Schizoid personality disorder

Schizoid personality disorder

Schizoid personality disorder
Classification and external resources
Specialty Psychiatry
ICD-10 F60.1
ICD-9-CM 301.20
MedlinePlus 000920
MeSH D012557

Schizoid personality disorder (SPD) is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, secretiveness, emotional coldness, and apathy. Affected individuals may simultaneously demonstrate a rich, elaborate and exclusively internal fantasy world.[1]

SPD is not the same as schizophrenia or Antisocial personality disorder. Some psychologists argue that the definition of SPD is flawed due to cultural bias.[2]


  • Signs and symptoms 1
    • The 'secret schizoid' 1.1
    • Avoidant attachment style 1.2
    • Schizoid sexuality 1.3
  • Causes 2
  • Diagnosis 3
    • DSM 3.1
    • World Health Organization 3.2
    • Millon's subtypes 3.3
    • Dynamic diagnostic criteria 3.4
    • Guntrip criteria 3.5
      • Introversion 3.5.1
      • Withdrawnness 3.5.2
      • Narcissism 3.5.3
      • Self-sufficiency 3.5.4
      • Sense of superiority 3.5.5
      • Loss of affect 3.5.6
      • Loneliness 3.5.7
      • Depersonalization 3.5.8
      • Regression 3.5.9
    • Akhtar's phenomenological profile 3.6
    • Differential diagnosis 3.7
  • Treatment 4
    • Shorter-term treatment 4.1
    • Longer-term therapy 4.2
  • Epidemiology 5
  • History 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Signs and symptoms

People with SPD are often aloof, cold and indifferent, which causes interpersonal difficulty. Most individuals diagnosed with SPD have trouble establishing personal relationships or expressing their feelings in a meaningful way. They may remain passive in the face of unfavorable situations. Their communication with other people may be indifferent and terse at times. Because of their lack of meaningful communication with other people, those who are diagnosed with SPD are not able to develop accurate impressions of how well they get along with others.[3]

Such images are believed to be important for a person's self-awareness and ability to assess the impact of their own actions in social situations. R.D. Laing suggests that when one is not enriched by injections of interpersonal reality, the self-image becomes increasingly empty and volatilized, which leads the individual to feel unreal.[3]

When the individual's personal space is violated, they feel suffocated and feel the need to free themselves and be independent. People who have SPD tend to be happiest when they are in a relationship in which the partner places few emotional or intimate demands on them. It is not people as such that they want to avoid, but emotions both negative and positive, emotional intimacy, and self disclosure.[4]

This means that it is possible for schizoid individuals to form relationships with others based on intellectual, physical, familial, occupational, or recreational activities as long as these modes of relating do not require or force the need for emotional intimacy, which the affected individual will reject. Donald Winnicott explains this need to modulate emotional interaction by saying that schizoid individuals "prefer to make relationships on their own terms and not in terms of the impulses of other people." Failing to attain that, they prefer isolation.[5]

The 'secret schizoid'

Many fundamentally schizoid individuals display an engaging, interactive personality that contradicts the observable characteristic emphasized by the DSM-IV and ICD-10 definitions of the schizoid personality.[6] Klein classifies these individuals as "secret schizoids",[6] who present themselves as socially available, interested, engaged and involved in interacting yet remain emotionally withdrawn and sequestered within the safety of the internal world.

Withdrawal or detachment from the outer world is a characteristic feature of schizoid pathology, but may appear either in "classic" or in "secret" form. When classic, it matches the typical description of the schizoid personality offered in the DSM-IV. It is however "just as often" a hidden internal state: that which meets the objective eye may not match the subjective, internal world of the patient. Klein therefore cautions that one should not miss identifying the schizoid patient because one cannot see the patient's withdrawal through the patient's defensive, compensatory interaction with external reality. He suggests that one need only ask the patient what his or her subjective experience is in order to detect the presence of the schizoid refusal of emotional intimacy.[6]

Descriptions of the schizoid personality as "hidden" behind an outward appearance of emotional engagement have been recognized as far back as 1940 with Fairbairn's description of "schizoid exhibitionism," in which the schizoid individual is able to express a great deal of feeling and to make what appear to be impressive social contacts yet in reality gives nothing and loses nothing. Because he is only "playing a part," his own personality is not involved. According to Fairbairn, the person disowns the part which he is playing and thus the schizoid individual seeks to preserve his own personality intact and immune from compromise."[7]

Further references to the secret schizoid come from Masud Khan,[8] Jeffrey Seinfeld[9] and Philip Manfield,[10] who give a palpable description of an SPD individual who actually "enjoys" regular public speaking engagements but experiences great difficulty in the breaks when audience members would attempt to engage him emotionally.[11] These references expose the problems involved in relying singularly on outer observable behavior for assessing the presence of personality disorders in certain individuals.

Avoidant attachment style

The question of whether SPD qualifies as a full personality disorder or simply as an avoidant attachment style is contentious.[12] If what has been known as schizoid personality disorder is no more than an attachment style requiring more distant emotional proximity, then many of the more problematic reactions these individuals show in interpersonal situations may be partly accounted for by the social judgments commonly imposed on those with this style. Several sources to date have confirmed the synonymy of SPD and avoidant attachment style,[13] which leaves open the question of how researchers might best approach this subject in future diagnostic manuals and therapeutic practice. However the distinction should be made that individuals with SPD characteristically do not seek social interactions merely due to lack of interest, while those with avoidant attachment style can in fact be interested in interacting with others, but without establishing connections of much depth or length due to having little tolerance for any kind of intimacy.

Schizoid sexuality

People with SPD are sometimes sexually apathetic, though they do not typically suffer from masturbation or sexual abstinence is preferable to the emotional closeness they must tolerate when having sex.[14] Significantly broadening this picture are notable exceptions of SPD individuals who engage in occasional or even frequent sexual activities with others.[15]

Harry Guntrip[16] describes the "secret sexual affair" entered into by some married schizoid individuals as an attempt to reduce the quantity of emotional intimacy focused within a single relationship, a sentiment echoed by Karen Horney's "resigned personality" who may exclude sex as "too intimate for a permanent relationship, and instead satisfy his sexual needs with a stranger. Conversely he may more or less restrict a relationship to merely sexual contacts and not share other experiences with the partner."[17] Jeffrey Seinfeld, professor of social work at New York University, has published a volume on SPD[18] that details examples of "schizoid hunger" which may manifest as sexual promiscuity. Seinfeld provides an example of a schizoid woman who would covertly attend various bars to meet men for the purpose of gaining impersonal sexual gratification, an act which alleviated her feelings of hunger and emptiness.

Salman Akhtar describes this dynamic interplay of overt versus covert sexuality and motivations of some SPD individuals with greater accuracy. Rather than following the narrow proposition that schizoid individuals are either sexual or asexual, Akhtar suggests that these forces may both be present in an individual despite their rather contradictory aims.[19] A clinically accurate picture of schizoid sexuality must therefore include the overt signs: "asexual, sometimes celibate; free of romantic interests; averse to sexual gossip and innuendo," as well as possible covert manifestations of "secret voyeuristic and pornographic interests; vulnerable to erotomania; tendency towards compulsive masturbation and perversions,"[19] although none of these necessarily apply to all people with SPD.


There is some evidence to suggest that there is an increased prevalence of schizoid personality disorder in relatives of people with schizophrenia or schizotypal personality disorder. To Sula Wolff, who did extensive research and clinical work with children and teenagers with schizoid symptoms, "schizoid personality has a constitutional, probably genetic, basis."[20] Other researchers had hypothesized that unloving, neglectful,[21] or excessively perfectionist[22] parenting could play a role. Twin studies with schizoid personality disorder traits, low sociability and low warmth, suggest these traits are inherited. Because of this, there is indirect evidence linking the heritability of schizoid personality disorder.[23]



The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fifth edition, a widely used manual for diagnosing mental disorders, categorizes schizoid personality disorder within the personality disorders section. The fourth edition criteria for SPD are identical to the fifth edition. Some clinicians have called for the removal of SPD from future editions of the DSM.[24]

World Health Organization

The ICD-10 lists schizoid personality disorder as Schizoid personality disorder.[25]

It is characterized by at least four of the following criteria:
  1. Emotional coldness, detachment or reduced affect.
  2. Limited capacity to express either positive or negative emotions towards others.
  3. Consistent preference for solitary activities.
  4. Very few, if any, close friends or relationships, and a lack of desire for such.
  5. Indifference to either praise or criticism.
  6. Little interest in having sexual experiences with another person (taking age into account).
  7. Taking pleasure in few, if any, activities.
  8. Indifference to social norms and conventions.
  9. Preoccupation with fantasy and introspection.

It is a requirement of ICD-10 that a diagnosis of any specific personality disorder also satisfies a set of general personality disorder criteria.

Millon's subtypes

Theodore Millon identified four subtypes of schizoid.[26][27] Any individual schizoid may exhibit none or one of the following:

Subtype Features
Languid schizoid (including depressive features) Marked inertia; deficient activation level; intrinsically phlegmatic, lethargic, weary, leaden, lackadaisical, exhausted, enfeebled.[26]
Remote schizoid (including avoidant, schizotypal features) Distant and removed; inaccessible, solitary, isolated, homeless, disconnected, secluded, aimlessly drifting; peripherally occupied.[26]
Depersonalized schizoid (including schizotypal features) Disengaged from others and self; self is disembodied or distant object; body and mind sundered, cleaved, dissociated, disjoined, eliminated.[26]
Affectless schizoid (including compulsive features) Passionless, unresponsive, unaffectionate, chilly, uncaring, unstirred, spiritless, lackluster, unexcitable, unperturbed, cold; all emotions diminished.[26]

