202. schizoid


here-not hereToday, the Pink Agendist posted “Are you living with a covert schizoid?

It’s important to put a crowbar of separation between “schizoid” and “schizophrenic” at the outset. These two have nothing to do with each other.

Both words are derived from the Greek word skhizein, to split. In the case of the schizophrenic, the split is from reality (psychosis). With the schizoid, it’s a split from the human world itself.

By nature, I’m introverted. As a child, I was off by myself, playing on my own or spending hours writing in my bedroom closet. (Yes, the irony.) I’ve learned coping mechanisms, but still prefer solitude or the quiet company of a few friends.

My dislike for human contact and company emerged around age 13 or 14, likely a reaction to the emergence of my homosexual feelings. These feelings were uncomfortable as they were forbidden by the teachings of my religion. Rather than differentiate, I reacted against all human contact. Survival mechanisms can be fucked up.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) describes the “schizoid personality disorder” thus:

A pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

(1) neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family
(2) almost always chooses solitary activities
(3) has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person
(4) takes pleasure in few, if any, activities
(5) lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives
(6) appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others
(7) shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affectivity

(Way to pathologize normal human differences, APA.)

Wikipedia says this about the signs and symptoms of SPD:

Their communication with other people may be indifferent and concise at times (i.e. Meowing instead of speaking English). Because of their lack of meaningful communication with other people, those who are diagnosed with SPD are not able to develop accurate images of how well they get along with others.

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… It is not people as such that they want to avoid, but emotions both negative and positive, emotional intimacy, and self disclosure.

go_sit_in_my_houseAs I read all of this, I’m considering my indifference to my family; my lack of interest in most activities; my highly select group of friends and ambivalence to acquaintances; my inability to hold meaningful conversations without getting stuck or feeling tongue-tied, with anxiety over not knowing what to say; and my choice of career paths that require hours of solitude—writing, and composition.

It’s likely that all of this is related to Religious Trauma Syndrome. One theory about the cause of SPD is an “unloving, neglectful, or excessively perfectionistic” homelife and upbringing. This is somewhat true of my own childhood. Mind you, I never want to give the impression that my childhood was abusive, cold, or unhappy. My parents loved me and my sisters very much, and I have many fond memories from then.

But, by virtue of our fundamentalist Christian beliefs, my childhood was also highly judgmental. I was held to exacting standards, with virtually every aspect of my life subject to criticism and condemnation. It wasn’t just my parents who disapproved if I failed to meet expectations. It was God, who would determine whether I spent eternity in Heaven or Hell.

Pink Agendist quotes excerpts from a website, www.schizoid.info, which has this to say:

Schizoids are usually very intelligent and self-sufficient. They are intensely private people with acute interpersonal boundaries… They are deeply sensitive to intrusiveness, dependency, insincerity, and emotional behaviour. Despite their self-sufficiency, they require connection just like any other human being, and intense loneliness often compels them to reach out for some kind of relationship. This dichotomy leads to an ‘in and out’ pattern of him being in the relationship and pulling out of it, which is confusing and hurtful for the other party.

My previous ex-boyfriend often complained that I was overly withdrawn, that I spent more time on the computer or mobile devices than with him. There were problems in that relationship, and I wasn’t entirely committed, but it’s that way with most relationships for me, romantic or otherwise. Eventually, I need to withdraw and be alone. I feel like a jerk for doing it, but the alternative is exhaustion and shutting down.

Wikipedia mentions one schizoid “subtype”: the “secret schizoid.” (Ooh, la la!)

Many fundamentally schizoid individuals present with an engaging, interactive personality style that contradicts the observable characteristic emphasized by the DSM-IV and ICD-10 definitions of the schizoid personality. [These individuals] present themselves as socially available, interested, engaged and involved in interacting yet remain emotionally withdrawn and sequestered within the safety of the internal world.

I’ve wondered if my introversion and inability to connect was symptomatic of borderline personality disorder, or Asperger’s. I often feel the face I present to the world is an artificial one, having little to do with what I think and feel. I model my behavior and responses based on what I observe in others, but not really understanding the motivations behind what I see. My own therapist has described me as warm and engaging, but it feels like she’s just praising my act.

A simple action like getting a haircut requires intense preparation to overcome fear of what the stylist and I will talk about. It’s not unlike preparing to go on-stage—must remember my lines. Dating advice like going to new places to meet guys is virtually unthinkable. My trouble with job searching is not so much aversion to work as it is dealing with other people.

