Last But Not Least: Schizoid Personality Disorder is Not Schizophrenia But It Shares Symptoms

Posted by in Louise Behiel, personality disorders | 34 comments

from the Calgary Stampede

Our look at personality disorders is coming to an end.  It seems a good time, since the blog is going on vacation for a couple of weeks.  Yay!!!  I’m not going away but I’m going to edit my next two books, mow my grass and spend some time at the Calgary Stampede.  It’s a tough job, but I can’t wait.

I received some questions about Schizoid Personality Disorder.  It’s not one that is commonly heard of and it is often confused with Schizophrenia, so I thought we’d discuss this personality disorder now, then after vacation, we’ll talk about some of the mental illnesses that plague 20% of our population.

First of all, a quick reminder that personality disorders are not chemically caused conditions.  You can’t run a test for these.  Rather they are ways of ‘being in the world’ that result in long-standing patterns of thinking and acting that are very different from what society considers ‘normal’. When coupled with great rigidity, personality disorders cause great distress and interfere with many areas of life, including social and work functioning. People with these disorders usually have limited coping skills and great difficulty forming healthy relationships. And since the disorder is the lens through which they see the world, they don’t feel there’s anything wrong with them.

Definition: Schizoid personality disorder is diagnosed when a person has a lifelong pattern of indifference to others. They avoid social activities and avoid interaction with others. Others see you as a loner although you have no idea how to form these relationships. People with this disorder lack emotional affect, which in ‘shrink talk’ means they don’t show emotion. They appear not to care about others but in fact may feel sensitive and lonely. They can function fairly well, as long as they are able to structure their lives in a way that supports their need to be alone.  For example, night shift security might offer someone with this disorder a way to support themselves but have minimal social interaction.


Most difficult for family to deal with is the reclusive nature of these people, who will go to great lengths to avoid social contact. Many live with their parents for their entire lives, especially if they can have space in the basement or some other slightly removed space.


  • They prefer to be alone, so choose solitary jobs and activities.
  • They experience pleasure in few activities, including sex.
  • They value extreme independence so have few, if any close friends,
  • They don’t know how to interact socially as they have difficulty relating to others.
  • They are indifferent to praise or criticism
  • They are aloof and show little emotion, seeming to be dull, indifferent or emotionally cold.
  • They might daydream and/or create vivid fantasies of complex inner lives.
  • They are unmotivated which results in underperformance at work and school
  • Always are followers, rather than leaders.

No hard numbers for the prevalence of this disorder is known, since they seldom seek help and keep to themselves.  It is known to affect more men than women and is more common when a relative has schizophrenia, which leads to conjecture there might be a significant genetic predisposition.

People with Schizotypal Personality Disorder, a subset of Schizoid Personality Disorder, also are socially distant but they have additional problems in relating to the world.

Symptoms of Schizotypal Personality Disorder include those listed above AND:

  • Cognitive and/or perceptual distortions
  • Inaccurate interpretation of casual incidents and events as having a specific meaning for them.
  • Unusually superstitious (including magical thinking) and possibly preoccupied with paranormal phenomena.
  • Unusual perceptual experiences, including bodily illusions (e.g. phantom pain)
  • Suspiciousness or extreme paranoia
  • Behavior or dress that is odd, eccentric, or peculiar
  • Respond peculiarly to social cues (the Schizoid PD will ignore these) and then blame their social failures on others.
  • Speech that is disjointed, unusual and inappropriate; often it is a series of words strung together without reference to sentence structure or grammar.

Individuals with Schizotypal Personality Disorder often seek treatment for the associated symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other problems rather than for the personality disorder.

Both these disorders are regularly confused with Schizophrenia although they are not the same. Schizophrenia is a chronic illness for which there is no cure and symptoms usually get worse over time.  These Personality Disorders can be treated, with varying degrees of success, with therapy and medication, although treatment is rarely sought.

This brings to an end this discussion of personality disorders.  It is a fascinating discussion and impacts many of us in our social, work and family relationships.  I hope you have a better understanding of human behaviour and perhaps a little bit of empathy for people who are plagues with these constellations of symptoms.

And if you’re a writer, I hope you’ve got fodder for a variety of characters in your upcoming books.

Have you met someone or heard of someone with this disorder? Do you think you could incorporate it into a book?  Can you see how someone with either of these problems might be misconstrued as being the guilty party to a crime, when that’s not likely?

Love to hear from you.  Let me know what you think.  And please enjoy the next few weeks.  I’m going to relax and drink some wobbly pops and write.


  1. I just dated a schizoid and let me tell you, she is one fascinatingly detached individual. Our relationship could feel so strong at times, the intimacy so good, but I go back to my apartment and it’s like nothing every happened. Days could go by without a call. I’d check up secretly, always alone, never cheating. I’d call her anytime and the relationship would feel on fire again. Still, she never missed it between my calls, nor did she miss the company of anyone! All her friends she sees for an hour and then right back home alone. They don’t know the real her after ten years. It’s unreal. It’s disconcerting. I am unable to connect even when we connect, We go out to eat, she loves the food, the next hour she can say it was just OK. There is no enjoyment out of life whatsoever the past or future tense, just the moment, and perhaps it’s all faked. Who knows, it’s just sad.