Dynamic diagnostic criteria

Ralph Klein's 1995 description of a schism in the object of relations of the schizoid gave new perspective on commonly held beliefs about the schizoid that focus mainly on the schizoid’s apparent disinterest in relationships. This split involves a "slave/master" relationship characterized by exploitation and dehumanization, and the "self in exile," in which the self recoils from the exploitative relationship. The distanced or unresponsive self in exile is the more commonly recognized aspect of the schizoid. As Klein states: "[the] seeming detachment from feelings should never be accepted as the real state of affairs."[28]

Of particular significance is the correlation between the narcissistic disorder and the schizoid. The "over-entitlement" of the narcissist in a family can result in the "under-entitlement" of the schizoid sibling. The disavowed shame of the narcissist is often absorbed by or projected onto the schizoid, which causes the experience of psychic invasion and the sense of vulnerability to intrusiveness. A schizoid may also be attracted to exploitative relationships in which they long to experience significance and recognition by serving a need of the other. This same person may yet be highly aware of any forms of corruption or exploitation outside of this relationship. In this approach diagnosis is based on the dynamic of this split and its consequences, as opposed to diagnosis on the basis of a list of external behaviors.[29]

Guntrip criteria

Ralph Klein, Clinical Director of the Masterson Institute, delineates the following nine characteristics of the schizoid personality as described by Harry Guntrip: introversion, withdrawnness, narcissism, self-sufficiency, a sense of superiority, loss of affect, loneliness, depersonalization, and regression.[30]


Guntrip described the schizoid's inner world thus: "By the very meaning of the term, the schizoid is described as cut off from the world of outer reality in an emotional sense. All this libidinal desire and striving is directed inward toward internal objects and he lives an intense inner life often revealed in an astonishing wealth and richness of fantasy and imaginative life whenever that becomes accessible to observation. Though mostly his varied fantasy life is carried on in secret, hidden away."[31] The schizoid person is so cut off from outer reality as to experience it as dangerous. It is a natural human response to turn away from sources of danger and toward sources of safety. The schizoid individual, therefore, is primarily concerned with avoiding danger and ensuring safety.[30]


Withdrawnness means detachment from the outer world, the other side of introversion. Only a small portion of schizoid individuals present with a clear and obvious timidity, reluctance, or avoidance of the external world and interpersonal relationships. Many fundamentally schizoid people present with an engaging, interactive personality style.

Such a person can appear to be available, interested, engaged and involved in interacting with others, but he or she may in reality be emotionally withdrawn and sequestered in a safe place in an internal world. Withdrawnness is a characteristic feature of schizoid pathology, but it is sometimes overt and sometimes covert. Overt withdrawnness matches the usual description of the schizoid personality, but withdrawnness is just as often a covert, hidden, internal state of the patient.

The patient's observable behavior may not accurately reflect the internal state of their mind. One should not mistake introversion for indifference, and one should not miss identifying the schizoid patient due to misinterpretation of the patient's defensive, compensatory, engaging interaction with external reality.[30]


Guntrip defines narcissism as "a characteristic that arises out of the predominantly interior life the schizoid lives. His love objects are all inside him and moreover he is greatly identified with them so that his libidinal attachments appear to be in himself. The question, however, is whether the intense inner life of the schizoid is due to a desire for hungry incorporation of external objects or due to withdrawal from the outer to a presumed safer inner world."[31] The need for attachment as a primary motivational force is as strong in the schizoid person as in any other human being. Because the schizoid's love objects are internal, they find safety without connecting and attaching to objects in the real world.[30]


Guntrip defined schizoid self-sufficiency as a symptom of narcissism, "a safeguard against anxiety breaking out in dealing with actual people."[31] The more that schizoids can rely on themselves, the less they have to rely on other people and expose themselves to the potential dangers and anxieties associated with that reliance or, even worse, dependence. The vast majority of schizoid individuals show an enormous capacity for self-sufficiency and the ability to operate alone, independently and autonomously, in managing their worlds.[30]

Sense of superiority

Guntrip observed that a sense of superiority accompanies self-sufficiency. "One has no need of other people, they can be dispensed with... There often goes with it a feeling of being different from other people."[31] The sense of superiority of the schizoid has nothing to do with the grandiose self of the narcissistic disorder. It does not find expression in the schizoid through the need to devalue or annihilate others who are perceived as offending, criticizing, shaming, or humiliating. This type of superiority was described by a young schizoid man:

"If I am superior to others, if I am above others, then I do not need others. When I say that I am above others, it does not mean that I feel better than them, it means that I am at a distance from them, a safe distance."

It is a feeling of security rather than of superiority.[30]

Loss of affect

Guntrip saw loss of affect as inevitable,[31] as the tremendous investment made in the self interferes with the desire and ability to be empathic and sensitive toward another person’s experience. These things often seem secondary to securing one's own defensive, safe position. The subjective experience is one of loss of affect.[30]

Some patients experience loss of affect to such a degree that the insensitivity becomes manifest in the extreme as cynicism, callousness, or even cruelty. The patient appears to have no awareness of how his or her comments or actions affect and hurt other people. This loss of affect is more frequently manifest within the patient as genuine confusion, a sense of something missing in his or her emotional life.[30]


Guntrip observed that the preceding characteristics result in loneliness: "Loneliness is an inescapable result of schizoid introversion and abolition of external relationships. It reveals itself in the intense longing for friendship and love which repeatedly break through. Loneliness in the midst of a crowd is the experience of the schizoid cut off from affective rapport."[31] This is a central experience of the schizoid that is often lost to the observer. Contrary to the familiar caricature of the schizoid as uncaring and cold, the vast majority of schizoid persons who become patients express at some point in their treatment their longing for friendship and love. This is not the schizoid patient as described in the DSMs. Such longing, however, may not break through except in the schizoid’s fantasy life, to which the therapist may not be allowed access for quite a long period in treatment.

