The DSM-5 defines schizoid personality disorder (SPD) as a Cluster A personality disorder 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- A lack of desire to engage in close relationships, whether of a friendly, romantic or familial nature
- A high likelihood to choose to engage in activities that do not involve others
- Minimal interest in romantic or sexual relationships or experiences
- Enjoys a very limited selection of activities or hobbies
- Is generally unwilling to confide in anyone, with the possible exception of direct blood relatives
- Responds with seeming indifference to both positive and negative input
- 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.
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.
- It is generally treated with long term psychotherapy in a controlled setting.
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.