When Being a Loner Isn’t a Choice: Schizoid Personality Disorder

Some people are just plain comfortable on their own. Maybe they were only children growing up, or maybe they had a big family and craved peace and solitude. Either way, some people seem to thrive when left to their own devices with plenty of privacy and independence.

There is a line however, that some “loners” cross. If you are trying to figure out just how much alone time you need, or if you are feeling rebuffed by someone you love who seems to need solitude more than they need connection, schizoid personality disorder might be to blame.

What Is It?

First of all, it is a personality disorder, meaning that basic ways of thinking, feeling, and acting in the world are what’s affected. Personality disorders appear early in life and affect thinking, feeling, or behavior in every setting (work, home, relationships, etc). To qualify as having one, you need to experience significant distress and functional impairments – that is to say, your personality and your preference to be alone has to really bother you and make your life dysfunctional.

There are lost of different types of personality disorders. Schizoid personality disorder is characterized by the preference for being alone in the following ways:

  • You don’t enjoy family life or close relationships. You might tolerate them or understand why others in your family need them, but you, if you are honest with yourself, don’t get much enjoyment out of family relationships.
  • Given the choice, you always prefer to do something alone.
  • You might masturbate, but you don’t need or seek sexual intimacy with others.
  • There aren’t many things that you really like to do.
  • You don’t have any close friends.
  • You don’t really care much what other people think of you.
  • You don’t show emotions much at all.

In addition, in order to be diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder, you need to be assessed for and NOT diagnosed with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders or a pervasive developmental disorder or autism.

What Treatment Is Available?

Schizoid personality disorder is an unusual disorder in that it often doesn’t cause all that much distress for the person with symptoms. More often it is the family or significant other that is uncomfortable or unhappy because trying to forge a connection with a person who has schizoid personality disorder can be very difficult and unfulfilling. It is most common that people with this disorder do not marry and find jobs that are accommodating to their preferences to be alone. They function well if they are able to set their lives up to cope with their disorder. In fact, this is a very uncommon disorder to diagnose and treat in outpatient settings because on its own, it is not usually a reason people enter treatment.

However, what does happen from time to time is that a person with this personality disorder experiences an episode of a different mental illness – perhaps a depressive or anxious period due to severe stressors. During that time, the person may seek help for the depression and anxiety and the therapist would notice that the person’s social and emotional supports are very limited due to their aloofness.

Medications are not generally helpful for this disorder, but psychotherapy could be useful to teach ways of managing and coping with being “out of sync.” A therapist would not attempt to help a person with schizoid personality disorder become more interested in connecting with others, but might help them better understand how to deal with other people’s need to connect with them, and give them some coping skills to manage their discomfort with connection. Also, it might be very helpful for the family members to seek some supportive counseling to gain insight and coping skills for dealing with a close relative or spouse who has schizoid personality disorder.

On August 7th, 2012, posted in: Borderline Personality Disorder Research by Tags: