written by Eleanor Greenberg, Ph.D., CGP.
When intimacy seems like a trap, partial relationships become the answer.
Most people are not familiar with the term schizoid personality disorder. If they’ve ever heard of it, they’ll likely have many misconceptions about what it is.
The name itself is confusing. Some people think it has something to do with it Schizophrenia Because both disorders begin with the prefix “schizo” (which it isn’t) or all schizophrenics are like the quiet lonely person in the corner who doesn’t care about socializing (also not true).
Before I discuss how people with schizotypal personality disorder deal with relationships, I would like to provide some background information that will make their fear of intimacy more understandable.
What is schizotypal personality disorder?
Schizoid personality disorder is one of the three major personality disorders that can be treated with appropriate psychotherapy. The other two are borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder (Greenberg, 2016).
All personality disorders begin very early in life. Personality disorders are thought to be the result of a particular child with a certain innate temperament attempting to adapt to a family situation that is less than optimal for that child. In the case of schizotypal personality disorder, raising a child leaves the child feeling insecure with other humans and unwilling to be in intimate relationships later in life.
The child learns to turn inward, rather than outward, in an effort to meet his own needs. This can lead to the person appearing as an adult to be more introverted than they would have been if they had grown up in a normal family.
NB: In this blog post, I use the term schizophrenia or SPD as a shorthand way to describe people who meet the criteria for a schizotypal personality disorder diagnosis.
Read Attachment Theory: How Childhood Attachment Affects Adult Relationships
Home life of a child with schizophrenia
If you’re reading this post because you’re experiencing intimacy issues and think you might have schizotypal personality disorder, you likely experienced a combination of the following when you were a young child:
- There was an almost complete lack of alignment with you from the caregivers.
- There was no one you could trust to take care of you.
- You have been physically or emotionally abused and neglected.
- You were treated as an object, not as a person with preferences and feelings.
- Your primary care provider was inappropriately intrusive.
- You feel trapped in a hostile situation where you have no rights and no control.
- I have been forced to comply with unreasonable demands.
- You think that no one cares about what happened to you or what you thought or felt.
Here are some examples of what being a child has been like for my clients with schizotypal personality disorder.
My client told Jane that her mother treated her as if she was invisible and had no feelings. She told me the following story, which she described as exemplary:
Sometimes my mother decided to vacuum my room and rearrange the furniture at night while I slept. When I asked her to stop, she asked me to shut my mouth if I knew what was good for me. She said it was her home and she could do whatever she wanted. When I complained, it shocked me.
Read schizotypal personality disorder: what it is and how to treat it
My client Burt was not allowed to grow any privacy. His mother was incredibly intrusive. He remembers giving him an enema every week against his will when he was a little boy. I held him while he was crying and struggling. He was so traumatized by this experience that he developed a lifelong fear of any medical procedures involving body opening, including dentistry. Here’s what happened after he reached puberty.