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Schizoid Personality Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

What is schizoid personality disorder? A lot of the psychologically clueless and/or uninformed think it’s the same as schizophrenia and get it mixed up with schizotypal personality disorder – these are totally different diagnoses. Schizoid personality disorder is a diagnosis given to an individual that fits a certain set of characteristics as stated by the DSM-5 in Axis 2, Cluster A.

Various characteristics that embody this diagnosis include: social isolation, indifference to praise or criticism, as well as avoiding sex and emotional intimacy. A person with this disorder may not express emotions and could be classified as a “loner” or “recluse.” Being classified as a schizoid does not mean that there is any indication of mental illness or decline in cognition.

It simply means that you fit a set of traits that may make functioning in society more difficult. Most of the time this disorder develops around early adulthood – ranging from ages 18 to 25. Nobody can get a formal official diagnosis until they are 18 years of age. However, many people may notice tell-tale signs before they are diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder.  It should also be noted that this personality disorder is more common among males than females.

Schizoid personality disorder symptoms

There are tons of “symptoms” regarding this personality disorder. However, since it’s a personality disorder – it isn’t a mental illness. It’s merely a set of traits – not something like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. It’s simply a personality type that may have a difficult time functioning in society as a result of various traits.

DSM-5 diagnostic criteria:

  1. Neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family
  2. Almost always chooses solitary activities
  3. Has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person
  4. Takes pleasure in few, if any, activities
  5. Lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives
  6. Appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others
  7. Shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affect

Note: You must meet 4+ (four or more) of the symptoms to fit the official diagnostic criteria. You must also be diagnosed by a professional – not some random test on the internet. Many people take simple personality disorder tests and questionnaires online. Although you may fit a certain set of symptoms in an online test, it doesn’t mean that you’d be a valid match if you took an actual personality test (e.g. the PDQ-4).

Types of schizoid personality: covert vs. overt

There’s no telling whether covert schizoids are more or less common than overt. This simply has to do with the fact that most people with schizoid personality disorder do not seek treatment. Therefore it is very difficult for researchers to collect data on this disorder. It is hypothesized that there are more “overt” schizoids than “covert” (secret), but really no way to tell.

  1. Covert schizoid: Covert or “secret” schizoids appear highly sociable and seem as if they’d have many social contacts. These people may seem extroverted and/or socially involved in society. Many hold down stable jobs and have acquaintances with whom they chat. However, they do not have any deep emotional bonds and/or may keep their emotions very sequestered. Some suggest that covert schizoid sexuality is another distinguishing factor between covert and overt sub-type.  Covert schizoids tend to be more sexual in part because they have better social skills to flirt and “hook up.”
  2. Overt schizoid: The overt schizoid is someone that you would obviously be able to tell had this personality type just by chatting with them. They may seem boring, emotionless, and may be perfectly content without much social contact.  It is pretty difficult to find an overt schizoid because most stay secluded in social isolation for as long as they can get away with.  An example of the overt schizoid would be someone who spends most of their time playing video games (alone) and/or at the library reading (alone).

It should also be noted that some people could be considered to match the diagnostic criteria more than others. I guess this would be a more severe case or a person with stronger schizoid traits. For example, if someone fit all 7 characteristics listed in the DSM-5 for this disorder, they would likely have a more severe case. Someone like myself matches the criteria for the disorder, but only just enough to be formally diagnosed.

What causes schizoid personality disorder?

It is difficult to pinpoint an exact cause of the disorder. Most schizoids conduct enough self-analysis to know what could have lead to their personal development of this disorder. However, most will think about it and conclude that there was a strong genetic component. I tend to lean towards the genetic component as a cause for most disorders.

  • Environment – Various environmental factors such as abuse, parenting, bullying, etc. may contribute to the development of this condition. It is well known that the environment can alter our genetic expression and trigger certain genes.
  • Genetics – This personality disorder has firm roots in genetics and usually introverted traits / tendencies. In my opinion, genetics are the most likely cause that a person has schizoid personality disorder. You can’t help change the traits that you were given at birth.
  • Trauma – I am a firm believer that some sort of childhood trauma may lead to the condition. This one is up for debate though as some people with PTSD may act similar to a schizoid if their emotional system shuts down as a result of severe stress.
  • Traits – Obviously traits are what make up the condition, so that’s the cause. If you are introverted by nature, you are more likely to fit the criteria. However, it should be noted that not all introverts are schizoid.