There is a very narrow range of classic DSM-defined schizoids for whom the hope of establishing relationships is so minimal as to be almost extinct. The longing for closeness and attachment is almost unidentifiable to such a person. These individuals will not voluntarily become patients, as the schizoid individual who becomes a patient does so often because of the twin motivations of loneliness and longing. This type of patient believes that some kind of connection and attachment is possible and is well suited to psychotherapy. The psychotherapist, however, may approach the schizoid patient with a sense of therapeutic pessimism, if not nihilism, and may misread the patient by believing that the patient’s wariness is indifference and that caution is coldness.[30]


Guntrip describes depersonalization as a loss of a sense of identity and individuality. Depersonalization is a dissociative defense, often described by the schizoid patient as "tuning out", "turning off", or as the experience of a separation between the observing and the participating ego. It is experienced most profoundly when anxieties seem overwhelming and is a more extreme form of loss of affect: whereas the loss of affect is a more chronic state in schizoid personality disorder, depersonalization is an acute defense against more immediate experiences of overwhelming anxiety or danger.[30]


Guntrip defined regression as "Representing the fact that the schizoid person at bottom feels overwhelmed by their external world and is in flight from it both inwards and as it were backwards to the safety of the metaphorical womb."[31] Such a process of regression encompasses two different mechanisms: inward and backwards. Regression inward speaks to the magnitude of the reliance on primitive forms of fantasy and self-containment, often of an autoerotic or even objectless nature. Regression backwards to the safety of the womb is a unique schizoid phenomenon and represents the most intense form of schizoid defensive withdrawal in an effort to find safety and to avoid destruction by external reality, which has been conflated with the challenging parental models faced by the subject following exit from the womb upon physical birth. The fantasy of regression to the womb is the fantasy of regression to a place of ultimate safety.[30]

The description of the nine characteristics first articulated by Guntrip should bring more clearly into focus some of the major differences that exist between the traditional descriptive DSM portrait of the schizoid disorder and the traditional psychoanalytically informed object relations view. All nine characteristics are internally consistent. Most, if not all, should be present in order to diagnose a schizoid disorder.[30]

Akhtar's phenomenological profile


Clinical Features of Schizoid Personality Disorder[19]
Area Features
Overt Covert
  • compliant
  • stoic
  • noncompetitive
  • self-sufficient
  • lacking assertiveness
  • feeling inferior and an outsider in life
  • cynical
  • inauthentic
  • depersonalized
  • alternately feeling empty, robot-like, and full of omnipotent, vengeful fantasies
  • hidden grandiosity
Interpersonal relations
  • withdrawn
  • aloof
  • have few close friends
  • impervious to others' emotions
  • afraid of intimacy
  • exquisitely sensitive
  • deeply curious about others
  • hungry for love
  • envious of others' spontaneity
  • intensely needy of involvement with others
  • capable of excitement with carefully selected intimates
Social adaptation
  • prefer solitary occupational and recreational activities
  • marginal or eclectically sociable in groups
  • vulnerable to esoteric movements owing to a strong need to belong
  • tend to be lazy and indolent
  • lack clarity of goals
  • weak ethnic affiliation
  • usually capable of steady work
  • quite creative and may make unique and original contributions
  • capable of passionate endurance in certain spheres of interest
Love and sexuality
  • asexual, sometimes celibate
  • free of romantic interests
  • averse to sexual gossip and innuendo
Ethics, standards, and ideals
  • idiosyncratic moral and political beliefs
  • tendency towards spiritual, mystical and para-psychological interests
  • moral unevenness
  • occasionally strikingly amoral and vulnerable to odd crimes, at other times altruistically self-sacrificing
Cognitive style
  • absent-minded
  • engrossed in fantasy
  • vague and stilted speech
  • alternations between eloquence and inarticulateness
  • autistic thinking
  • fluctuations between sharp contact with external reality and hyperreflectiveness about the self
  • autocentric use of language

One patient with SPD commented that he could not fully enjoy his life because he feels that he is living in a shell. He furthermore noted that his inability distressed his wife.[32] According to Beck and Freeman,[33] "Patients with schizoid personality disorders consider themselves to be observers, rather than participants, in the world around them."