I write this, not to make excuses, but to explain—why I’d rather not go to gay bars with friends; why you won’t see me for days, or weeks; why I still sometimes flinch when touched.

That’s all.

9 thoughts on “202. schizoid

  1. I’m a secret schizoid. I have to be because of work. I smile, I listen, I can do the whole routine. I’m told sometimes my eyes are glazed or they wander to the ceiling, but I’m still smiling.
    P. S. We could be bff’s and totally spend the day together ignoring each other!

    • David

      That sounds perfect! Rather reminds me of what Douglas Adams wrote of a pair of dogs he met while writing in New Mexico: “they had worked out that I had to be there in order for them to be able to ignore me properly.” Yes, I’m often off in my own world, like Cinderella, dreaming about not being with people.

      I love what one website said about the “long-term outlook” for SPD: “This is a chronic condition that has no cure. Some people with the disease may not be able to hold a job or be in a relationship with other people. However, many people are able to hold jobs and live fairly normal lives.”

      • David

        Yes! It felt like that episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Eye of the Beholder,” where they say that even though the woman is horribly “disfigured,” people like her can still lead full, productive lives. Gah. Who wants to be “normal” anyway?

  2. Naughty Pink diagnosed me as schizoid. Not something I’d ever thought about. But it’s very much a continuum thing like so many aspects of life. Religion is a classic example. You can be an ardent believe and revolved your life around a religion (any one will do for the sake of example), you can take out the bits you want and believe in those bits and reject others, you can go through the motions without even thinking about it, you can be agnostic, or atheist.

    Similarly for the above seven symptoms of SPD you can exhibit all seven, or just one or two. I’m probably three or four. But why is it a disorder to not want to bother with boring people talking a load of drivel? Strikes me as being very sensible. We can all manage to function in a work environment, a bit like functioning alcoholics. Perhaps someday someone will describe a condition where people seek the artificiality of human interaction because they are unable to live within themselves and seek validation of their existence from others. Now that is truly a disorder.

  3. I feel like you’re striving for something in your recent posts…I’m not sure what it is, but I’m fairly certain it’s there. I hope that you’re not trying to justify who you are; where we’ve been is our story but where we’re going is the joi de vie. Admittedly, I don’t suffer from extreme introversion, but I can’t help but think that you’re seeking affirmation for who you are (unnecessary) or focusing so much on the past that you’re becoming removed from the present. Please don’t let your past take away anymore of your future. You deserve better.

    • David

      I’m not trying to justify who I am. I’m trying to figure out who I am. Coming out gay was no problem: that was merely facing who I’d been denying that I was. Coming out atheist was a burning to the ground of everything that I ever was. If you have better ideas of how to rebuild, I’d like to hear them.

      I quoted this not long ago: “Not only do you have to smash down the house, but you have to then take out the Indian burial ground underneath the foundation of the house and then begin to rebuild.” By examining and scrutinizing the past, I’m hoping to excise the metaphorical demons there that are still causing turmoil. The reason I’m in this current bind is because I didn’t do this work earlier, because I’m just now finding out that it needs to be done.

    • It really isn’t about justification. It’s more about understanding how to be ourselves in a world that expects us to conform to standard social interactions. I’ve always lived with extreme pressure to participate in activities I’ve never enjoyed. This pressure doesn’t suddenly stop at any point in life. Since the majority of humanity is geared to socializing (mindlessly), we are always put on the spot. Co-workers, neighbours, family members, friends, they all push for a connection; So, not being interested in a connection makes for a constant struggle. Understanding the characteristics of the schizoid mind allows us to (to some degree) explain it to people without it seeming terribly hurtful and unkind. “It’s not that I have anything against you as an individual, it’s that I’m most content under a very specific set of circumstances which involves not attending certain types of encounters”. “Thanks so much for the invitation to your child’s 3rd birthday party, but…” and so forth.
      If we don’t understand the workings of these things, we can end up torturing ourselves by trying to emulate the behaviours and feelings of others. I don’t want to fake-hug, fake-cry, fake feign interest, fake smile- I have to do all of that already in my work life where there’s no getting around it.

  4. I think I’m right in saying we learn behaviours through observation, mainly as children and mainly from parents. It’s more difficult to pick up ‘natural’ social interaction behaviours as an adult and it can become like a stilted rehearsal, but I still think the more we do it, the better we become. I think more people feel like this than we know, speaking as someone with poor parental social models yet a reasonable learned ability to make it look like it comes naturally.

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