Everyone wants to be left alone sometimes. But if you’re persistently avoiding social interactions and lack interest in close relationships, you may have schizoid personality disorder.
Schizoid personality disorder isn’t the same as schizophrenia. This is a common misconception. They’re actually two different mental health conditions.
When you live with schizoid personality disorder, you might not feel the need to seek help at first. This is because you’re likely to function well in life. This means you can study and work and be productive under numerous circumstances.
But if you’re interested in better understanding your personality and developing new tools that may improve your quality of life, a therapist can help. This article might also give you a few pointers to start with.
Schizoid personality disorder is one of 10 personality disorders identified in the recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This is a reference handbook that most mental health professionals use to make diagnoses.
Mental health professionals typically diagnose these personality disorders if they observe some or all of these general symptoms:
- difficulty relating to yourself and others
- personality traits that don’t adjust to the social norm and make it difficult for you to adapt to change
- persistent and long-standing patterns of behavior across most situations
- distressing behavior and emotions not influenced by age, culture, illness, or substance use
Because all personality disorders are different, additional criteria are needed to make a specific diagnosis.
Personalities are grouped in three clusters based on the most dominant traits.
Schizoid personality disorder falls into cluster A. It’s characterized by behavior or thoughts that are:
- eccentric or suspicious
Other disorders in this group are schizotypal and paranoid personality disorders.
In general, if you have schizoid personality disorder, you might be what others call a “loner.” This is because you usually keep to yourself and have no interest in seeking or keeping interpersonal relationships.
You’re not outwardly sad or concerned about not having social contact. This includes romantic and family relationships.
If you experience symptoms of depression or anxiety, this might be related to the co-occurrence of other mental health conditions, and not the disorder itself.
Sexual encounters or building a family might not be among your personal goals, either, because you don’t find any pleasure in these.
Because of all of this, you prefer solitary activities, for both fun and work.
In general, even though you’re clear on your lack of interest in relationships, you might not be aware of this as a problem, nor do you experience great distress from your solitude.
This is why you may not, at first, seek help from a mental health professional.
It’s estimated that about 7.5% of the global population has schizoid personality disorder. It’s twice as common among males than females.
Schizoid personality disorder is a formal mental health diagnosis. Only a trained professional can diagnose it accurately. Psychologists and psychiatrists are most often the ones who make the diagnosis.
To do that, they will assess your behaviors, emotions, and attitudes, as well as your personal and medical history. This can be done by talking with you during one or more sessions. Then, they’ll compare these observations to the criteria established by the DSM-5.
Symptoms from other mental health conditions might overlap with symptoms of schizoid personality disorder. You could have dominant traits from avoidant and paranoid personality disorders, for example.
When this happens, and you have a combination of dominant traits from different personality disorders, you wouldn’t receive a diagnosis with all of them. Instead, you might receive a diagnosis of mixed personality disorder.
You could also have symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and clinical depression.
Schizoid personality disorder is usually first noticed in early adulthood, although some symptoms may be present during childhood.
The DSM-5 criteria to diagnose someone with schizoid personality disorder involve a long-standing pattern of four or more of the following seven symptoms:
- avoidance of close relationships, including family
- preference for solitary activities
- little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person
- time spent on few, if any, activities
- lack of close friends or confidants
- indifference to others’ opinions
- emotional detachment, or flattened emotion
Not everyone with schizoid personality disorder will have these symptoms in the same degree or intensity. At least four of them should be dominant over time and across different situations, though.
Also, many of us may display at least one schizoid personality disorder trait at some point in our lives, but this differs from a personality disorder in severity, frequency, and duration.
Schizoid personality disorder is a formal mental health diagnosis. Strict criteria must be met for a diagnosis that only a trained professional can make. The disorder doesn’t refer to someone who:
- enjoys being by themselves from time to time
- plays video games or enjoys a few solitary activities
- decides to stay single or have no children
- is reserved and private with their emotions
- enjoys daydreaming or fantasizing
- has a small or tight circle of friends
- doesn’t get along with their family
Below is a basic overview of schizoid personality disorder symptoms that are established by the DSM-5:
Avoidance of close relationships
If you have schizoid personality disorder, you may feel no desire at all to create or maintain close relationships and actively avoid them, even with members of your family.
