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Understanding Schizoid Personality Disorder

written by: Nicole Etolen • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 5/7/2011

Schizoid personality disorder interferes with the ability to form meaningful relationships, engage in social activities and experience pleasure by stripping the sufferer of the desire or necessary personality skills to make the basic connections to other members of society.

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    A Schizophrenic Spectrum Disorder

    Schizoid personality disorder falls into the schizophrenic spectrum of disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic. Like its relatives, schizophrenia and schizotypal personality disorder, those suffering from schizoid personality disorder have a very difficult time forming social connections or expressing proper emotions. However, unlike its relatives, it does not cause paranoia or hallucinations. Patients with this disorder are able to exist within the confines of reality; they just have a much more difficult time making meaningful connections within that reality.

    The Cleveland Clinic refers the disorder as a type of eccentric personality disorder because those who have it often act outside societies’ idea of “normal." Unlike schizophrenia, a schizoid personality disorder sufferer is rarely violent or a danger to himself or others.

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    Characteristics

    As with all mental disorders, symptoms can vary from person to person. However, most sufferers experience some variety of the following symptoms:

    • A solitary existence and inability to experience pleasure: Those with schizoid personality disorder are typically withdrawn from social settings and prefer solitary activities. Those around them tend to view them as “loners." The disorder also robs the sufferer of the ability to derive pleasure from activities that others find enjoyable, include sexual intercourse. This may contribute to the desire to seek solitary activities. If social activities can't bring at least some type of joy or other emotional benefit, then there is little reason to engage in them.
    • A dull, flat personality: People with this disorder tend to speak in a flat, monotone manner devoid of emotional inflection or animation. Most people experience a change in speech pattern and mannerisms when they are excited, happy, angry or sad. However, schizoid personalities rarely change their speech pattern.
    • Lack of motivation and Indifferent Behavior: School administrators and workplace supervisors often describe someone the disorder as an underachiever. While this may be true, it has more to do with a lack of motivation than an intelligence deficit. The lack of motivation may come from the feeling of indifference felt by those with this disorder. Neither praise nor criticism affects the sufferer. Most people perform tasks related to the job or school because they either expect a reward (such as a paycheck) or fear the consequences (such as being sent to the principal’s office). Being indifferent to both praise and reward removes the reason for completing menial tasks.
    • A tight circle of friends: While it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for a schizoid personality to make friends, they tend to keep that circle very tight, allowing only a select few into their lives, and only those who do not tamper their sense of independence.
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    Causes

    Although researchers remain unclear as to the exact cause of mental disorders such as schizoid personality disorder, certain risk factors may play a large role. Children of parents with a schizophrenic spectrum mental disorder are more likely to develop schizoid personality disorder, suggesting genetics plays a large role. Children who suffer abuse or grow up in a neglectful home with emotionally detached parents also have a higher risk of developing the disorder. However, one risk factor on its own is likely not enough to turn a previously happy, vibrant child into a flat, emotionless adult. More likely, a combination of genetic and environmental factors come together to bring out a trait that is already lying dormant.

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    Sources

    Mayo Clinic: Schizoid Personality Disorder

    www.mayoclinic.com/health/schizoid-personality-disorder/DS00865

    Medline Plus: Schizoid Personality Disorder

    www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000920.htm

    Cleveland Clinic: Schizoid Personality Disorder

    http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/personality_disorders/hic_schizoid_personality_disorder.aspx