Schizoid Personality Disorder

What are personality disorders?

We all have unique personalities that have developed as a result of both genetics and environment. As we grow our personalities are constantly shaped by our experiences and behaviour choices.

Those with a personality disorder have developed rigid or extreme thoughts and behaviours that they cannot control. They have trouble relating to others and are often limited in their ability to deal with daily life. Personalities normally continue to develop through teenage years so disorders are generally not diagnosed until adulthood.

There are 3 main groups or clusters of personality disorders.

Cluster A – odd or eccentric behaviour

  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder

Cluster B – Dramatic or erratic behaviour

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Cluster C – Anxious or fearful behaviour

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependant Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder


What is Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD)?

Schizoid Personality Disorder can sometimes be confused with Schizotypal Personality Disorder (STPD) and Schizophrenia yet the 3 are quite distinct conditions.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder refers to those who avoid or fear other people. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects a person’s ability to think clearly and distinguish fantasy from reality. Some experts believe that both SPD and STPD are preliminary forms of Schizophrenia although research continues in this area.

While those with Schizoid Personality Disorder do generally prefer solitary activities this is because they fear and avoid emotions rather than people. Some may appear quite socially active but their relationships with others may be based around work, intellectual, family or recreational activities. They can even come across as engaging but only if there is no need for emotional intimacy. By giving nothing they also lose nothing. This subgroup is referred to as ‘covert’ or ‘secret’ and is difficult to diagnose.

The classic or ‘overt’ subgroup have more obvious signs or symptoms of a personality disorder. They have a limited range of emotional expression and often appear cold, distant or sometimes terse.


What causes Schizoid Personality Disorder?

There are varying theories regarding the cause of SPD. It could be the result of a genetic or biological abnormality, traumatic childhood experiences or a combination of these.

What is known is there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing SPD including:

  • Having a relative with SPD or a similar condition.
  • Being emotionally or physically neglected by parents.
  • Being hypersensitive to criticism or scorn as a child.
  • Growing up in an environment where emotional expression was not encouraged.


What are the most common symptoms?

People with Schizoid Personality Disorder generally:

  • Are unable to experience pleasure
  • Show little variations in mood.
  • Are indifferent to praise or criticism.
  • Feel no empathy for others.
  • Prefer to work alone.
  • Are emotionally detached or distant.
  • Have a keen sense of their personal space and become anxious when this is breached.

SPS sufferers can have some functional relationships but close off as soon as they become emotionally intimate. In some cases, sufferers seek out casual sexual liaisons or indulge in masturbation as they still have a need for sexual gratification. Many do feel lonely even when surrounded by people due to their inability to connect.

These frustrations and fears are firmly repressed. As a result it is not unusual for sufferers to become depressed or develop a substance addiction.


What are the main treatment options?

Those with Schizoid Personality Disorder are not generally aware that they are the cause of their own problems and attribute the blame to others instead. For this reason treatment for SPD is rarely self-initiated. Instead the person may seek help for related issues like depression or concerned family members may suggest it.

A GP may suspect the condition or that the person has some sort of mental health issue. They can refer the person to an experienced mental health professional for treatment. The counsellor or therapist will ask questions and make observations to determine the exact diagnosis. The person’s reluctance to open up will normally be obvious so the therapist will respect this defensive barrier and proceed slowly and sensitively.

Medications such as anti-depressants or boosters may be used to help to manage emotional symptoms.

While personality disorders are difficult to change, psychotherapy – in particular Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - has been proven to be very beneficial as it allows sufferers to form more effective relationships and lead full lives.

Using CBT a counsellor will help the person to explore the underlying thoughts, beliefs or events that caused the condition to develop. Even if these are never fully overcome, together they can explore ways for the sufferer to engage more positively with others and find better ways to cope with intimate situations. Family Therapy and Group Therapy may be used later on as part of this process.


Why seek professional help?

Mental illness can be frightening and isolating, especially if you are in a depressed or suicidal state. Talking to friends and family may help but having the support and guidance of a professional counsellor is usually more beneficial. Therapy sessions are confidential and non-judgemental. Seeking help early gives you a greater chance of overcoming your condition and getting your life back to normal.


Where to find help

Our True Counsellor Directory lists hundreds of psychotherapists and counsellors from Australia.

Some psychotherapists and counsellors listed in our directory offer counselling over the phone and online in addition to one-on-one consultations. Many also offer workshops and seminars.

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