In fact, intimately interacting with others could make you feel extremely uncomfortable. This may lead others to perceive you as aloof and avoid being around you, too.
Even though you prefer being alone and don’t want intimacy with others, you might still get a sense of frustration now and then when you sense others reject you or don’t understand you.
This isn’t enough for you to want to seek out an active relationship with them, though.
Preference for solitude
Since you’re not interested in interacting with people or having close relationships, you might choose solitary activities most of the time. If given the option, you’ll likely spend all of your time engaged in these activities instead of spending time with others.
This preference could take many forms. For example, you might come home after school and go straight to your room to play video games all night long. Or you could be surrounded by people but remain in your own world, indifferent to conversations and events around you.
Solitary activities don’t give you any sense of being cooped up or isolated. You might not feel sad about being by yourself; you choose to be.
You might run into occupational problems if your job requires you to work as part of a team or in direct contact with others. This is why you prefer, and can do well in, positions that can be performed solo or from home.
Lack of interest in sexual experiences
Although not the rule, if you have schizoid personality disorder, you could have zero interest in being sexual with others, or in general.
If you do have some interest, you might choose sexual experiences that don’t include another person. Maybe you have a very active fantasy life, even if you don’t act on your fantasies.
If there’s any sexual activity with another person, for you it’s not about intimacy or connection.
Excited by few activities
If you have schizoid personality disorder, you might not find joy or pleasure in many activities. You could perhaps choose to spend your time on one or two activities, like video games or puzzles, but always in solitude.
You probably consider yourself more of an observer of life, rather than an active participant.
You may often get absorbed in your own fantasies, which might seem more interesting to you than what’s going on around you. That’s another reason why you may be perceived as detached from people and situations.
Lack of close friends or confidants
Because of your lack of interest in being in a relationship and interacting with other people, you might find yourself with very few, if any, confidants other than perhaps a first-degree relative.
You might not date much or want to get married. If you do, you’re not interested in a close bond or establishing intimacy, sexual or otherwise.
Indifferent to other people’s opinions
You might be truly indifferent to praise or criticism from other people. This means that you usually don’t respond to people approving — or disapproving — of your behavior.
This could cause you social and personal problems because others might perceive you as self-absorbed and unreachable.
Flat affection and detachment
When you live with schizoid personality disorder, other people might describe you as humorless, cold, and inexpressive.
You might have a narrow range of emotions. You’re not likely to express any of them.
This may be because, when it comes to emotions, you don’t usually experience highs or lows. You might also have difficulty expressing any emotion at all in social settings. This, in turn, could translate into few facial expressions and a flat tone of voice.
But your main challenge might be in expressing these emotions, not necessarily in experiencing them.
In other words, you might not feel inclined to express or report your emotions to other people, but this isn’t the same thing as lacking emotions altogether.
Schizoid personality disorder and autism are two different diagnoses. Sometimes, autism can look like schizoid personality disorder. But this is a superficial comparison that often comes from a misconception of what both diagnoses imply.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition. It’s not a personality disorder. Autism can affect social interaction, among other things.
But an autistic person doesn’t necessarily prefer to be alone or avoid intimacy. They still have a desire to connect to others. This isn’t the case for someone with schizoid personality disorder.
A few mental health conditions share the prefix “schizo,” but they don’t necessarily overlap or have the same symptoms. In this case, schizoid personality disorder isn’t the same as schizophrenia.
The main difference between the two conditions is that people who have schizophrenia have persistent symptoms of psychosis, like hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that others don’t) or delusions (false beliefs).
These aren’t typical symptoms of schizoid personality disorder. People with schizoid personality disorder don’t experience distortions of reality.
Also, if you have schizoid personality disorder, you retain your ability to think abstractly, and can speak clearly and in an organized fashion. This may not be the case for people living with schizophrenia when they’re experiencing an episode.
Sometimes, before receiving a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a person might have received a diagnosis of schizoid personality disorder or another cluster A personality disorder at some point in their life. This is because they might share a few similar causes and social isolation symptoms.