Schizoid personality disorder treatments

When it comes to a personality disorder, it cannot really be “treated” like a set of medical symptoms. There are an underlying set of traits that actually lead a person to behave in a certain way. So unless there was some sort of genetic therapy that could modify a person’s personality, most other treatments won’t be targeting the condition.

What we can do though is work with the condition to make life more fulfilling. Having this personality disorder is certainly not the end of the world. Various treatments can help people manage the symptoms so that they are better able to cope with the condition, and in this particular case, make schizoids productive members of society.

  1. Antidepressants – SSRI’s are commonly prescribed to help people with schizoid personality disorder cope with social shortcomings. Although most schizoids may not notice an effect from these medications, some do find that they help. Obviously different medications are going to have different effects. Something like Paxil which promotes socialization may be recommended.
  2. Stimulants – Due to the fact that many schizoids have little energy, blunted affect, and could use a mental boost, sometimes a psychostimulant may prove to be very effective. Something as simple as Adderall could help give them the social edge that they need for daily functioning in society. It is of course important to weigh the reward vs. potential long term risk and dependence before starting any stimulants.
  3. Therapy – Therapy may prove to be beneficial for a person with schizoid personality disorder, but the whole key is finding the right therapist and taking things slow. Certain types of cognitive behavioral therapy suggestions may not provoke the correct reaction in a person with schizoid personality. Similarly, many therapists are trained to simply avoid or not work with the schizoid towards making progress – this is totally the wrong approach. Treat small progress as huge victories for the schizoid. In some cases it may be wise to not tell the therapist that you are schizoid so that you get treated more normally with better protocol recommendations.
  4. Socialization – Although socialization is a very counterintuitive recommendation, it’s something that must be done. It goes against the very core of your nature as a schizoid, but will help with feelings of loneliness and is good for overall wellbeing. You don’t need to make long lasting relationships, but it is important to not neglect the social aspects of life to an extreme.
  5. Forcing yourself to do things – Probably the best thing you can do for yourself is get a job. I know it sounds highly counterintuitive and may be stressful, but getting a job will help ward off loneliness of sitting home alone by yourself all day.  Other examples of things you could force yourself to do that would be of benefit include joining a club for some general social contacts.

Note: Although antipsychotics are recommended in some cases, I highly advise people considering them and/or taking them to think twice. The side effect profile for antipsychotic medications is absolutely insane and not worth it if all you have is schizoid personality.

Schizoid personality disorder prognosis

The prognosis for a person with schizoid personality disorder is actually pretty good. Life can get lonely at times, and the individual may even get suicidal if they aren’t able to find subtle ways to engage in society. The best thing a schizoid can do is to keep pushing themselves to land a stable job, create a few social contacts, and do as well as they can to fight their natural tendencies to isolate.

In general, people with schizoid personality disorder are highly independent and usually pretty smart. Many people with this disorder dislike socialization so much, that they may spend every last penny and/or live with their parents for as long as possible to avoid getting a job. The whole goal is to help the person with schizoid personality disorder establish structure in their life.

Once structure is established, having this disorder is usually not a big deal. They can earn an honest living, fend for themselves, and who knows, some schizoids even end up in relationships. Like I said, this disorder is certainly not a death sentence and the prognosis is favorable compared to many other conditions.

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Bruce April 27, 2014, 3:01 am

    I surely hate to categorize myself as having a schizoid personality disorder but, honestly, it seems to describe me and explains a lot. I’m 60. Been a loner since high school. Finished college and could always get a job, but always a “loner” job. I have an aversion to conversing with people. I’m married and have 2 sons. My wife can’t understand me but we’ve stayed together for 26 years. My sons lost their confidence in me after seeing that I couldn’t interact very well with their friends’ dads. I try to act my part in social gatherings, but seldom is it genuine — for example, I’ll cry at a funeral or smile at a wedding, but it is fake. My favorite thing is to go fishing alone at a lonely pond.

    • GLOOM April 28, 2014, 1:40 pm

      Hey Bruce, just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone. Many people have SPD, however most aren’t well known simply because they rarely socialize… People don’t know that they even exist. Sounds like you have had your fair share of tough times trying to balance social interaction with retreating into your solitude. I appreciate you sharing your experience.

  • James May 28, 2014, 7:03 am

    I sure fit the description, but I have no diagnosis. I’m late 50s, never married, only one girl friend in my 20s. Feel very lonely a lot but don’t like to socialize. Have trouble with other peoples emotional behaviour. Lived by myself in a house for almost 30 years now. Always do stuff by myself like shopping, jogging etc. Very introverted. Very intelligent.

