What is Schizoid Personality Disorder?

Schizoid personality disorder is a common co-occurring disorder with substance use and addictive disorders. Many people think this disorder is similar to schizophrenia because of the name when it is an entirely different category of disorders. While schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder, which means the sufferer loses touch with reality, a schizoid personality disorder is a personality disorder, which means they have personality traits that deviate from the norm. The individual is still in touch with reality and can effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings to others. Their personality traits may include little emotional expression and often spending time alone.

Diagnostic Criteria for Schizoid Personality Disorder

The diagnostic criteria for schizoid personality disorder include:

  • Lack of desire for close relationships with others.
  • Gravitating towards activities that they do can do alone.
  • Lack of interest in sexual activity.
  • Lack of enjoyment of activities.
  • Few or no close friendships.
  • Not being moved by compliments or criticism.
  • Limited expression of emotions, appearing cold and detached from people.

Causes of Schizoid Personality Disorder

Schizoid Personality Disorder

A variety of factors likely causes schizoid personality disorder. Biological factors (e.g., genetics and brain circuity) most likely play a role. Those who have family members who had a schizoid personality disorder or similar disorders such as schizotypal personality disorder, which includes isolation, paranoia, psychosis, and unconventional thinking, or schizophrenia, are more likely to suffer from schizoid personality disorder themselves due to genetics and observational learning. Social factors such as having a parent or caregiver that was cold and distant can increase someone's risk for schizoid personality disorder.

Why Do those Who have Schizoid Personality Disorder Often Develop Addictions

Those who have schizoid personality disorder often develop addictions because of the emotions associated with it. The sufferers use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate negative feelings of depression and anxiety. One saying about addiction says, “Addiction grows in isolation and is arrested in community.” Those who suffer schizoid personality disorder spend time in isolation, which causes them to turn to alcohol and drugs to take the place of human connections. 

Common substances that people living with a schizoid personality disorder often turn to are alcohol, marijuana, and stimulants. Alcohol is commonly used because it is accessible and reduces their inhibitions, making their own company easier. Cannabis is often used because the effects of the drug seem to fill their inner emptiness from living in isolation. Those with the disorder tend to have low energy, which causes them to gravitate towards stimulants.

Treatment for those Who Struggle with Both Schizoid Personality Disorder and Substance Use and Addictive Disorders

Those who struggle with both these co-occurring disorders need treatment for both disorders. If the individual has not been diagnosed with the disorder upon entering treatment but is suspected of having the disorder, they need to be detoxed and be observed for time off of the substances for an accurate diagnosis to be made. Those who are inactive addiction often isolate and do not express emotion. Hence, clinicians need to be sure the behaviors are part of the client's regular behavior pattern instead of as a result of substance abuse. Once the individual is detox and diagnosed, treatment can begin. Substance use always addressed first. Then the personality disorder is treated to decrease the likelihood of relapse into the addiction since it was the root cause of the addiction.

Two conventional therapies that are used on individuals who struggle with both of these disorders are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and the matrix model. CBT is used to help address negative thoughts and feelings that lead to negative behavior patterns. The matrix model combines evidence-based therapy methods with psychoeducation, group therapy, and self-help groups. This method can be particularly helpful because education about their disorder can help sufferers be more aware of their unhealthy tendencies and avoid them. Getting into group therapy or a self-help group is especially helpful because it will teach sufferers to develop a close, meaningful relationship with those who can relate and will help them see the benefits of human connection. With the right combination of treatment and human connection, there is hope for those who struggle with these disorders.