The schizoid is the personality disorder that lacks a personality. Schizoids prefer isolation because relationships seem to hold no rewards for them. They are often described as detached and emotionally flat, but in general, they are rarely noticed by anyone because they are so quiet and unobtrusive. The DSM-IV criteria for the schizoid focuses solely on what schizoids are lacking: any sense of being emotional, sexual, or interpersonal. Put on a continuum, the more normal variant of the schizoid is seen as an introvert who may have more developed emotional capacities and, though still preferring a solitary life, has a richly developed fantasy life. In the realm of normal personality, Oldham and Morris describe the solitary style: one who feels the most free when alone in a calm, self-contained, and self-sufficient lifestyle. Millon describes the retiring style as one who is capable of relating to others when necessary but truly prefers to be alone. On the opposite end, the most severe schizoids may seem to develop a kind of schizophrenic syndrome.
Several variations of the schizoid personality have been proposed. The languid schizoid blends schizoid tendencies with depressive characteristics. Remote schizoids have withdrawn so completely that they lost their innate capacity to feel and relate to others. The depersonalized schizoid is viewed as dreamy, distant, and cognitively absent. The affectless schizoid shares with the compulsive the desire for structured settings but not the compulsive's conflict of autonomy versus obedience.
Biological explanations of the schizoid remain speculative, but the arguments become more compelling as the schizoid moves into the realm of the more severely disordered. Schizoids are seen as chronically underactive or underaroused, which could be explained by a biological deficit in normal functioning. There is some preliminary genetic evidence for schizoid personality that is linked with schizophrenia, but other possibilities exist, such as focal brain abnormalities in the limbic system or in the reticular activating system.
Classical psychoanalysis has limited power to describe the schizoid personality primarily because psychodynamics are based on the premise that the person presents one view of self to the outside world but has deep inner struggles and conflicts that are hidden on the inside. The schizoid seems to be void on the inside. One exception to this thinking is Fairbairn, who traced the schizoid's lack of affection to the child who, at an early age, learns that love (represented by the breast) implies death and thus withdraws to protect the self. The object relationists, who focus on early interpersonal attachments, have more to offer, defining schizoids by their lack of early attachments.
It may seem counterintuitive to have an interpersonal perspective on a disorder that appears to have no interpersonal relationships, but living in a social world forces schizoids to have a pattern for interacting with others and it is their intrinsic lack of desire to do so that warrants interpersonal analysis. Kiesler describes this pattern as escapist-unresponsive because they ignore others and become hermetic. Although they are detached and not socially sensitive, schizoids are not callous or harsh toward other people. Their communication style tends to be dry and impersonal, and because they fail to attach to others, they never experience the pleasure of being part of a family or being loved by a friend or mate.
Cognitively, more normal schizoids may give free reign to their intellectual endeavors, becoming mathematicians or philosophers, but more severe schizoids appear to develop some cognitive eccentricities akin to the schizotypal. The more isolated the schizoid becomes, the more unlikely he or she is to have a coherent and rich sense of self. Schizoids are often unaware of any goals or drives that motivate them and, in the most severe cases, are incapable of introspection. Beck and Freeman describe schizoids as observers of life, not participants.
The evolutionary neurodevelopmental perspective describes the schizoid as one of the pleasure-deficient personalities, insensitive to both pleasure and pain. They passively accommodate to life's circumstances and rarely take the initiative to change things. This perspective also espouses multiple pathways to development of the schizoid personality, as all domains (biological, interpersonal, dynamic) interact to form the whole person.
Although the schizoid may appear to share some surface qualities with other disorders, such as avoidant, depressive, and compulsive, schizoids are identifiable by their lack of emotion or desire for human interaction. Schizoids appear relatively immune to anxiety and mood disorders but may be vulnerable to developing dissociative disorders, schizophrenic symptoms, and psychotic disorders.
The therapeutic outlook for the schizoid is fairly bleak. It is important to not expect too much change and to not get frustrated and give up too early on the schizoid. Some change can be effected by finding something the schizoid enjoys or derives pleasure from, increasing interpersonal contact, and engaging in a vocation or education. These goals can be achieved through interpersonal means as well as cognitive modalities focusing on a hierarchy of social interaction goals. Group therapy can be instrumental in affecting a substantiated differential diagnosis, thereby determining a more realistic prognosis. Role playing and in vivo exposure can help ensure that the changes extend beyond the walls of the clinic or hospital and help schizoids learn to broaden their interpersonal experiences.
Was this article helpful?
This guide Don't Panic has tips and additional information on what you should do when you are experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. With so much going on in the world today with taking care of your family, working full time, dealing with office politics and other things, you could experience a serious meltdown. All of these things could at one point cause you to stress out and snap.