    • GLOOM May 28, 2014, 7:39 pm

      Sounds like you fit the criteria based on your own self-analysis. However for a PD diagnosis, an official personality test (e.g. MMPD) needs to be taken. Unless you are deeply curious about your personality it’s not super necessary to take one. However if you have the time and would like to know how you would be classified in the field of psychology, take the test and see whether you fit this personality type.

      • James August 25, 2014, 6:45 pm

        Thanks. Just a bit more about myself… I worked for 20+ years as a software engineer. (Computers don’t have emotions). I couldn’t get promoted because of weak social skills. I didn’t really want to get promoted but a larger salary would’ve been nice. I don’t get much sex, but I sure think about a great deal.

  • Jerry May 31, 2014, 8:01 am

    This clearly describes me..I was told that I’m boring, lack of expression and cold. Its hard for others to get close to me as I’m not open. It feels like there is a wall preventing me from getting close to others. Though I did tried to change, I’m taking baby steps by doing small talks but still I appeared to be cold from someone who doesn’t really know me.I have a few friends but all I usually talk about are works and nothing else. I dislike outings. Instead, I spend most of my time playing video games alone. Guess I’m the overt schizoid type…

  • Gordo June 10, 2014, 7:29 pm

    Hi, I got my diagnosis for SPD when I saw a Psychologist and did a test and told about my upbringing trying to support evidence in my Court Case back in March last year. I’m 40yrs old, been married twice, still married today, I have 4 biological children 3 to my current wife. My whole life has been a act when it comes to dealing with people. I new from the age of 5 I was different to everyone else and for 34yrs couldn’t understand why people couldn’t understand me. I found in my life so far I have been constantly depressed from one degree to another, constantly lived with anxiety, always wanted to do my own thing and be alone but craved a partner I could share my little triumphs with. For a number of yrs I believed I had Asperges, some similar traits and very talented at art and photography. On the sites I have looked at on my diagnosis of SPD I note every one of them classes 2 categories, covert and overt. To me it has not been to separate categories of diagnosis but 2 phases of my life. In my younger yrs up until the age of about 24 I was covert then found after or during working for a door to door sales company I became overt. I have used some tricks that they teach people with Asperges to help me bear with my wife’s social life as they have problems with social ques and facial blindness among some other great traits the majority norm don’t have. 1 tip for those that may want that one other to be in their life….. find someone with the same morals as you do, someone you think is pretty and at least have one thing in common, I have found mirroring or reflecting back the behavior my wife does makes the marriage work. If you want to know about medication, I am taking 1mg Risperdone once per day and 20mg Escitalopram-Oxalate once per day for about 8 weeks now and my wife says I seem happier and talk more pleasant. I feel in a brighter mood to do more things but still very much like my isolation. I hope this bit of info is helpful to someone. Cheers.

    • GLOOM June 11, 2014, 4:56 pm

      Very much appreciate you sharing your experience Gordo. Most people with SPD notice that they are different from a young age because that social discomfort and desire to be alone never really goes away. Glad to hear that the medication combo is working for you.

  • Fauxmoi July 26, 2014, 6:36 am

    Thanks for an informative article. The description of the ‘covert type’ fits me to a tee, it’s uncanny.

    Frustratingly, I have only become aware of this PD recently after having read Brian Masters’ work about Dennis Nilsen and realising that I identify, very closely at times, with the way DN describes his thoughts and responses when committing his crimes, (although as far as I am aware, I am not a criminal myself.)

    I was diagnosed a number of years ago with borderline personality disorder, but have always thought the diagnosis very inaccurate. For example, I don’t tend to have intense relationships or fear abandonment; I do not have angry outbursts and I have never threatened, attempted, or even considered suicide.

    However, because I am female and also have an eating disorder, I feel as though I was given a kneejerk diagnosis. When I point out to MH professionals that I do not fit the criteria for BPD, I am invariably told that avoiding relationships demonstrates fear of abandonment; not expressing anger means I have issues with control and suppressed anger, and on one occasion, ‘not eating equates to wanting to die.’ Is it any wonder that I don’t want contact with psychiatrists and social workers when they twist everything you tell them and can’t admit they might have made a mistake?