In other words, in some cases, a cluster A personality disorder might precede or be the first sign of a future schizophrenia diagnosis.
This isn’t the rule, though, nor does it mean that a schizoid personality disorder diagnosis will always lead to or cause schizophrenia.
Both schizoid and antisocial personality disorders are mental health diagnoses, but each condition has its own diagnostic criteria and symptoms. There are many differences and very few, if any, similarities.
Antisocial personality disorder is, as its name indicates, antisocial. This means that there’s an intense dislike and contempt of all other people but no real desire to live in isolation.
There’s also a tendency in antisocial personality disorder to go against social norms, show aggressive behaviors, and lack remorse.
On the other hand, if you have schizoid personality disorder, you’re considered more asocial than antisocial. You have a lack of interest in interacting with others while not having strong emotions toward them.
There’s rarely ever impulsivity or destructive behaviors in schizoid personality disorder because you have no interest in connecting or harming others.
This is, of course, a fundamental comparison. There are other important differences between these two personality disorders. Only a mental health professional can make an accurate diagnosis.
Schizoid personality disorder is more likely to coexist with other types of personality disorders, like:
But it’s rare to find overlapping symptoms between schizoid and antisocial personality disorders.
It’s a common misconception that people with some personality disorders are violent or dangerous.
There’s not enough scientific evidence to suggest there might be an increased risk of violent behavior if you have a schizoid personality disorder diagnosis compared with other personality disorders or no diagnosis at all.
The misconception might come from the confusion between schizoid and antisocial personality disorders or schizoid personality disorder and schizophrenia.
While there may be a tendency for violent behaviors in antisocial personality disorder and some cases of schizophrenia, there’s close to none in schizoid personality disorder.
In fact, because of a clear tendency to not experience and express strong emotions, if you have schizoid personality disorder, you rarely ever get angry or feel hatred, even when provoked.
In the few reported cases of violence in someone with schizoid personality disorder, it’s been likely related to co-occurring mental health conditions, not schizoid personality disorder itself.
If you’ve received a diagnosis of schizoid personality disorder, you may be wondering about the reasons why you have schizoid personality disorder.
There’s actually no consensus within the medical community regarding what really causes a personality disorder.
It’s commonly believed that it may be a combination of these factors:
- environmental influences
- cultural and social influences
- early life experiences
- childhood relationships
- genetics and biology
In the case of schizoid personality disorder, there might be a tendency to develop the disorder if there’s a first-degree relative who’s received a diagnosis of:
- schizoid personality disorder
- schizotypal personality disorder
But this doesn’t mean it happens every time.
Other research suggests that depression and severe loneliness during the early years of life are linked to the development of schizoid personality disorder. This could be associated with experiences of:
Essentially, there’s not enough research on schizoid personality disorder specifically to fully understand or establish its causes and risk factors.
Maybe you haven’t considered treatment for schizoid personality disorder. This isn’t uncommon.
You might not see yourself needing help with your emotions and behaviors, and you’re not interested in forming a working relationship with a therapist anyway.
But treatment can provide you the opportunity to gain insight into your lifestyle choices and improve the quality of your life.
Psychotherapy seems to be the most effective way to treat schizoid personality disorder. It can help you:
- become aware of your emotions and behaviors
- develop or strengthen social skills
- develop or strengthen cognitive skills
- improve self-esteem
Once you start therapy, you can set your own goals together with your therapist, depending on what you want to get out of your treatment.
Some of the psychotherapy approaches most used to manage schizoid personality disorder are:
- psychodynamic therapy
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- dialectical behavioral therapy
Medications are rarely used. When they are, it’s usually because there might be co-occurring conditions that might benefit from it.
Schizoid personality disorder is a chronic mental health condition.
Even though you might not feel motivated to pursue it, psychotherapy can help you develop or acquire social skills that, in turn, could improve your quality of life.
These resources can help you take the first step:
- American Psychiatric Association
- American Psychological Association
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- National Institute of Mental Health
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- Project Air
- NAMI Support Groups
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) Online Support Groups
- DBSA Local Support Groups