By David Joel Miller
Who is Schizoid?
These kinds of search questions come up periodically. Sometimes I feel like these questions need to be answered even at the risk of making some people mad. I think we need to look at Schizoid personality disorder and other psychosis and its relationship to religious and racial minorities even at the risk of making a whole lot of people angry.
Wow, religion and race in one post, guaranteed to piss someone off!
Particular religious groups have been connected with various mental illnesses from time to time. In fact even in professional trainings Wiccans, members of a particular recognized religion, get connected with mental illness especially Schizoid personality disorder or Schizotypal disorder frequently. There was a time that minority races were mostly considered to suffer from mental illnesses also.
So first let’s look at what is Schizoid personality disorder and then why races and religions get connected to particular disorders.
At this point, before the hate mail starts arriving, I would like to point out, for better or worse, that I do indeed know people; some yes are even friends, of both the Wiccan and the African-American persuasions. As an aside I have also made the acquaintance of a few assorted Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Israelis, Palestinians, an Icelander and one person who might be described as a genetic Republican. Most of whom I consider more or less friends through no fault of theirs. I have left a few others out of this post because I could not spell their race or religion.
This issue of who or what is Schizoid is somewhat clouded by the way in which classification of personality disorders will change when the DSM-5 comes out in May. Some disorders stay, some go and they we reenter the whole question of are any diagnosis real? This is the old categories verses dimensions controversy. Some people clearly have enough symptoms to get a diagnosis but what about people with only a few symptoms are they normal? Do they have a slight disorder? Or will we need to create a billion or so individual symptom severities to fit each and every one. I will leave that one to the authors of the DSM-5.
Mostly they left the personality disorders alone.
What we currently think of as Schizoid personality characteristics is a person who:
Is detached from social relationships, have a restricted range of expressing emotions in interpersonal situations, and this has been going on since they reached adulthood. (I am crudely paraphrasing from the DSM-4-TR here) and they have 4 or 7 characteristics listed below and they do not have another mental illness that explains their symptoms.
You math majors out there will note that 4 of 7 symptoms allows for 840 possible combinations of symptoms. We clinician types also get to interpret whether you have or do not have any one of these symptoms which can result in a lot of disagreement between clinicians.
The seven symptoms to choose from are:
1. Does not enjoy or want close relationships including being part of a family
In addition to schizoid personality disorder this might fit people who have faced abuse or discrimination and as a result avoid close relationships.
2. Almost always chooses solitary activities
These criteria could also fit gamers and those who are addicted to the internet.
3. Has little interest in having sex.
This could be the result of past aversive experiences.
4. Takes pleasure in few if any activities
This sounds a bit like depression so does the lack of interest in sex above, this will make it harder but not impossible for gamers to get this diagnosis.
5. Lacks friends other than first degree family members.
Lots of victims of discrimination and immigrants could fit this criterion.
6. Appears indifferent to praise or criticism of others.
This fits lots of people with learned helplessness and those who live in non-affirming environments. Why seek praise or affirmation if when you expose your emotional self you will not be liked for who you are.
7. Shows emotional coldness, detachment or flattened affect.
People who face discrimination may hide their true selves and restrict their emotions in public situations. If you get abused for your differentness you may keep you feelings inside even at home.
Now someone with a true personality disorder has these symptoms, most or all of them all the time and not just when in social settings. But can you see how someone who has faced discrimination or is a member of a religion with unusual beliefs could try to avoid expressing those feelings around others who might attack or punish you for being who you are?
Can you see how mental health could be used to punish people who were different racially or religiously and then when they try to keep who they are a secret to avoid that discrimination they could be labeled withdrawn and uninterested in others?
Sure some people with certain mental illnesses could be attracted to certain religions or political causes, but to move over into thinking that people of any one religion or race are probably suffering from any one mental illness is wrong and potentially dangerous.
Besides I think the people who wrote these search terms probably had Schizoid personality disorder and Schizotypal personality disorder confused. Schizotypal probably fits some rock and rollers and celebrities better than it fits Wiccan and African-Americans but it also gets thrown on anyone who is different way too often.
Schizotypal people wear funny clothing like straw hats and suspenders – or are those farmers? See how easy it is to think that people who are different from you must be sick in some way?
Before we start thinking that people who are different must somehow be mentally ill, think back to those basic criteria. Does this person’s problem or behavior interfere with their ability to work, have friends and family or does it upset them? If not they shouldn’t get a mental health diagnosis just because they are different.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books