Living with Schizoid Personality Disorder
Schizoid personality disorder is characterized by disconnection, emptiness, and strained relationships with others. The causes and symptoms of SPD are hard to understand, but the path to recovery is welcoming and accessible. Treatment options include approaches to psychotherapy and help clients to patiently orient to personal connections in the ways that are meaningful to them.
When you’re facing someone who speaks a different language and neither of you has any shared words to lean on, you may feel at a loss to communicate altogether. This may also be how it feels when you’re facing someone with a personality disorder and trying to understand how they perceive the world. For people with schizoid personality disorder, they may be looking at those around them, unable to relate. They tend to feel isolated by their own ambivalence because they rarely experience significant emotions in the ways that others do.
For people living with schizoid personality disorder, or SPD, this limited emotional capacity means that they may not experience the pains and sorrows of life as intensely as the rest of us do, but it also means that they may not experience joy, deep connection, or general interest in life and other people. This persistent neutrality can easily turn into a trap of oppressive nothingness. People with SPD may long to feel something or they may sink deeper into isolation, becoming harder to reach by concerned loved ones who want to see them live their very best life. But treatment can bring empowered perspective through psychotherapy and relationship work. With the right treatment, someone with schizoid personality disorder may finally feel whole and confident to be themselves.
The Symptoms and Causes of Schizoid Personality Disorder
The symptoms of schizoid personality disorder are characterized by how one relates to the world and the people around them. It’s not really the case that people with SPD lack emotions, but their emotional responses, expressions, and connections are significantly underwhelming, and they lead a very different kind of existence as a result. The struggle living with SPD may be an internal one as they search for meaning and traction within themselves, or it may be a struggle to find a way to relate what they’re experiencing inside with the people and events around them—or both.
Here are some common symptoms of schizoid personality disorder:
- They may be often withdrawn and appear cold.
- They tend to have very few lasting relationships, and most are limited to family ties.
- They prefer to spend a lot of time alone.
- They may have a poor intuitive understanding of situations and people they encounter, which could put them at greater risk of victimization.
- Their emotional experiences tend to be fleeting and perhaps infrequent.
- They may feel pressure to act like, feel like, and live like others.
- They may struggle to express themselves.
- They may long to feel something and seek that feeling experience in risky ways, including self-harm.
For many people with schizoid personality disorder, each day is filled with large and small moments that spotlight the gap between their own potential for connection and the persistent disconnection they actually face. They may feel like they are spinning their wheels but never actually touching the road that they can see below. From this place of distress, people with SPD may also be at risk of developing substance use disorders; mental health disorders, especially anxiety and personality disorders; and other complications.
The causes of schizoid personality disorder are not clearly defined, but onset is believed to result from inherited and environmental conditions. When schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder, or schizoid personality disorder is already present in a family member, one’s risk of developing SPD increases. A stressful childhood history can also be linked to the onset of SPD later in life—especially if someone grew up in an emotionally cold and distant household.
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The Treatment Options for Someone Living with Schizoid Personality Disorder
Even under the weight of schizoid personality disorder, sufferers are unlikely to seek treatment. They are much more likely to withdraw than to reach out for help. But while psychotherapy can be a very challenging course of action for someone with SPD, it can also be an incredibly powerful strategy to adjust their perspective in ways that can greatly improve their quality of life. Because people with SPD have a hard time relating to others, trusting others, and expressing themselves, effective psychotherapy can take a long time to bring about a significant evolution. But for those who have committed to this recovery journey, the effort is very well worth it.
Because SPD brings internal turmoil as well as external disconnection, it’s helpful when a client can be in an environment that supports individual therapy and milieu therapy in a safe, welcoming community setting. Approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help a client to reframe the way they perceive and respond to others. But it can also be an opportunity to help them understand and advocate for their own boundaries. This can be particularly effective when a long-term treatment program involves family therapy sessions. During this time, family members and other close relations can gain more awareness about how they can support a loved one with schizoid personality disorder. After all, compassionate treatment isn’t about rejecting or “fixing” one’s personality; it’s about exploring and embracing the experiences and relationships that are possible even while a client feels safe and confident to be themselves.
People with SPD often feel as if it’s just easier to be alone by themselves. In this way, they don’t have to strive to feel or be something that they are not. They don’t have to wear a mask or fake reactions to make people around them feel better or accept them. A nurturing residential treatment environment works to dissolve these expectations and barriers to recovery. The right program will help a client to find a productive, healthy balance between the alone time they need and the social relationships that have the potential to ground them in a well-rounded life and offer opportunities for personal growth. Once individual therapy has helped a client to develop greater self-awareness and confidence, group therapy can be a chance for them to practice relating to, trusting, and working together with others.
Although medications are not indicated for the direct treatment of schizoid personality disorder, they may be helpful in treating co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety. With the guidance of a warm care team in long-term residential treatment, someone with SPD can approach recovery at their own pace—reversing a common challenge as they typically clash with the pace and impatience of their everyday environments. There is a path to peace and fulfillment for your loved one with schizoid personality disorder. Enlightened patience is the key.
Hanbleceya is a long-term residential treatment program for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance use disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned San Diego-area program and how we can help you or your loved one begin the journey toward recovery.