Schizoid personality disorder (SZPD) is sub-classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) V in the Cluster A grouping of personality disorders, along with schizotypal personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder.
These personality disorders are classified together because they share a common characteristic of odd, peculiar and eccentric behaviors. Learn the symptoms and causes of SZPD, how it is diagnosed, how it’s treated and where to find a qualified therapist.
Schizoid Personality Disorder Definition: What is SZPD?
Personality disorders are enduring patterns of behaving and internal experience that are a divergence from the expectations of an individual’s culture and community. Personality disorders have an onset in adolescence and create significant distress over the course of a person’s lifetime. The enduring pattern is pervasive and inflexible and noted across a range of social and personal situations.
SZPD is characterized by patterns of social detachment that are long-standing.
The sufferer has a limited range of emotions and great difficulty in expressing emotions, especially anger. They appear flat in their effect and it can be hard to get a read on who they are because of their limited social skills.
They are oftentimes indifferent to relationships, present as aloof and have little interest in engaging socially. A feature often noted about the diagnosis is that they have limited interest in sexual activities.
When thinking of this personality disorder, the loner type comes to mind. They are most comfortable engaging in activities that can be done in solitary, especially something mechanical or tinkering.
Schizoid Definition, Aloofness Definition, and Loner Definition
- Schizoid is an adjective that means to have a personality that is characterized by emotional aloofness and solitary habits.
- Aloofness is described as a state of being distant, remote or withdraw.
- A loner is someone who prefers not to associate with others.
Schizoid Personality Disorder Causes
In general, it is difficult to pinpoint the causes of personality disorders.
What most experts in the field believe is that the disorder most likely emerges from a complex interweaving of biopsychosocial conditions, including social, biological and genetic factors. Some mental health professionals believe that a child raised in an environment with little warmth, affection and attention may be more vulnerable to the diagnosis.
There is some evidence that the disorder is more prevalent in families that have a schizophrenic family member, suggesting a genetic component.
Schizoid Personality Disorder Stats: How Many Suffer from this Disorder?
In clinical settings, SZPD is less prevalent than other personality disorders. This is probably because these individuals are not likely to seek out help. With their loner lifestyle, it is unlikely that a breakup or a work stressor would bring them to get help.
The prevalence is estimated at between 1% and 3%.
Demographics: More Common in Adults or Children?
The age of onset of the disorder is adolescence to early adulthood. If the symptoms are seen in childhood, it is likely to be related to anxiety, trauma or depression for someone younger than an adolescent.
5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Schizoid Personality Disorder
- People with this disorder are rarely violent as they prefer not to engage with others at all and do not express emotions such as anger.
- Sufferers are generally able to function in everyday life.
- Like most personality disorders, symptoms will decrease in intensity with age.
- People with the disorder maintain contact with reality.
- The disorder is more prevalent in males than females.
Schizoid, Schizoaffective Disorder, and Schizophrenia: What’s the Difference?
We’ve already discussed how SZPD is a pervasive and insistent disorder, where the behaviors and eccentricities of the disorder would be seen across all environments for the sufferer. Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental health disorder that has elements of both schizophrenia and bipolar, and the sufferers are often misdiagnosed with one of those disorders.
Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by hallucinations, disordered thinking, delusions, depressed mood and manic behavior. The sufferer of SZPD maintains their grip on reality and although they may struggle with depression, it is not a primary feature of SZPD.
Schizophrenia is described as a chronic and severe mental health disorder, where the sufferer has lost touch with reality.
It differs from SZPD because of the disconnection with reality and in that schizophrenia can be treated with antipsychotics, whereas SZPD does not respond especially well to psychiatric medications. The sufferer of schizophrenia has great difficulty in functioning, often they can’t sustain employment or housing.
SZPD would impact relationships, but these sufferers can maintain work and keep a home for themselves.
Both those suffering from schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder will seek out relationships other than immediate family, have a desire for sexual experiences and will display a full range of emotion, differing greatly from those with SZPD.
Schizoid Personality Disorder Symptoms
The symptoms most commonly associated with SZPD include:
- Appears aloof and detached
- Does not desire close relationships, including those with family
- Takes pleasure in few, if any activities
- Prefers solitary activities
- Avoids social activities that would require close contact with others
- Little interest in sexual engagement
- Indifferent to praise or criticism
- Have very little emotional expression, appearing flat, cold and detached
- Little noticeable change in emotions
- Shows relationship only with immediate relatives
What are the Common Behaviors/Characteristics?
The sufferer of SZPD might appear to others as someone who is either depressed or maybe even antisocial, and they can indeed have both characteristics. They can function with some normalcy by maintaining employment, but you will often find them working at jobs that allow for solitary environments.
Think of the tech guy or girl who works from home and avoids the office holiday parties. They maintain family relationships out of obligation or habit, but will not seek out an intimate partner, appearing to be content with distant, surface relationships.
A very noticeable quality will be the lack of range of emotional expression.
“Flat” is the word used to describe someone who has a limited emotional range and it can be seen in the lacking change of facial expression, tone and gesture. The SZPD sufferer chooses activities that are solitary in nature, so this person may stay home and play video games when invited to a gathering.
This disorder is often misdiagnosed as depression; however, is altogether different.
Schizoid Personality Disorder Test: How is it Diagnosed?
