Schizoid personality disorder is characterized by an extreme lack of interest in social activities and a simultaneous state of emotional apathy. Those with the disorder often find comfort in solitary activities and rarely have any social contacts (e.g. friends) outside of first-degree relatives. The problem with this personality disorder is that the preference for solitary activities over socialization can sometimes create feelings of extreme loneliness and depression.
Prolonged periods of self-perpetuated loneliness makes a person feel as if they have nothing to contribute to the world, and motivation decreases. The loneliness that is experienced is an instinctual response that all humans experience when they go without social contact for extensive periods. Humans evolved as social creatures and when you cut yourself off from others, even if it is a natural inclination, you’re more likely to feel less motivated, depressed, and lonely.
This often leads to a catch-22 for a person with schizoid personality disorder: face the social world or continue to isolate. Facing the social world is highly uncomfortable and clearly not the preferred option. Isolation is more comfortable, but too much isolation leads to loneliness and may result in detrimental long-term health effects. Therefore a person with schizoid personality disorder may want to develop some coping strategies to help improve their quality of life.
How To Cope with Schizoid Personality Disorder
This article should be prefaced by saying that not all individuals with schizoid personality disorder will want to learn coping strategies and/or care about figuring out how to cope. Many are totally comfortable with staying hermits for the rest of their lives, and that’s totally fine. This article is meant for those with the disorder that want to push themselves through a little discomfort and improve their quality of life. If spending the majority of your time performing solitary activities has gotten uncomfortable, it may be time to make some changes.
1. Build social momentum
Anything that involves “social” may be a problem for those with overt schizoid personality disorder. Those who identify with the “covert” subtype may not have as much of a problem building some social momentum. If you’ve been isolating for a long time, it may be time to take one step to connect with others. Connecting with someone even in the form of texting or forums can help improve the feelings of loneliness.
Since socializing isn’t appealing to you like it is to others, I suggest that you think of it like lifting weights. Since you haven’t socialized for awhile, it may feel painful at first to strike up a conversation, but is a necessary step in the process. Start with something really small such as digital texting, then advance to something like a short video chat. Eventually the goal is to meet-in person and consistently seek out some sort of social stimulation even if it’s minimal compared to others.
- Texting: You may want to use an online dating app or find an old friend that you feel comfortable with and start texting. Make an effort to carry on a conversation and think of it like lifting weights for your social life. Keep working at being fairly diligent about responding to the texts and put some effort into it.
- Video chat: After you have become competent in communication via texting, the next step is to video chat with the person. Use Skype, Facetime, or a webcam to connect with another person and have a brief video chat session. Generally this will be a little more uncomfortable, but even if the session is short, it will help reduce feelings of isolation.
- In-person: After continuously video chatting, you may find that you’re ready to meet up in person to do something. The activity could be meeting for a cup of coffee, discussing some commonly shared interests, or
- Consistent meeting: Make it a point to consistently meet with the other person. Think of it as an activity involving some effort and discomfort. It may not feel good on the inside, but the social contact will buffer the feelings of schizoid loneliness. Just feeling a little bit connected to one person may improve your outlook for the rest of the day.
2. Find one “in-person” friend
It can be very difficult to find one person that will be your in-person friend. This is someone that you’ll feel comfortable around and share some common interests. Maybe you both like the same type of music, like to watch sports, or are interested in the same sort of fitness activities. Maybe you are both suffering from schizoid personality disorder? (The chances of that are slim, but it’s possible).
Many people with schizoid personality disorder may have acquaintances, but zero actual “friends” that they feel comfortable around. Even if the friend is a family member or someone of a different age, having someone that you can keep in touch with will improve feelings of loneliness and make you feel more connected. This friend will also help in case you need encounter some sort of an emergency and don’t have any other contacts.
Try to engage in some sort of activity with this person at least once every week or couple weeks. If you can plan on meeting a particular day of the week at the same time to set up a routine, that may work even better. Many people with SPD like the same ingrained daily and weekly routines.
