When a family member contracts a disease or physical condition, their loved ones adjust and try to make their afflicted family member feel safe and comfortable as they try to cope with their condition. Unfortunately, the stigma of mental health means that a lot of people diagnosed with a mental disorder have their condition brushed aside even by family members.
Depression, for example, has risen quite significantly since 1990 and accounts for up to 60 percent of the Americans who have committed suicide in the recent years. Its contributions to suicide statistics are so high that it has made suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the US.
Luckily, mental health awareness in the US has recently improved, with plenty of people recognizing signs when they need help and their families becoming more accepting and accommodating for family members afflicted with mental health conditions.
In this article, we discuss about schizoid personality disorder. We discuss the symptoms, causes, effects, diagnosing, and treating this mental condition which affects five percent of the country’s population. If you are living with a family member you suspect or has already been diagnosed, we explain how to cope living with someone with schizoid personality disorder and how you can provide proper care for them.
What Is Schizoid Personality Disorder?
People diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder avoid most social interaction and actively avoid social activities and events that would require them to socialize with others. They have a limited range of emotions and expressions and are largely indifferent to social settings and social interactions.
While shy people and introverts act reserved or quiet timid in social settings, they still have a handful of friends or people they trust and may have a good relationship with their parents, siblings, and other family members. They may even have partners or spouses. A person with schizoid personality disorder, however, does not see the need or have the desire to form social relationships with anyone and are totally indifferent to any form of social or familial bond. Like introverts, people with schizoid personality disorder can still go to school and pass, get a job, and conform to societal rules such as waiting in line to pay or dressing appropriately. They can speak to people like a colleague, a cashier, or even a parent if they need to, but they aren’t interested in forming meaningful relationships with anyone.
Schizoid personality disorder affects around five percent of the population. However, this may not be a totally accurate statistic because, like mental conditions such as depression and anxiety, people can live their whole lives without ever being officially diagnosed and find their own ways to cope – some of which may be detrimental to their health and safety.
Why Get Treated?
People with schizoid personality disorder are often by themselves as they have no meaningful relationships and only interact with others when necessary. As such, they are seen as loners, snobs, being totally dismissive of everyone around them, or uncaring about the social events that are happening around them.
In psychology, a person’s personality is the way a person thinks, feels, or behaves. This is affected by many factors, including your genes, environment, and childhood. As early as your childhood, your personality is already being shaped by how you react to both positive and negative stimulus.
While it’s OK to be different, your personality becomes a personality disorder when you have an unhealthy pattern of thinking and can’t perceive or relate to others. No man is an island, and meaningful relationships with other people are necessary to attain a healthy lifestyle. People with schizoid personality disorder cannot form personal relationships, express their feelings, or stay passive even during troubling social situations.
In some cases, even people who may seem like extroverts may also have schizoid personality disorder. These are “secret schizoids,” according to British psychologist Henry Guntrip, who appear socially involved and engaged with other people, but on the inside, they are emotionally withdrawn and don’t really care about the people they interact with.
Schizophrenia vs. Schizoid Personality Disorder
Mental health is more complex than just saying a person has this disorder or that disorder. Schizoid personality disorder, according to psychologist Theodore Million, believes that while the condition is generally about the lack of social interactions, it’s much more complicated than that. There are four subtypes of people with schizoid personality disorder:
- Languid schizoid – a weary or exhausted patient who cannot stand spontaneity and simple pleasures and may have similar symptoms of depression;
- Remote schizoid – isolation and solitary personality. They are capable of having a normal social life, but their past traumas have made them lost their capability and desire to form human bonds. Because of this trauma, they may also have some anxieties. This subtype is seem commonly among homeless people;
- Depersonalized schizoid – disengaged and dissociated from others and their own bodies. Their mind tends to wander off and may have schizotypal features;
- Affectless schizoid – unresponsive and unaffectionate with no strong emotions. Has compulsive tendencies and follows everything to the schedule; generally a cold person.