A diagnosis is made by a trained mental health practitioner such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. A general practitioner does not have the expertise to make the diagnosis but can rule out any physical diagnoses by exam or testing. The mental health practitioner would need to complete a thorough assessment, which would include a complete history.
The symptoms reported by the sufferer (and possibly the report of close family members) are compared to the symptoms noted above. If the assessor determines that the individual consistently displays four or more of those symptoms, then a diagnosis may be given.
Additionally, the professional would have to rule out depression, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, mood disorders and pervasive developmental disorder before confidently assigning the diagnosis.
Schizoid Personality Disorder VS Schizotypal Personality Disorder
The schizotypal personality disorder is similar to SZPD in that the sufferer would appear as a loner and an eccentric, with flat affect and little emotional range. The divergence would be most noticeable in the schizotypal’s belief in special powers, suspicious or paranoid thoughts, an odd manner of dress including mismatched clothes.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder Test
Testing to determine whether an individual may have schizotypal personality disorder would include questions such as these, differentiating the disorder from SZPD:
- I can sense events before they happen
- I can make things happen by intensely thinking about them
- My compliance with certain rituals preserves me from harm
- People around are intent on undermining my reputation
Schizoid Personality Disorder vs Detachment Disorder
Emotional detachment is the blunting of emotions that are usually rooted in a traumatic response. It may look like SZPD in that in certain situations the range of effect is limited for the individual.
It differs from SZPD in that it isn’t usually seen across all situations. A person with a trauma reaction, such as detachment, will be able to display a full range of emotions in some situations, but if being triggered by a trauma response, may appear blunted.
Additionally, individuals with detachment disorder seek out relationships and wouldn’t necessarily be considered odd or eccentric.
Schizoid Personality Disorder and Other Psychological Disorder: List of Personality Disorders
- Paranoid Personality Disorder
- Schizoid Personality Disorder
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder
- Antisocial Personality Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Histrionic Personality Disorder
- Avoidant Personality Disorder
- Dependent Personality Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder
Case Example for Schizoid Personality Disorder
Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Bobby Fischer, Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx are all suspected to have schizoid personality disorder or at least displayed traits of the disorder. Additionally, Adam Lanza, the man responsible for the murders in the Sandy Hook Elementary mass murder, is speculated to have suffered from Schizoid personality disorder.
Schizoid Personality Disorder Leave Policies and Insurance Coverage
As with any mental health disorder, you should check with your human resource department around the specific policies governing mental health leave.
Insurance benefits are specific to your individual plan, but most plans would cover outpatient and inpatient care for a diagnosis such as SZPD.
Coping with Schizoid Personality Disorder: Look out for These Complications/Risk Factors
The main complication of the disorder is limited social interaction. This shouldn’t be an understated complication as we are social beings who rely on one another for survival. With limited ability and desire to connect, the sufferer may be at increased risk for depression or anxiety.
Schizoid Personality Disorder Treatment
Therapy targeted at developing the lacking skills to connect, foster and maintain relationships is the most useful approach to wellness for SZPD sufferers. Group therapy can also be useful in the development of people skills and can create opportunities to develop relationships and practice new skills in real time.
Possible Medications for Schizoid Personality Disorder
Medication is not especially effective in treating personality disorders of any sort but can be useful in treating any co-occurring depression or anxiety.
Home Remedies to help Schizoid Personality Disorder
Fish oil, ginseng, flax seed oil, and holly are among some of the recommended home remedies that may be useful in decreasing some of the symptoms of the disorder and any accompanying anxiety. Regular exercise, approximately 30 minutes per day, may help improve mood and alleviate anxiety and depression. Yoga may be effective in improving quality of life issues.
Living with Schizoid Personality Disorder
Finding a local or virtual support group may be a good place to start in attempting to make a determination of how you will live with the diagnosis.
The diagnosis doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to have a life with little excitement and emotion. As with most challenges in life, you get to choose whether you want to captain your own boat.
It may mean a great deal of learning about yourself, your emotions and what others expect in a relationship, but if you are determined to make a change and stick with that determination, you can create a life that is relationally and emotionally fulfilling.
How to Find a Therapist
There are several directories online, including Psychology Today, Good Therapy and OpenPath Collective that will allow you to sort by area of expertise, insurance accepted, cost of treatment and location. Your insurance company will also have suggestions about professionals with this particular expertise.
What Should I be Looking for in a Licensed Mental Health Professional?
- Do they have openings?
- Do they have experience helping individuals suffering from SZPD?
- Do they accept my insurance?
- Are they someone that I can trust?
Questions to ask for Potential Therapist
- How long should I expect to be in treatment?
- What are the expected outcomes of treatment?
- What is their level of experience in treating SZPD?
Schizoid Personality Disorder Support Helpline
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a national hotline for sufferers of mental illness 800-950-6264. You may also be able to find a local hotline with more resources specific to your community.
About the Author:
Lydia Kickliter, LPC, LMHC has a private practice in Asheville, NC where she treats women’s issues including trauma related to domestic violence and sexual assault. Lydia also treats trauma survivors residing in the states of Georgia, Florida and North Carolina through tele-mental health services. Lydia is contracted with Certapet where she provides evaluations for emotional support animals. You can go to therapyforshowingup.com for more information on her work.