If you have schizoid personality disorder, you probably have a lot of time to yourself to plot and think of ways to improve your current situation. Do some research and experiment with things that you think may help you cope with your disorder and may change your brain for the better. You may want to look at various supplement protocols, psychotropic drugs, and get ideas from books. Just because some people haven’t figured out how to cope with SPD doesn’t mean that you can’t.
- Ideas: Get some ideas from non-fiction books and form some hypotheses as to what may help improve your current situation. Once you’ve formed a hypothesis, test it and see if you notice any sort of improvement. If not, keep trying new things until something clicks. Think of this process as biohacking your mental health or personality.
- Protocols: Set up some protocols that you want to test and take action on one at a time. Evaluate whether your ability to cope with the disorder improves or regresses with whatever “treatment” you pursue. You may try therapy, you may try supplements or combinations, you may try drugs and/or supplements, you may try changing your brain waves, etc.
- Evaluations: After each experiment, evaluate whether you noticed improvement. If you didn’t notice any improvement or noticed that you felt “worse” simply discard that particular modality. Don’t get discouraged if things don’t fall into place immediately. Keep reading books, expanding your knowledge and testing hypotheses.
4. Embrace work
Although you may like browsing the web or playing video games for hours on end, it is important to embrace work. You don’t need to drown yourself in work, as this can take a toll on your health, but work shouldn’t be a nuisance.
Find a job that suits your personality and build skills necessary to perform that job.
- Know yourself: An overt schizoid may be highly uncomfortable in a job requiring any social interaction. A covert schizoid on the other hand may perform well in a job involving social contact, and the experience may not bother them as much. It is important to know yourself so that you market yourself to the right job.
- Build a skill: The next step is to build the skill that will help you earn money. If you’ve truly been diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder, you probably won’t want to become a public speaker. Instead you’ll want to continue perfecting a skill that is in demand and that won’t become obsolete.
- Get a job: After you’ve built a skill, the next step is to apply for a job. Don’t give up if you don’t land the first job for which you’ve applied, keep going. Eventually you’ll probably land something if you are persistent with your applications.
- Create a job: If you can’t seem to land a job, create your own. Assuming you have any skill that can be performed in isolation (e.g. programming), you can surely find work online. Other examples include: graphic design, selling artwork, coding, making apps, designing websites, writing, etc. – there are a lot of options.
- Daily routine: Work should be considered a daily routine for a person with schizoid personality disorder. Not only does work help the person stay connected even if there’s minimal interaction on the job, it will provide them with money to purchase necessities (e.g. food, an apartment, etc.). Making work also provides structure and prevents them from becoming homeless.
If you have SPD, do your best to stay in touch with family members. Chances are you feel some sort of comfort around first-degree relatives. Additionally, if you are in a relationship or want to form a relationship with one person (that understands you), it’s not a bad idea. Having a brother, sister, mom, or dad that you can stay in touch with may improve your social skills and reduce feelings of isolation.
Just like building social momentum, it may take some effort and may feel uncomfortable. However, you’ll usually find that you get out of any relationship what you’re willing to put into it. If you don’t put much effort into the connection, then you won’t get any reciprocal effort from the other person. Keep this in mind as well should you ever build up the momentum to enter a relationship and/or get married.
Also understand that with any aspect of socialization, there’s no need to go overboard. However, since you already likely have a significant amount of alone-time, it is important to work towards a bit more balance. Rather than 100% of your time spent alone, try to spend 20% of your time with others and 80% alone; work towards a healthier ratio.
6. Turn Fantasy to Reality (with Effort)
Unless you haven’t figured out how to cope with comorbid diagnoses such as schizoid personality disorder + (another condition), you should be able to turn your “fantasy” to reality. Just fantasizing about the things that you want is easy and usually comforting. Some people spend hours lost in fantasy-type thinking only to realize that nothing has changed.
There’s no reason that you can’t turn your fantasy into reality if you put forth the effort to make change. Often times those with schizoid personality disorder just accept their disorder as “fate” and fail to understand that they can change and their brain can adapt if forced. While this may be uncomfortable, the concept of “self-directed neuroplasticity” can change the way your brain works.
If you continue to “do what you’ve always done,” then you’re going to “get what you’ve always got.” Waking up, playing video games and browsing the web isn’t going to make you feel better about your situation. Some effort needs to be put forth towards making your fantasy become a reality. Thinking about it doesn’t mean much, actually doing something (even if you’re afraid) is what will help you change.
