Today, 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.
As 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.
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.