Differential diagnosis

SPD shares several aspects with other psychological conditions, but there are some important differentiating features:

psychological condition Features
Depression People who have SPD may also suffer from clinical depression, but this is not always the case. Unlike depressed people, persons with SPD generally do not consider themselves inferior to others, although they will probably recognize that they are different.
Avoidant personality disorder People affected with avoidant personality disorder avoid social interactions due to anxiety or feelings of incompetence, but those with SPD do so because they are genuinely indifferent to social relationships. A 1989 study,[34] however, found that "schizoid and avoidant personalities were found to display equivalent levels of anxiety, depression, and psychotic tendencies as compared to psychiatric control patients." One SPD patient remarked that previous knowledge, expectations, or assumptions may result in such elevated levels. SPD patients also tend to repeatedly mentally simulate damaging scenarios so as to flatten negative effects, should such a scenario occur in reality.
Asperger syndrome Asperger syndrome (AS), sometimes called "schizoid disorder of childhood," is an autism-spectrum disorder. SPD does not involve impairments in nonverbal communication such as a lack of eye contact, unusual prosody or a pattern of restricted interests or repetitive behaviors. Compared to AS, SPD is characterized by prominent conduct disorder, better adult adjustment and a slightly increased risk of schizophrenia.[35]

Some people with schizoid personality features may occasionally experience instances of brief reactive psychosis when under stress.[36] A pathological reliance on fantasizing activity is often part of the schizoid individual's withdrawal from the world. Fantasy thus becomes a core component of the self in exile,[37] though fantasizing in schizoid individuals is far more complicated than a means of facilitating withdrawal.[37]:64

Fantasy is also a relationship with the world and with others by proxy. It is a substitute relationship, but a relationship nonetheless, characterized by idealized, defensive and compensatory mechanisms. It is an expression of the self in exile because it is self-contained and free from the dangers and anxieties associated with emotional connection to real persons and situations.[37]

Klein explains it as "an expression of the self struggling to connect to objects, albeit internal objects. Fantasy permits schizoid patients to feel connected, and yet still free from the imprisonment in relationships. In short, in fantasy one can be attached (to internal objects) and still be free."[37] This aspect of schizoid pathology has been generously elaborated in works by Laing,[3] Winnicott,[38] and Klein.[37]

Schizoid individuals frequently act out with substance and alcohol abuse and other addictions which serve as substitutes for human relationships.[39] The substitute of a nonhuman for a human object serves as a schizoid defense. Providing examples of how the schizoid individual creates a personal relation with the drug, Seinfeld tells of an addict who called heroin his "soothing white pet," and of others who referred to crack as their "bad mama" or "boyfriend." He explains that "Not all addicts name their drug, but there often is the trace of a personal feeling about the relationship."[39] The object relations view emphasizes that the drug use and alcoholism reinforce the fantasy of union with an internal object, yet enable the addict to be indifferent to the external object world. Addiction is therefore a schizoid and symbiotic defense.

S. C. Ekleberry[40] suggests that marijuana "may be the single most egosyntonic drug for individuals with SPD because it allows a detached state of fantasy and distance from others, provides a richer internal experience than these individuals can normally create, and reduces an internal sense of emptiness and failure to participate in life. Also, alcohol, readily available and safe to obtain, is another obvious drug of choice for these individuals. Some will use both marijuana and alcohol and see little point in giving up either. They are likely to use in isolation for the effect on internal processes."[40]

Suicide may also be a running theme for schizoid individuals, though they are not likely to actually attempt one. They might be down and depressed when all possible connections have been cut off, but as long as there is some relationship or even hope for one the risk will be low. The idea of suicide is a driving force against the person's schizoid defenses. As Klein says: "For some schizoid patients, its presence is like a faint, barely discernible background noise, and rarely reaches a level that breaks into consciousness. For others, it is an ominous presence, an emotional sword of Damocles. In any case, it is an underlying dread that they all experience."[41]


Schizoid personality disorder has negative symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia, such as anhedonia, blunted affect and low energy, and atypical antipsychotics may alleviate these symptoms. Those who do seek treatment have the option of medication and/or therapy. The medication most recently used to treat the negative symptoms is risperidone. Before it, no psychotropic medication reduced the negative symptoms.[42] Low doses of risperidone or olanzapine also work for the social deficits and blunted affect, Wellbutrin (bupropion) for anhedonia.[42]

Lamotrigine, SSRIs, TCAs, MAOIs and Hydroxyzine may help social anxiety in people with SPD. However, social anxiety may not be a main concern for the people who have SPD. Supportive psychotherapy is also used in an inpatient or outpatient setting by a trained professional that focuses on areas such as coping skills, improvement of social skills and social interactions, communication, and self-esteem issues.

Modafinil is effective in treating some of the negative symptoms of SPD such as detachment and aloofness.[43]

People with SPD have a tendency to miss differences that causes an inability to pick up environmental cues and limits their experience.[33] The perception of varied events only increases their fear for intimacy and limits them in their interpersonal relationships. Their aloofness may limit their opportunities to refine the social skills and behavior necessary to effectively pursue relationships.

