What is Schizoid Personality Disorder and How Can it be Treated

Schizoid Personality Disorder

A Personality disorder is a type of mental illness that involves long term, chronic unhealthy and dysfunctional patterns of thinking and behaviors.  Personality disorders include long-standing and enduring patterns of behavior, which cause challenges in relationships, work, and overall coping abilities.  Individuals with personality disorders engage in patterns of thoughts and behaviors that are unhealthy and inflexible and can have trouble dealing with everyday stresses.

There are 10 Personality Disorders identified in the DSM-5 and are referred to as Axis II disorders.  The symptoms of each are different, ranging from mild to severe, often diagnosed in early adulthood. Individuals with personality disorders tend to have difficulty recognizing their challenges and may be prone to blaming people and circumstances.

There are three clusters of personality disorder diagnoses:

Cluster A (the “odd, eccentric” cluster)

Cluster B (the “dramatic, emotional, erratic” cluster)

Cluster C (the “anxious, fearful” cluster)

Cluster A includes Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizotypal Personality Disorder, and Schizoid Personality Disorder.

Schizoid Personality Disorder is a chronic pattern of indifference to social interactions and relationships, and a limited emotional experience.  Symptoms include social detachment, flat affect, and avoidance of making interpersonal connections. People with Schizoid Personality Disorder are often viewed as being “loners” and lacking in emotion. They are withdrawn and detached, seeming aloof and disinterested in people.

According to the DSM-5, Schizoid Personality Disorder is defined 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.”

Schizoid Personality Disorder is differentiated from the other two in its cluster (Paranoid and Schizotypal) since symptoms do not include eccentric, delusional, strange, or magical beliefs.

Individuals with Schizoid Personality Disorder can function in everyday life, yet will avoid establishing connections and relationships.  They construct a life of isolation, seeking out jobs and living situations that do not require extensive interaction with people. Their emotional detachment is often evident, as they can seem as though little interests them. They tend to be flat and emotionally cold in their affect. Seeming passive and lacking in motivation are also common symptoms.

The symptoms can cause distress and/or impairment in daily functioning.  However, most people with Schizoid Personality Disorder will not typically seek out treatment. They may not experience loneliness or concern for their isolation and emotional restrictions and may avoid seeking treatment because it requires interacting with people.

Because many of these individuals go undiagnosed and untreated, there is limited scientific research on the effectiveness of treatments.

If an individual is interested and has a desire to change, options may include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, and individual or group therapy.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to focus on adapting unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, particularly in social situations.  Psychoeducation or self help programs may provide training and practicing of social skills. Individual or group therapy can present challenges since it requires relating to people, self disclosure, and establishing a level of intimacy.  Medication is generally not recommended to treat Schizoid Personality Disorder. If comorbid diagnoses exist, medication may be an appropriate treatment.

It is relevant to mention that while people can demonstrate some of the personality tendencies, the diagnostic criteria require that the traits are inflexible, chronic, and observed repeatedly over time and across settings.  The symptoms also need to cause subjective distress and/or functional impairment. If you think a friend or loved one suffers from Schizoid Personality Disorder, seek guidance from a mental health professional about how to get help.