    • yes, that is a common way of being. good thing you got out

  2. I have SPD. Self diagnosed if that counts. For years I have wondered why I felt this way. Why I locked myself in the toilet stall at the cinema and had to talk myself out, when I was only 14. Now 31 and single for 7 years, I can not keep a friend, can not let people close to me, even family. Everyone wonders but no one really knows the extent. I make an effort to smile, to go out, always alone, never too much at the same place. But I have always had that choice, that mental ability to question why, to understand and to act. Otherwise I might as well climb into a box and stay there. I would be happy there.

    • Personality disorder is never a good thing to self-diagnose. but clearly your life is not working they way you’d like it to. so find a therapist you can work with and go for it. You don’t mention medication, so I assume you’re not on any, which leaves you open for therapy. Just remember that the research says your success with a specific therapist is determined by the trust level you have for the professional at the end of the 4th session. if you don’t trust him/her, find another one. but it’s also important to remember that your set of feelings/behaviours sounds like they won’t include a high level of trust for others so find the best you can and go to work.

      you can heal or you will be directed to a psychiatrist who can properly diagnose and help you with meds.

      good luck

  3. I’m a diagnosed Schizoid. My therapist called me a “covert” schizoid but said there is really no official diagnosis for that. I have searched all over for treatment but there does not seem to be much out there. I was in therapy for a number of years but all it really did was gave me a better understanding of myself. I could tell by observing the world that I was different, but it was nice to finally have a name for it. I just wish I could find something to make it go away but there just does not seem to be a way.

    • I’ve never heard the term covert schizoid which is not unexpected since I don’t work in the field. Keep doing the work. Hard and ongoing but necessary.

  4. helpful article. these disorders sounds too similar, very confusing sometimes

    • they are confusing which is why it’s so important to have a professional diagnose

  5. This is awesome. I’m looking forward to looking back through all of your posts on personality disorders. I didn’t know that these two existed – I was under the impression there was only schizophrenia. I love information like this – thank you! 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed. stay tuned for more info.

  6. Louise, this series has been fascinating. I’ve know of most of these disorders but not at the level of detailed understanding that you have (difference between our professional training, I’m sure). As someone mentioned – our mental health is a precious gift.

    Wishing you much success in your editing and lots of ‘hot’ cowboys and fun stampeding! 😉

    • thanks Lynnette. it’s a wonderful summer and I’m enjoying the time off. glad you enjoyed this series. Mental health is a precious gift.

  7. A very interesting disorder Louise. I have never heard of a schizoid personality disorder. I can see where this would make an interesting character in a book. Especially if one is writing a suspense/thriller. I hope you enjoy your vacation from blogging, although you did say that you’d be fast at work on your WIPs. I’m sorry it took a while for me to come by. I’m still trying to catch up with some of you. Life has been crazy lately. I too took a two week break from blogging myself. So I understand. Can’t wait for your new series. See you soon! 🙂

    • Karen, we all have to do what we have to do – it’s always a pleasure to see you here, but no pressure at all. I totally understand.

      and yes, this is an itneresting disorder.

  8. I recently did research on this for my YA horror novel. Fortunately, I have psychologist and psychiatrist friends to answer my questions. Of course, because I’m dealing with horror, things weren’t quite so clear cut. But it’s a secret, so I can’t tell you why. 😀

    • awww come on Stina. you’re going to keep a secret like that?

  9. Good luck with the edits, Louise. See you on the other side :o)

  10. Very interesting post. Best of luck with your edits. I’ll see you when you are done! 🙂

  11. Fascinating! Go. Have fun. Relax and may your editing be swift and obvious!

  12. Great info, and thanks for sharing! It def. will help in writing my next book. Hope your break is fun and productive!

  13. I have met people with disorder, and worked with a few. Mental health is such a precious gift—and easy to take for granted. Your posts serve as great reminders. Thanks, Louise!

    • interesting that you’ve worked with a few with SPD. it makes clear the preciousness of the gift of Mental health, doesn’t it?

      be well

  14. Wonderful series! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us. I hope you have a great vacation from the blog and get tons done. Don’t forget to have a lot of fun as well!

    • ah yes…fun. it’s about time for some of that too. thanks Rhonda

  15. So what are the percentage of writers who have this disorder? I sounds like all folks who are creatives could be labeled with this one. When does character traits become a pathology? When they get in the way of life? But then that is what character-driven plot is all about. Hmm. Definitely food for thought. I’ve caught a couple of these posts in your series. Gonna have to go back through them all now.

    • I haven’t met any writers who …well one or two, but no more…that would be ‘odd’ enough to have one of these disorders. character traits become pathology when they interfere with functioning in life and in social relationships. I think character driven plots would with elements of these but not the full meal deal – because recovery from personality disorders is very difficult.
      enjoy reading the series. Glad you’ve found value in what you’ve read so far.

  16. Have a great vacation, and thanks for the great series. I didn’t realize these were two different things. I’ve learned a lot the last couple of weeks.

    • that’s good news for me, Stacy. and yes these are two very different things.

  17. Louise, enjoy your blog break. Thanks for all this information to help us make our characters more real with real problems.

    • it’s been fun. and i’m looking forward to people watching at cowboy ogling at the stampede.

  18. Have a wonderful vacation!

    • thanks – I’m looking forward to getting some writing done

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