by other people and may feel extremely lonely.
The main complication of schizoid personality disorder for the affected individual is the absence of emotionally nurturing relationships due to the reclusive nature of the sufferer. These individuals are also prone to suffer from panic attacks, depression, and drug abuse. Schizoids are also at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia and other delusional disorders.
Causes of Schizoid Personality Disorder
The exact cause and pathophysiology is not known. It is believed that both the genetic makeup of an individual and some unknown environmental factors might contribute to schizoid personality disorder. Families that have schizophrenics also have more incidences of schizoid personality disorder, suggesting that these two disorders may have the same genetic basis. It is also speculated that lack of emotional nurturing during early childhood could be a causative factor.
The risk factors for developing schizoid personality disorder include the following:
- Family history of schizophrenia or related mental health disorders
- Emotionally detached parents
- Childhood abuse and neglect
- There is no known way to prevent schizoid personality disorder.
Tests and Diagnosis
Schizoid personality disorder cannot be diagnosed by laboratory tests. Diagnosis of this personality disorder requires psychiatric evaluation after ruling out physical abnormalities. The patient history and the severity of the symptoms are used to distinguish this disorder from schizophrenia. Mental health professionals (psychiatrists or psychologists) may utilize certain specially designed questionnaires and interview tools to come up with a diagnosis of schizoid personality disorder.
Psychotherapy is the only treatment of schizoid personality disorder at present. This involves counseling the affected individual on coping mechanisms, improving communication and social interactions, and increasing self-esteem. Medications are not given for treating cases of schizoid personality disorder. However, medicines may be prescribed for schizoid individuals who also suffer from depression and anxiety disorders.
Very little is understood about the schizoid personality disorder. The social reclusiveness of these individuals also makes it difficult for them to seek help from other people. Consequently, the prognosis is not very good and the disorder does not improve much with time. Strangely, putting fewer demands for emotional intimacy has been found to be helpful in cases of schizoid personality disorder. These people do well in relationships based on work, recreation, and intellectual activities rather than in relationships based on emotional intimacy and expectations. Therefore, avoiding emotional pressures and expectations may allow these people to manage social relationships better.
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on January 31, 2013