Also, don’t get confused between someone with schizophrenia and schizoid personality disorder. TV and film has warped the public’s idea of schizophrenia as someone dangerous because they’ve lost touch with reality, and while they do need help, they’re not necessarily dangerous.
Some medical researchers believe that schizoid personality disorder may be the start of schizophrenia or a mild form of it. Others believe it is a condition on its own. Schizophrenics may be unable to distinguish reality from imagination and see or hear things that aren’t really there. Thus, some may be unable to operate or live on their own.
A person with schizoid, on the other hand, is aware of what is real even if they are prone to daydreaming. They avoid social activities and social interaction that isn’t necessary to them. They are capable of working in a group if necessary, but they also do well in solitary tasks. They also are less likely to make sense when they speak because they don’t offer to provide context with what they’re saying, but they’re less likely to strike a conversation.
Causes of Schizoid Personality Disorder
There is no known specific cause for schizoid personality disorder or any other personality disorders. These may be influenced by genetics and a person’s environment from childhood development. It’s possible that if a child isn’t subjected to a wide range of emotions and given little attention, it could contribute to their ability to process emotions. People with relatives with schizophrenia and any other similar condition within the schizotypal spectrum may be at risk of developing schizoid personality disorder later in life.
It’s possible that schizoid personality disorder may not be inherited, but learned. A person with neglectful parents or someone who grew up without being taught the need for intimate social bonds grow up aloof and not requiring human interaction unless necessary. Or, if a person grows up with perfectionist tendencies tends to focus on themselves and their own work over social bonds that don’t fall in with their idea of perfection.
Having schizoid personality disorder may also lead to other disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other personality disorders if left untreated.
A person with schizoid personality disorder do not have close relationships, nor are they interested in building one. This even includes their family members, making them detached or aloof in any social gathering. Other symptoms include:
- Choosing to do activities alone
- Refusal to form close relationships, be it sexual, familial, or friendly relationships
- Inability to experience pleasure, especially within social settings
- Difficulty expressing emotions and reacting appropriately
- Tendency to come off as humorless, indifferent, or cold
- Doesn’t react to praise or compliments from others
As mentioned earlier, secret schizoids may pretend to be socially involved, but are actually emotionally withdrawn and only act engaging not for the sake of forming bonds but because they know they are expected to act accordingly to be normal. They may not show the traditional symptoms of someone with the condition, but their inability to uphold personal connections may show in several ways. For example, someone with schizoid personality disorder who ends up marrying someone to fit what society expects them to do may have affairs with strangers or another person to reduce the significance and intimacy of sex with their spouse if they find it too personal.
Loners Don’t Necessarily Have Schizoid Personality Disorder
Just because you are extremely introverted or shy and prefer to work alone, that does not necessarily mean you have schizoid personality disorder. There’s nothing wrong with being introverted, and your shyness may just be an underlying problem you can easily overcome by talking to others or finding your own set of friends. If your shyness and introversion begins to affect how you work or interact with necessary people in your life, though, you may need to seek help to overcome it.
Shy people and introverts, however, are still capable of having meaningful relationships. Not as much as extroverts who make friends, but still enough that they form close bonds with family, friends, and partners. You or your family members’ personalities may be schizoid personality disorder only if you or your family member feel no need to attach yourself to anyone, including immediate family. Or, if you feel like you don’t really care about others the way you let on, then it may be a symptom that you have schizoid personality disorder.
If you’re introverted, a bit shy at meeting new people, or prefer to work alone than with a group, that’s not an automatic sign that you or someone you know who is like this has schizoid personality disorder. Introverts and shy people are still capable of having meaningful relationships with people and can have one or two friends they genuinely care about. And people who prefer to work alone still develop meaningful relationships.
Effects of Schizoid Personality Disorder
Those with schizoid personality disorder are capable of going to school to learn, doing their jobs, and living their lives – but throughout all that, they won’t form any close relationships. A person with this condition may live their whole life never realizing the need for social relationships or see that their aloofness is a bad thing, which might be why some people with this personality disorder rarely seek help for this.