7. Forget the term “personality disorder”
The term “personality disorder” is probably one of the most depressing terms there is to describe a set of traits that someone is born with. The fact that a certain set of traits is labeled as a “disorder” can make people that have it feel like crap. Once we are diagnosed with this condition, it becomes apparent that not only is it lifelong and pretty debilitating, but it becomes ingrained in our heads that we are disordered.
The thinking of the fact that we are disordered is an excuse to give up trying. Why try to improve when effort will ultimately prove to be futile and painful? I wish the psychiatric community would stop labeling personality traits as “disorders.” Although the traits signify that someone is different from society, they don’t need to be labeled as “disordered.”
8. Realize: You have nothing to lose…
When you have this disorder, it is important to recognize that you have nothing to lose by trying new things in life. You are eventually going to die just like every living creature. You just happen to be schizoid, but there’s no person who says you can’t be schizoid and actually learn to enjoy it. Your life may be more difficult than average in regards to socialization, but why not try?
Factors to consider among those with SPD
It is important to avoid generalizing those with “SPD” as the exact same versions of socially isolated automatons. There are many other traits that people fail to consider. Some people with the disorder experience profound emotions (and just don’t share them) while others don’t feel a thing (completely dull). There are several different subtypes of the disorder as well. Although people with SPD all have been diagnosed, they can still be very different.
- Severity: Some people will have more severe variations of SPD than others. One person may barely meet the criteria for SPD and may find it easier to cope, whereas another person may fit every diagnostic measure of the disorder.
- Subtype: There are several different subtypes of the disorder including “overt” (the obvious schizoid) and “covert” (the secret schizoid).
- Willingness to change: Not everyone really wants to learn how to cope, and that’s alright. Most people with this personality disorder are forced to change when they become adults and need to attain food, shelter, etc.
- Age: The younger the person, the easier it is to change habits. The older a person gets, the tougher it is to escape “routine.” If the routine is contributing to feelings of depression or intense loneliness, it’ll be tougher for the older person with SPD to change.
Note: The amalgamation of the aforementioned factors result in unique differences among those diagnosed with SPD.
Do you want to successfully manage SPD?
I understand that some people with SPD are “coping” just fine by sitting at home all day listening to music, browsing forums, and working menial jobs. There’s nothing wrong with that particular strategy if it gives you fulfillment and doesn’t bother you. They may want to break free from the constricting reigns of their personality, but may not know any coping strategies. It is my hope that at least one person with SPD that is dissatisfied with their current situation can use some of the aforementioned suggestions to change.
Guarantee: The Passing of Time
There’s only one guarantee in life and that is the passing of time. Since you know time will continue to pass, why not become as accomplished as possible to achieve everything you can? Many people with schizoid personality disorder underestimate their ability to change and make a difference in the world. It’s easy to get caught up in seeing yourself as a “victim” of maladaptive social genetics, but you have more ways to cope than ever before.
There’s no need to view this condition as a lifelong death sentence. Make an effort to improve your current situation. Becoming engrossed in the perceived “fate” of an SPD diagnosis often results in people to stop trying at life. Since you’re eventually going to get old and things will become harder, why not make some necessary changes now?
Although it may seem as though you are fighting your own genetics, at least you have a unique challenge. Everyone has challenges in life. Would you rather be schizoid or be debilitated with paralysis or a severe sickness that had you bedridden for years? The fact that you are alive means that you have an opportunity to live and experience what life has to offer.
I know what it’s like to hope that the days pass quicker and live alone in isolation. I have been formally diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder, and some days I still struggle to cope with my isolation. But I am constantly pushing myself to try new things, evolve, and get on with life before father time passes me by.
If you have schizoid personality disorder, how have you coped?
If you’ve been formally diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder, feel free to share some coping strategies that you’ve found helpful. Mention how you’ve dealt with isolation, whether you’ve managed to form friendships or any “bonds” with family, how you established a career, and whether you’ve found certain medications, supplements, diets, or philosophical paradigms to be helpful.