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:
- Neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family
- Almost always chooses solitary activities
- Has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person
- Takes pleasure in few, if any, activities
- Lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives
- Appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.