Socialization groups may help these people with SPD. Educational strategies in which people who have SPD identify their positive and negative emotions also are effective. Such identification helps them to learn about their own emotions and the emotions they draw out from others and to feel the common emotions with other people with whom they relate. This can help people with SPD create empathy with the outside world.

Shorter-term treatment

The concept of "closer compromise" means that the schizoid patient may be encouraged to experience intermediate positions between the extremes of emotional closeness and permanent exile.[37]:95–143 A lack of injections of interpersonal reality causes an impoverishment in which the schizoid individual's self-image becomes increasingly empty and volatilized and leads the individual to feel unreal.[3] To create a more adaptive and self-enriching interaction with others in which one "feels real," the patient is encouraged to take risks through greater connection, communication, and sharing of ideas, feelings, and actions. Closer compromise means that while the patient's vulnerability to anxieties is not overcome, it is modified and managed more adaptively. Here the therapist repeatedly conveys to the patient that anxiety is inevitable but manageable, without any illusion that the vulnerability to such anxiety can be permanently dispensed with. The limiting factor is the point at which the dangers of intimacy become overwhelming and the patient must again retreat.

Klein suggests that patients must take the responsibility to place themselves at risk and to take the initiative for following through with treatment suggestions in their personal lives. It is emphasized that these are the therapist's impressions[37]:95–123 and that he or she is not reading the patient's mind or imposing an agenda but is simply stating a position that is an extension of the patient's therapeutic wish. Finally, the therapist directs attention to the need to employ these actions outside of the therapeutic setting.[37]:95–123

Longer-term therapy

Klein suggests that "working through" is the second longer-term tier of psychotherapeutic work with schizoid patients.[37]:123–143 Its goals are to change fundamentally the old ways of feeling and thinking, and to rid oneself of the vulnerability to those emotions associated with old feelings and thoughts. A new therapeutic operation of "remembering with feeling" that draws on D. W. Winnicott's concepts of false self and true self is called for.[37]:126 The patient must remember with feeling the emergence of his or her false self through childhood, and remember the conditions and proscriptions that were imposed on the individual’s freedom to experience the self in company with others. Remembering with feeling ultimately leads the patient to understand that he or she had no opportunity to choose from a selection of possible ways of experiencing the self and of relating with others, and had few, if any, options other than to develop a schizoid stance toward others. The false self was simply the best way in which the patient could experience the repetitive predictable acknowledgment, affirmation, and approval necessary for emotional survival while warding off the effects associated with the abandonment depression.[37]:123–143

If the goal of shorter-term therapy is for patients to understand that they are not the way they appear to be and can act differently, then the longer-term goal of working through is for patients to understand who and what they are as human beings, what they truly are like and what they truly contain. The goal of working through is not achieved by the patient’s sudden discovery of a hidden, fully formed talented and creative self living inside, but is a process of slowly freeing oneself from the confinement of abandonment depression in order to uncover a potential. It is a process of experimentation with the spontaneous, nonreactive elements that can be experienced in relationship with others.

Working through abandonment depression is a complicated, lengthy and conflicted process that can be an enormously painful experience in terms of what is remembered and what must be felt. It involves mourning and grieving for the loss of the illusion that the patient had adequate support for the emergence of the real self. There is also a mourning for the loss of an identity, the false self, which the person constructed and with which he or she has negotiated much of his or her life. The dismantling of the false self requires relinquishing the only way that the patient has ever known of how to interact with others. This interaction was better than not to have a stable, organized experience of the self, no matter how false, defensive, or destructive that identity may be.

The dismantling of the false self "leaves the impaired real self with the opportunity to convert its potential and its possibilities into actualities."[37]:127 Working through brings unique rewards, of which the most important element is the growing realization that the individual has a fundamental, internal need for relatedness that may be expressed in a variety of ways. "Only schizoid patients", suggests Klein, "who have worked through the abandonment depression ... ultimately will believe that the capacity for relatedness and the wish for relatedness are woven into the structure of their beings, that they are truly part of who the patients are and what they contain as human beings. It is this sense that finally allows the schizoid patient to feel the most intimate sense of being connected with humanity more generally, and with another person more personally. For the schizoid patient, this degree of certainty is the most gratifying revelation, and a profound new organizer of the self experience."[37]:127


SPD is uncommon in clinical settings and occurs slightly more commonly in males.[44] It is rare compared with other personality disorders, with a prevalence estimated at less than 1% of the general population.[45]

Philip Manfield suggests that SPD is far more common than is reported: "I believe that the schizoid condition is far more common... comprising perhaps as many as 40 percent of all personality disorders. This huge discrepancy is probably largely because someone with a schizoid disorder is less likely to seek treatment than someone with other axis-II disorders."[46] Manfield backs this claim with a 1985 study by Valliant & Drake, who found that over 40% of a particular sample group of inner city males were schizoid.