    I have never been brave enough to admit to anyone else that I have another life when I am alone, (I suppose what the diagnostic criteria call ‘fantasy,’) and I use my alone life to ‘rehearse’ potential real life situations. I often feel like an actor because when I’m around other people, I use the rehearsed expressions and responses and people appear convinced that I am genuinely sociable and comfortable around them. I also feel like a complete fake and worry constantly that one day, I’ll be found out.

    • GLOOM July 26, 2014, 3:51 pm

      Based on what you wrote, it sounds less like BPD to me and more like SPD – but this is just going off of what you wrote. Then again, it is important to consider the fact that you may have been given a knee-jerk diagnosis and may not fit the criteria for any “personality disorder.”

      Professionals cannot just diagnose you with a disorder based on what they “think” – you must be given a test such as the MMPI-2 to confirm their suspicions. This test costs some money and takes about an hour or so to complete. Once complete results are sent in and the test is “scored.” It is only a test like this that will give you accurate insight into whether you actually have a personality disorder and if so, what one(s) you have.

      If I were you, just to get an accurate diagnosis, I would request this test if you want to know the truth. Best wishes.

  • Ak_Float_Flyer August 17, 2014, 1:54 am

    I’m another overt Schizoid. 49 years old, never married, live alone on an old boat even though I have a really good technical job, no sex in 20 years, seldom call or see my family or old friends, but pretty satisfied with life anyhow. Emotional attachment looks like more trouble than it is worth.

    I’ve always known I was “different” and always had to work hard to fit in. Even so, I’m noticeably odd. I have only a few pictures of myself that I can stand to look at because it is so obvious in my appearance. I once had an E7 in the military introduce me to his successor as “the strangest Marine you will ever know”. Gee thanks, Gunny. But I did fine there, regardless. I stayed out of trouble and was (and am) very good at my job.

    I’ve taken a few online tests and scored high for Schizoid Personality and extremely high for Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Disorder, but I honestly don’t see the value of seeking professional help. There is really nothing they can do for us, and having a diagnosed mental health issue can create problems with work and your own self image.

  • Keisha October 4, 2014, 2:26 am

    Hi, I’m 18 yrs. old and am suffering from a severe case of SPD, have been since I was 6 yrs. old, I have all of those symptoms and seem to be overt-schizoid. Since the beginning of this year I have been having more and more thoughts of suicide and have thought about going through with it, I haven’t known about what my problem officially was called until late May, I had thought I was suffering a severe case of depression but the symptoms are completely different.

    And, I already know what has caused my problem to appear, my childhood has been difficult, I have been molested once, raped once, bullied, abused by my peers, and have been some what neglected by my mom, she had always been working so much she hardly ever paid any attention to me and what would happen to me when I was younger.I haven’t told anyone about my problem at all, this is my first time actually asking and seeking for advice on how to handle this. I just want to know the easiest and discreetest way to handle this with out telling my mom, because she wouldn’t believe me if I told her.

  • Liz December 5, 2014, 3:23 am

    Since I was young I’ve always felt as though there was something different about me. I couldn’t connect with other people and felt anxious around them. I felt like I wasn’t meant to be around other people my age so I spent all my time reading books and hiding away in the library until people around my started getting older. I’m told I often acted like a little adult and spoke like one. I studied philosophy and psychology from the age of 12 to now in an effort to discover what the source of my difference was.

    Gradually I understood that my life was lonely and depressing and from the quantity if books I read I realized that I wanted to connect to other people after all. Why else would I read those books? It was a safe way to understand and interact with the human condition. So I struck out to try and make groups of friends. Which was hugely difficult (I was humiliated again and again) but by the time I got to college I managed to collect a group of people that I liked to sometimes hang out with. To be honest I knew that to gain friends I would have to change most things about me.

    I would have to become someone outgoing and friendly, who knew what to say. I practiced facial expressions in the mirror, and practiced the tonality to my voice. The trial and error was grueling. I was despondent over my failures. But every now and again I discovered a good habit and would stick with it. I’m still learning, of course. But it’s a great triumph for me that I can now go to parties and not have an anxiety attack or want to leave immediately.

    It’s a great triumph that I get invited to these things on a regular basis – me, who was apart, grew into a person who would be sought out by others. I guess what I want to say is that even if we have personality disorders, it’s not a sentence. I know we can be happy how we are but there are other kinds of happiness that are worth exploring. It will take time and a lot of willing to change but through exposure to things we are unfamiliar with, we become familiar, and sometimes even comfortable. Thank you.

