Borderline schizoid personality disorder, or “SPD” is a chronic and pervasive condition characterized by social isolation and feelings of indifference toward other people. There is a lack of affect there. There is a lack of affect, juxtaposed with exaggerated affect, such as an explosive temper. Those who suffer from this disorder are often described as distant in intimate relationships, or will self-sabbotage intimate relationships to avoid having to get too close emotionally.
This type of personality disorder is believed to be relatively rare and tends to affect more men than women. Individuals with schizoid personality disorder are also at risk for experiencing depression, and often grow frustrated and angry when questioned.
Individuals with schizoid personality disorder typically experience:
- Detachment from other people, other than superficial connections or those connections that provide monetary support or other types of support.
- Little or no desire to form close, substantive relationships with others and will sabbotage relationships that are formed.
- Infrequent participation in activities for fun or pleasure
- Observes life more often than participates in it
- Sleeps a lot
- Frequently ill
- A sense of indifference to praise and affirmation, as well as to criticism or rejection, or intense anger surrounding criticism.
- Often described as cold, uninterested, withdrawn, and aloof, but thinks of self as friendly and outgoing
- Does not enjoy social or family relationships beyond superficial level
- Indifference to social norms and expectations
- A preoccupation with introspection and fantasy or magical thinking
- Explosive temper
The DSM-5 defines schizoid personality disorder as a “pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by acute discomfort with, and reduced capacity form, close relationships as well as by cognitive or perceptual distortions and eccentricities of behavior, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.”
People with schizoid personality disorder are often described by others as aloof, cold, and detached, beyond a superficial level.
Those who suffer from the disorder may prefer being alone, but some may also experience loneliness and social isolation as a result. The disorder usually first becomes noticeable during childhood and is usually apparent by early adulthood. The symptoms of the disorder can have an impact on multiple life domains including family relationships, school, and work.
Those with this disorder tend to have few friendships, date rarely and often do not marry. The symptoms of the disorder may also make it difficult to work in positions that require a lot of social interaction or people skills, and those with schizoid personality disorder may do better in jobs that involve working in solitude.
While schizoid personality disorder is viewed on the schizophrenia spectrum disorders and shares some common symptoms with schizophrenia and schizotypal personality disorder, there are important distinctions that separate SPD from those two disorders. Those with SPD rarely experience paranoia or hallucinations. Also, while they may seem aloof and distant during conversations, they do make sense when they speak, which differs from the difficult to follow speech patterns that often accompany those suffering from schizophrenia.
As you might imagine, schizoid personality disorder can be challenging to treat. Those with the disorder often do not seek treatment and may struggle with psychotherapy because they find it difficult to develop working relationships with a therapist. The condition is usually enduring, chronic and lifelong. The social isolation that characterizes schizoid personality disorder also makes it difficult to find support and assistance.
Individuals with schizoid personality disorder may find it easier to form relationships that center on intellectual, occupational or recreational pursuits because such relationships do not rely on self-disclosure and emotional intimacy.
Medications may be used to treat some of the symptoms of schizoid personality disorder such as anxiety and depression. Such medications are usually used in conjunction with other treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or group therapy. Such treatments may be most effective when mental health professionals are careful to avoid pushing too hard and clients are not faced with excessive pressure and emotional demands.
American Psychiatric Association, ed. (2013). Schizotypal Personality Disorder, 301.22 (F21). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Publishing.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013). Schizoid personality disorder. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizoid-personality-disorder/basics/definition/con-20029184.
Schizoid personality disorder. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000920.htm.