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