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Schizoid Personality Disorder – Definition Symptoms Causes Treatment & Alcohol

The DSM-5 defines schizoid personality disorder (SPD) as a Cluster A personality disorder that is characterized by having an extremely limited range of emotions, especially when interacting with other individuals. This limited range of emotions means that people suffering from SPD usually have difficulty forming and maintaining relationships or may simply have no interest in forming certain types of relationships in the first place.

Schizoid personality disorder is defined as a disorder specifically because this inability to express emotions usually causes direct harm to the lifestyle or livelihood of the individual suffering from the disorder.

Alcohol & Personality Disorders

According to clinical studies, the prevalence of personality disorders with alcoholism ranges from as low as 22-40% to as high as 58-78%. The studies have focused primarily on antisocial and borderline personality disorders, however, almost the whole spectrum of personality disorders can be encountered in alcohol dependence, such as the dependent, avoidant, paranoid and others.
An Oxford study indicated 40% or alcohol use disorder clients had at least 1 personality disorder. For more in-depth information, see this research alcohol & personality disorders.

Personality Disorders and Substance Abuse

In a study done in 2012 (In-depth study of personality disorders in first-admission patients with substance use disorders) they discovered 46% of the substance abuse (SUD) patients had at least one Personality Disorder (16% antisocial [males only]; 13% borderline; and 8% paranoid, avoidant, and obsessive-compulsive, respectively).

Cluster C disorders were as prevalent as Cluster B disorders. SUD patients with PDs were younger at the onset of their first SUD and at admission; used more illicit drugs; had more anxiety disorders, particularly social phobia; had more severe depressive symptoms; were more distressed; and less often attended work or school.

Causes of Schizoid Personality Disorder

Similar to most personality disorders, no direct causes have been discovered for SPD. Studies suggest both biological and environmental factors may be potential causes for schizoid personality disorder. Evidence shows, for example, that if relatives have SPD, schizophrenia, or schizotypal personality disorder, there is an increased chance of being diagnosed with SPD. Precise environmental factors have not yet been determined, but low birth weight and malnutrition are correlated with a higher likelihood of suffering from a personality disorder.

7 Key Symptoms of Schizoid Personality Disorder

Similar to nearly every other personality disorder that is defined by the DSM-5, there is no single trait that defines schizoid personality disorder. Instead, people suffering from SPD usually can be identified because they express multiple traits associated with the disorder and correspondingly fewer traits associated with similar personality disorders. The common traits for SPD are:

  1. A lack of desire to engage in close relationships, whether of a friendly nature, romantic nature, or familial nature
  2. A high likelihood to choose to engage in activities that do not involve others
  3. Minimal interest in romantic or sexual relationships or experiences
  4. Enjoys a very limited selection of activities or hobbies
  5. Is generally unwilling to confide in anyone, with the possible exception of direct blood relatives
  6. Responds with seeming indifference to both positive and negative input
  7. Often emotionally flat or seemingly uncaring

These symptoms rarely appear in children, usually first appearing around the early 20s and usually lasting until the person is in their 40s or 50s. As with all personality disorders, these symptoms must show consistently for a year or more before the disorder can be diagnosed. Brief episodes of these type of symptoms may represent some other mental disorder or substance abuse problem, but could also just represent the type of temporary personality change that nearly all people occasionally experience.

If SPD is suspected for any reason, the simplest way to determine whether or not a person is inflicted with it is by a mental health professional performing a psychological examination. Through discussion and observation, a trained professional should be able to determine whether the disorder is present. In some cases a physical examination may also be necessary, but usually only to discount the possibility of substance abuse, which is not associated with SPD.

Treatment of Schizoid Personality Disorder

Schizoid personality disorder is generally treated with long term psychotherapy in a controlled setting.

The inability to experience specific emotions is biological, though, not psychological. Due to this, therapy usually focuses more on successfully engaging in healthy interactions within the limited emotional scope available, rather than trying to correct the underlying problem. Additionally, patients are encouraged to create relationships even when their instincts are to not create relationships.

Because the disorder usually disappears by the time the patient reaches their 40s or 50s, it is generally only necessary to minimize the negative effects of symptoms until the disorder naturally ends. Between regular therapy (including possibly group therapy), and occasionally prescription drugs to treat the few specific symptoms that respond to medication, people suffering from SPD can usually live a relatively normal and healthy lifestyle.