A University of Colorado Colorado Springs study comparing personality disorders and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator types found that the disorder had a significant correlation with the Introverted (I) and Thinking (T) preferences.[47]


The term "schizoid" was coined in 1908 by Eugen Bleuler to designate a human tendency to direct attention toward one's inner life and away from the external world, a concept akin to introversion in that it was not viewed in terms of psychopathology. Bleuler labeled the exaggeration of this tendency the “schizoid personality.”[48]

Studies on the schizoid personality have developed along two distinct paths. The "descriptive psychiatry" tradition focuses on overtly observable, behavioral and describable symptoms and finds its clearest exposition in the DSM-IV revised. The dynamic psychiatry tradition includes the exploration of covert or unconscious motivations and character structure as elaborated by classic psychoanalysis and object-relations theory.

The descriptive tradition began in Ernst Kretschmer's 1925[49] description of observable schizoid behaviors, which he organized into three groups of characteristics:

  1. unsociability, quietness, reservedness, seriousness, eccentricity
  2. timidity, shyness with feelings, sensitivity, nervousness, excitability
  3. pliability, honesty, indifference, silence, cold emotional attitudes.[49]

These characteristics were the precursors of the DSM-IV division of schizoid character into three distinct personality disorders, though Kretschmer himself did not conceive of separating these behaviors to the point of radical isolation but considered them to be simultaneously present as varying potentials in schizoid individuals. For Kretschmer, the majority of schizoids are not either oversensitive or cold, but they are oversensitive and cold "at the same time" in quite different relative proportions, with a tendency to move along these dimensions from one behavior to the other.[49]

The second path, that of dynamic psychiatry, began in 1924 with observations by Eugen Bleuler,[50] who observed that the schizoid person and schizoid pathology were not things to be set apart.[51] W. R. D. Fairbairn's seminal work on the schizoid personality, from which most of what is known today about schizoid phenomena is derived, was presented in 1940. Here Fairbairn delineated four central schizoid themes: (1) the need to regulate interpersonal distance as a central focus of concern, (2) the ability to mobilize self preservative defenses and self-reliance, (3) a pervasive tension between the anxiety-laden need for attachment and the defensive need for distance that manifests in observable behavior as indifference, and (4) an overvaluation of the inner world at the expense of the outer world.[52] Following Fairbairn, the dynamic psychiatry tradition has continued to produce rich explorations on the schizoid character, most notably from writers Nannarello (1953), Laing (1960), Winnicott (1965), Guntrip (1969), Khan (1974), Akhtar (1987), Seinfeld (1991), Manfield (1992) and Klein (1995).[53]