  • Anonymous March 27, 2015, 3:57 pm

    Due to seeking treatment for depression that has been pretty constant since I was a teenager I ended up seeing a psychologist that diagnosed me with schizoid PD. Very much fits, I meet every single criteria and I can see a lot of them were present to some degree ever since I was a young kid. Initially I never had any friends or socialization at all because I was just indifferent and blended into the background. I found that forcing myself into social contact as I got older overall stressed me out and was averse, not enjoyable, and pushed me into deeper depression.

    I can have limited contact with people if they stay at arms length as just an acquaintance with zero emotional demands, though. I can not cope with highly emotional and reactive people at all, though. But there’s very little incentive for me to engage with anyone because I have an absence of any experience of loneliness. I find it had to really consider it a personality “disorder” when there is a lack of depression, because for the short times its let up I was much more functional and able to cope, though still meeting all the PD criteria.

    But depression has been a near constant issue for me since my mid teenage years. It involves an almost total lack of any mood related symptoms and some of the commonly mentioned things like feelings of guilt. 95% of the time my mood is just completely neutral. But it magnifies other issues to a huge degree like very extreme apathy/neglecting all sorts of responsibilities and even basic self care and anhedonia (when not depressed it’s just only a small range of things I find any enjoyment in and indifference to anything else, but when depressed it’s absolutely total anhedonia), plus fatigue, constant sleeping, complete passivity and lack of initiative.

    I’ve been on a ton of different antidepressants, all with very little side effects and no benefits either, or at best very weak and short lasting benefits. Only Wellbutrin at the maximum dose (450mg) was sort of marginally (like maybe 25%) helpful for a decent period of time, still clearly losing effectiveness, though. The only significant benefit I’ve gotten from psychiatry was when I was on that plus Zoloft (mostly useless) and when Abilify was added there was a very sudden improvement. I felt like almost at 90% again! But it lasted for all of a month before crapping out completely with no improvement at any other doses.

    The only other things I’ve found beneficial are weed (major decrease in anhedonia) which I only ever touch very occasionally these days because despite the short lived improvement I quickly end up extremely sleepy and lethargic lasting even longer. Psychostimulants or even a moderate dose of a less sedating and slightly stimulating opioid like oxycodone are more helpful, but desensitization and inevitable dose escalation is an issue there and good luck getting a doctor to script you them while the DEA breathes down their necks. At least unless you’re a hyperactive 12 year old or cancer patient.

    Considering demanding my pdoc just take the plunge and put me on an MAOI. The food and drug restrictions and side effects aren’t that big of a deal to me if it actually works. IME therapy was just a waste of time and energy. Maybe if I could afford to shell out the small fortune for a real experienced psychologist (like the one I saw over a small number of visits to get the PD diagnosis) it might have some kind of usefulness, but the two glorified social worker therapists I saw gave me the impression that I kind of baffled them and they weren’t sure what to even do.

    Sessions often devolved into long periods of silence. I think my situation is mostly inherited. My mother is a very reclusive and delusional paranoid schizophrenic. Thankfully I’ve never experienced anything close to hallucinations, delusions, or other positive psychotic symptoms.

  • Noah Boddy March 7, 2016, 5:31 am

    Why is this classified as a disorder? That’s ridiculously egocentric. If anything should be classified as a disorder, it’s thinking everyone has to be the same. I prefer being schizoid and don’t want to change. Who do you think you are to tell me I have to because I have a disorder? Isn’t egotism a disorder? Shouldn’t we be trying to fix that? Mind your own business and let people be who they want to be.

    • Nick S May 4, 2016, 2:29 pm

      People who say this really need to read over the actual section on SPD in the DSM-5. If it doesn’t cause you any stress or impairment, or have harmful effects on people around you, then it doesn’t qualify as a disorder, but a personality *style*.

  • Harriet May 26, 2016, 3:58 pm

    I’m a diagnosed covert schizoid. I have been for almost three years now and was diagnosed at the age of 18. People try to understand me and look into SPD to relate to me. I often have them turn round and say ‘that’s not you’ or ‘you’re not like that’. I am very solitude but I do a lot of people watching and learn how to behave and imitate what I see.

    I come across as incredibly social but inside I am very uninterested. I have one friend and do not like many other people. People mistaken being acquaintances with being my friend. They may feel as though they are close to me but on my part I have no interest or attachment. My relations with others are complicated and interesting to say the least.

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