However, their lack of social relationships may cause other mental conditions. For example, a person with schizoid personality disorder in a family of extroverts may develop anger issues because of family members constantly telling them to get out more. Or, at work, a patient may be able to work with others to complete a task, but if they’re working with a group and all the other members have a close friendship, the person may be singled out as the interloper, and their actions and perception of the patient could affect their work greatly, causing depression. People with schizoid personality disorder will go to a psychiatrist for the depression or anger management they face, but not because they lack social relationships.
Psychiatrists and other researchers can diagnose people with schizoid personality disorder based on three criteria: the criteria from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (by the American Psychiatric Association as of 2013), the ICD-10 criteria used by the World Health Organization, and the Guntrip criteria as described by psychologist Harry Guntrip.
In all three cases, a person must have meet a certain number of criteria to be diagnosed. In all three criteria, someone with schizoid personality disorder does not enjoy or want close relationships, chooses to be alone, and is described as a generally cold and withdrawn person. In some cases, they choose to be insensitive to social norms and have narcissistic tendencies, believing themselves to be generally better than everyone else.
Psychologists and psychiatrists may evaluate patients for schizoid personality disorder. However, only psychiatrists may be allowed to prescribe medicine. While there is no medicine or cure for schizoid personality disorder, some psychiatrists may prescribe anti-anxiety medicine that some patients experience.
Treatment for schizoid personality disorder is arguably harder than other mental conditions. People with schizoid personality disorder don’t experience loneliness or the need to form social bonds, so they rarely seek out treatment because of their condition. A parent may take their child to a psychiatrist to seek treatment if they suspect their child has schizoid personality disorder, but adults with this condition aren’t going to actively seek out help because they believe their actions are rational.
Talk therapy may not be effective for patients with schizoid personality disorder since they aren’t social talkers and won’t be able to relate to others, even their own therapist. Individual therapy may only get them to remove immediate conditions, but it may not totally get them to socialize with others. Group therapy, however, seems to be the best treatment because of the comfort they may feel when socializing with a group who share the same condition.
Living with Schizoid Personality Disorder
If you have schizoid personality disorder, you wouldn’t notice it because what you think you are doing is rational and fine. But if people tell you that you come off as withdrawn and unable to talk to others, as well as fit into the other characteristics of someone diagnosed with the condition, it may be likely that you have a personality disorder.
It will be difficult for someone with a personality disorder to adjust, especially when they genuinely think there is nothing wrong with them.
Having Family Members with Schizoid Personality Disorder
For people with schizoid personality disorder, close relationships are option. However, as a family member of a person or people with this condition, your familial relationship with them exists. It can be a struggle to live under the same roof as someone who treats you like you are only necessary as much as you can help them survive, but you need to understand that, under normal circumstances, they wouldn’t be treating you like this if it weren’t for their disorder.
It can be hurtful and feel like a cold home, but encouraging them to seek treatment is the first step you can take to helping them get better. They won’t actively want to seek treatment, so getting them to see someone who can diagnose them can be very helpful.
While it may depend on the severity of their personality disorder, someone with schizoid personality disorder may actually be capable of love. However, this may only be someone they have an extremely close relationship. This might only be limited to family ties though, since strangers and acquaintances may be put off by the patient’s personality. Don’t expect that your family member will openly tell you their love, though you may see it in the way they act around you.
Learn to be patient. We’ve provided you with a thorough background on the personality disorder because it’s necessary to understand it in order to truly understand what your family member feels and why. It’s nothing personal: it’s simply because of the way their personality developed. Understand that they won’t show love and affection, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need you, and for someone with that condition, it’s the best they can give to you in terms of social expectations.
It may not be the close relationship you want between parent and child or between siblings, but understanding schizoid personality disorder and the effects it has on your family member may help you understand your relationship better and how you can help them cope.