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ a b c d  
  4. ^ Philip Manfield- 'Split Self, Split Object' p. 207
  5. ^ D.W. Winnicott- p.73 'The Family and Individual Development' (1965)
  6. ^ a b c  
  7. ^ W. R. D. Fairbairn- 'Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality'. pp 16-17
  8. ^ Masud Khan- 'The Role of phobic and counterphobic mechanisms and separation anxiety in schizoid character formation' in the volume 'The Privacy of the Self'. Here Khan remarks " the course of the treatment it became gradually clear that behind a façade of excessive sociability and venturesomeness as well as random and frequent sexual episodes these patients had lived all their life... in a secretive and adamantly rejective state of withdrawal from all objects as well as from their environment." p. 70.
  9. ^ J. Seinfeld- 'The Empty Core'. Seinfeld writes: "The schizoid may also seem to be sociable and involved in relationships. However, he is frequently playing a role and not ‘fully’ involved, unconsciously disowning this role..."
  10. ^ Philip Manfield- 'Split Self, Split Object'. Manfield writes: "Not all schizoids keep away from people. It is not people that schizoids avoid, but emotional intimacy, self disclosure, and emotions both positive and negative." p.207
  11. ^ Philip Manfield- 'Split Self, Split Object'. p. 207
  12. ^ Parpottas, Panagiotis. "A Critique On The Use Of Standard Psychopathological Classifications In Understanding Human Distress: The Example Of 'Schizoid Personality Disorder'." Counselling Psychology Review 27.1 (2012): 44-52. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
  13. ^ M. L. West & A. E. Sheldon-Keller- 'Patterns of Relating' p. 111-113.
  14. ^ Nannarello, J., Schizoid. Journal of Nervous Mental Diseases 1953
  15. ^ Nannarello, J., Schizoid. Journal of Nervous Mental Diseases 1953 p.240-242
  16. ^ 'Schizoid Phenomena, Object Relations, and the Self' p.303
  17. ^ K. Horney- 'Neurosis and Human Growth' chapter 'Resignation: The appeal of freedom' p. 264-265
  18. ^ J. Seinfeld- The Empty Core: An Object Relations Approach to Psychotherapy of the Schizoid Personality' p. 104
  19. ^ a b c d e Akhtar, S. Schizoid Personality Disorder: A Synthesis of Developmental, Dynamic, and Descriptive Features. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 151:499–518, 1987.
  20. ^  
  21. ^ • Personality Disorders • Nov 28, 2005 (2005-11-28). "Schizoid Personality Disorder -Personality Disorders". Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  22. ^ R.L. Jenkins, S. Glickman (April 1946). "The Schizoid Child".  
  23. ^ Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan (2014). Abnormal Psychology (6th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 978-1-259-06072-4.
  24. ^ Triebwasser, J; Chemerinski, E; Roussos, P; Siever, LJ (28 August 2012). "Schizoid Personality Disorder.". Journal of personality disorders: 1–8.  
  25. ^ Schizoid personality disorder - International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10)]
  26. ^ a b c d e Millon, Theodore (2004). Personality Disorders in Modern Life, p. 378. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey. ISBN 0-471-23734-5.
  27. ^ "Millon, Theodore - Personality Subtypes". Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  28. ^ p. 135
  29. ^ Gooding, Diane C. "Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD)." Salem Press Encyclopedia Of Health (2014): Research Starters. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ralph Klein- pp. 13–23 in Disorders of the Self: New Therapeutic Horizons, Brunner/Mazel (1995).
  31. ^ a b c d e f g Guntrip, Harry. Schizoid Phenomena, Object-Relations, and The Self. New York: International Universities Press, 1969.
  32. ^ Magnavita, Jeffrey J. (1997). Restructuring Personality Disorders: A Short-Term Dynamic Approach. New York: The Guilford Press.  
  33. ^ a b Beck, Aaron T., M.D., Freeman, Arthur, Ed.D. (1990). Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders. New York: The Guilford Press. 
  34. ^ Overholser, JC (November 1989). "Differentiation between schizoid and avoidant personalities: an empirical test". Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 34 (8): 785–90.  
  35. ^ Woodbury-Smith MR, Volkmar FR (2008). "Asperger syndrome". Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 18 (1): 2–11.  
  36. ^ American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR. American Psychiatric Pub. p. 695. Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Klein, Ralph. Disorders of The Self: New Therapeutic Horizons. Brunner and Mazel, 1995 p. 64
  38. ^ Winnicott, W.D. Playing and Reality. Routledge, 1971. pp. 26-38
  39. ^ a b J. Seinfeld- The Empty Core: An Object Relations Approach to Psychotherapy of the Schizoid Personality, Jason Aronson 1991, p. 101
  40. ^ a b Sharon S. Ekleberry- Dual Diagnosis and the Schizoid Personality Disorder 2000
  41. ^ James F. Masterson & Ralph Klein pp. 54–55 in Disorders of the Self: New Therapeutic Horizons, The Masterson Approach, Brunner/Mazel (1995).
  42. ^ a b Joseph, S., M.D., Ph.D., MPH (1997). Personality Disorders: New Symptom-Focused Drug Therapy. New York: The Haworth Medical Press. 
  43. ^ Scoriels, Linda, Peter B. Jones, and Barbara J. Sahakian. "Modafinil Effects On Cognition And Emotion In Schizophrenia And Its Neurochemical Modulation In The Brain." Neuropharmacology 64.Sp. Iss. SI (n.d.): 168-184. Biological Abstracts 1969 - Present. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
  44. ^ "Internet Mental Health - schizoid personality disorder". Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  45. ^ Weismann, M. M. (1993). "The epidemiology of personality disorders. A 1990 update". Journal of Personality Disorders (Spring issue, Suppl.): 44–62. 
  46. ^ Split Self, Split Object, p. 204.
  47. ^ "An Empirical Investigation of Jung's Personality Types and Psychological Disorder Features" (PDF). Journal of Psychological Type/ 
  48. ^ Details recorded by Salman Akhtar in Schizoid Personality Disorder: A Synthesis of Developmental, Dynamic, and Descriptive Features. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 41, 499-518
  49. ^ a b c Ernst Kretschmer- Physique and Character. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench & Trubner
  50. ^ Eugen Bleuler- Textbook of Psychiatry, New York: Macmillon (1924)
  51. ^ Conclusion of Bleuler's observations by Ralph Klein p.5 in Disorders of The Self: New Therapeutic Horizons: Brunner/Mazel (1995)
  52. ^ Recounted by Ralph Klein- Disorders of the Self: New Therapeutic Horizons, Brunner/Mazel p. 9 (1995)
  53. ^ J. J. Nannarello, Schizoid. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 118, p. 237-249 (1953); R. D. Laing, The Divided Self, Tavistock Publications (1960); D. W. Winnicott, The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment, International Universities Press (1965); Harry Guntrip, Schizoid Phenomena, Object-Relations, and The Self. New York: International Universities Press (1969); M. R. Khan, The Privacy of the Self, Karnac Publications (1974); Salman Akhtar, Schizoid Personality Disorder: A Synthesis of Developmental, Dynamic, and Descriptive Features, American Journal of Psychotherapy, 41, 499-518 (1987); Jeffrey Seinfeld, The Empty Core, Jason Aronson (1991); Philip Manfield,Split Self, Split Object, Jason Aronson (1992); Ralph Klein, Disorders of the Self: New Therapeutic Horizons, Brunner/Mazel (1995).

External links

  • The biological foundations of the schizoid process
  • NY Times article "Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle: For Some People, Intimacy Is Toxic"
  • A Comprehensive Profile of Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Psychology & mental health Schizoid Personality Disorder message board, with open discussions, and online support group
  • SPD message board, with open discussions