The name “schizoid” was coined in the early 1900’s but it really has nothing to do with similar names like schizophrenia, schizoaffective, or schizotypal. Rather, it is closer in identity to avoidant personality disorder with many of the same characteristics and traits but adds the element of a blunt affect. Perhaps the best definition of a schizoid is a person who pulls away from others and their own emotions or feelings thereby creating flat emotionless responses.
So what is Schizoid? Well, according to the recommended changes in the DSM-V, schizoid is no longer a personality disorder in and of itself rather it is now classified under Personality Disorder Trait Specified (PDTS). This means that there was not enough research to properly classify schizoids as having a named personality disorder but there is evidence enough that it does exist. So the traits of schizoid are still classifiable and qualify as a PDTS. Here is the technical definition based on the new classification:
- Social withdrawal
- Intimacy avoidance
- Restricted affectivity – blunted affect
- Anhedonia – absence of pleasure or the ability to experience it
The practical definition looks more like this:
- Prefers being alone
- Little desire for sexual relationships
- Unable to experience pleasure
- Comes off as dull or cold
- Feels unmotivated
What does this look like in person? Remember Anthony Hopkins portrayal of the head butler in “Remains of the Day”? This is an excellent example of a schizoid. The head butler focused on his job over all social encounters and disappeared into the background seamlessly. Even when pressed about his feelings, he was unable to communicate them or show any real emotion. This was not just proper job training for a butler; it was an aspect of his personality.
So how do you deal with a person who might be schizoid? Here are a few suggestions:
- Because they won’t talk much, don’t expect a lot of feedback. A little goes a long way.
- They are not likely to go to lunch or engage in talks over the water cooler so don’t force it.
- They will seem odd or indifferent in most social or work environments but they are comfortable with that so it won’t do any good to point it out or try to force them to be something they cannot be.
- Emotional reasoning won’t work because they aren’t in touch with their own feelings let alone the feelings with others. Rather logical reasoning will work.
- They are very comfortable being alone so don’t engage or try to force them to talk during awkward silence. Most likely the only one uncomfortable with the silence is you, not them.
- One of the greatest mistakes you can make is that their silence means agreement. It does not! While this might be true for most of the population, this is not true for schizoids.
- They generally need time to process decisions so give them deadlines for feedback. Don’t leave a decision open-ended or you will never get the input you need from them.
If you find that you are in a relationship with a schizoid, get some counseling advice to manage your levels of exhaustion. Their silence and blunt affect can be very frustrating especially for a person who likes to engage in conversation and is not afraid to show appropriate emotions. Schizoids are capable of wonderful relationships but you need to understand their natural limitations and not have expectations that contradict with their abilities.