What is Schizoid Personality Disorder?

Published on: 26 Mar 2018
Clinically Reviewed by Cynthia V. Catchings LCSW-S
Woman sitting alone on bed

Updated on 4/20/2022

Schizoid personality disorder (SPD) is a condition marked by an intense lack of desire to form interpersonal relationships and typically develops in early adulthood. People with SPD have difficulty expressing any sort of emotion. They find it challenging to develop and maintain personal, deep, close relationships. They tend to often seem withdrawn or indifferent toward others. They may socially isolate and go to great lengths to avoid interacting with others or having to be in social settings. 

SPD differs from other mental health conditions in that it’s thought to be deeply ingrained in the structure of the psyche. This, in part, is what makes SPD so difficult — though not impossible — to treat. 

Keep reading to learn more about schizoid personality disorder, including the symptoms, causes, how to cope, and ways to treat it. 

Schizoid Personality Disorder Symptoms

Several symptoms are typical in people with SPD. The overall theme of the symptoms discussed is the avoidance of a social relationship and/or emotional closeness. Because making emotional connections with others can be so difficult, it’s common for someone with schizoid personality disorder to focus on developing relationships with animals rather than people. Other schizoid personality disorder symptoms can include:

  • Feeling little pleasure from activities
  • Being preoccupied with fantasy
  • Having an affinity for solitude or solo activities
  • Feeling unable to enjoy social and family member relationships 
  • Having little to no desire for intimate or sexual relationships
  • Failing to understand or care about expectations or social norms
  • Remaining detached from others
  • Seeming to be generally humorless
  • Being disinterested in developing relationships with others
  • Preferring to be alone
  • Seeming indifferent to praise, rejection, or criticism
  • Being perceived as aloof, uninterested, cold, or withdrawn
  • Failing to have goals or be motivated
  • Feeling the need to avoid intimacy or deep connections with others 
  • Typically only tolerating relationships with immediate relatives
  • Seeming generally cold or otherwise flat to others around them

Causes & Risk Factors of Schizoid Personality Disorder

To date, there’s no known cause of SPD. It is thought, however, that both environmental and genetic factors might contribute to someone developing the condition. We’re shaped by many influences and circumstances that may play a role in developing SPD, including: 

  • Our past experiences in childhood
  • The environment we’re brought up in
  • Our parents’ behavior
  • Inherited traits
  • Our general tendencies
  • Education
  • Social interactions we have with others throughout our lives

Risk factors that may increase the chance of developing SPD at some point in life can include: 

  • Gender — Studies suggest SPD might affect men more often than women.
  • Environment — SPD may be more prevalent in children who grow up in neglectful environments or have a parent or caretaker who withholds love or is emotionally unavailable. 
  • Family history — It’s believed that risk increases if a parent or another relative also has SPD, schizophrenia, or schizotypal personality disorder.

It’s also important to point out that there are further complications people with SPD should be aware of. They can include increased risk of developing:

“There is more research to be done on the causes and susceptibility of having Schizoid personality disorder. As more research is done, the treatments and understanding of the condition will become clearer. Connecting with providers that work regularly with these symptoms is important.”

Talkspace Therapist Dr. Karmen Smith, LCSW DD

Coping with Schizoid Personality Disorder

Living with SPD can be particularly difficult because the aversion to developing deep, meaningful connections with others might make it difficult to get help. That said, even though people with SPD are drawn to social isolation and seek out solitude doesn’t mean they don’t get lonely. 

“Individuals who are diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder often feel as if they are disconnected from their family, peers and the world. Feeling as if you are in a separate reality can be an agonizing symptom. Therapy can help these individuals feel more connected to others.”

Talkspace Therapist Dr. Karmen Smith, LCSW DD

It’s important to know that there are ways to get help and support to manage SPD. For example, finding a hobby that involves others or that takes place in a social setting can be a good first step. This can be a great way to find a small sense of support without being totally overwhelmed at the thought of developing a deep, emotional connection with someone else.

Treatment for Schizoid Personality Disorder

Schizoid personality disorder can often be difficult to treat. This is primarily due to an intense dislike of being close to others and of social interaction, which ultimately prevents many people living with SPD from even seeking treatment in the first place. 

Trusting a therapist or a mental health professional and engaging in different forms of talk therapy can be challenging. The dynamic that must be established with a therapist can be hard to deal with for someone with SPD. Even just finding support or asking for help can prove extremely painful for someone living with SPD. Still, there are a few forms of treatment that have been found successful in treating schizoid personality disorder. 

While someone may not want social interaction or discuss with others besides a family member or close friends, the following have been effective: 

  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy): Many people living with SPD find talk therapy to be useful in treating or managing their symptoms. Therapy can be effective if you find the right therapist who understands the delicate balance in not forcing you before you’re ready. They’ll be able to gently guide you at a pace you’re comfortable with so you can begin to heal and learn how to live with this disorder. This can also be found in the form of online therapy for an individual’s convenience. 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of talk therapy that focuses on identifying unhealthy thoughts and behaviors so you can connect them to negative outcomes in your life. By learning to see these patterns, you can focus on changing them. If you’re hoping to establish, nurture, and maintain close, intimate relationships in life, CBT might be a good way to start the process. 
  • Group therapy: Group therapy can also be effective in learning to cope with schizoid personality disorder symptoms. While it’s true that people with SPD generally avoid group interactions, being in a small group setting might actually be easier for you than doing individual therapy. It can potentially eliminate some of the stress over having an intimate, one-on-one connection with a therapist. Group therapy can also be beneficial in helping you develop and practice the interpersonal skills you might lack or find difficult. 

“Support groups have been shown to be helpful in coping with feelings of isolation for those with Schizoid Personality symptoms. Groups also provide support for caregivers and loved ones that are dealing with the thoughts, moods and behaviors of the person.”

Talkspace Therapist Dr. Karmen Smith, LCSW DD

  • Medication: While there’s no go-to medication or drug that’s commonly prescribed for SPD, certain medications can occasionally be used to treat symptoms, including depression and anxiety. Most often, medication will be suggested for use alongside therapy, not as a sole solution. 

While someone with SPD may prefer solitary activities and avoid social situations, it can still be difficult at times. Schizoid personality disorder can be a challenging condition to manage, but with the right support, tools, and plan in place, you can learn to live with it. You can figure out how to establish those meaningful relationships that are so imperative to finding an enriching, fulfilling life. 

Sources:

1. Esterberg M, Goulding S, Walker E. Cluster A Personality Disorders: Schizotypal, Schizoid and Paranoid Personality Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. 2010;32(4):515-528. doi:10.1007/s10862-010-9183-8. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10862-010-9183-8. Accessed March 26, 2022.

2. KENDLER K, CZAJKOWSKI N, TAMBS K et al. Dimensional representations of DSM-IV Cluster A personality disorders in a population-based sample of Norwegian twins: a multivariate study. Psychol Med. 2006;36(11):1583-1591. doi:10.1017/s0033291706008609. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/abs/dimensional-representations-of-dsmiv-cluster-a-personality-disorders-in-a-populationbased-sample-of-norwegian-twins-a-multivariate-study/7FCB8A9197B4BB25A78ED768491581BB. Accessed March 26, 2022.

3. Klonsky E, Jane J, Turkheimer E, Oltmanns T. Gender Role and Personality Disorders. J Pers Disord. 2002;16(5):464-476. doi:10.1521/pedi.16.5.464.22121. https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/10.1521/pedi.16.5.464.22121. Accessed March 26, 2022.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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