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Schizoid personality disorder (SPD) is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, secretiveness, and emotional coldness. SPD is rare compared with other personality disorders. Its prevalence is estimated at less than 1% of the general population. It is not related to and should not be confused with schizophrenia.
The term schizoid was coined in 1908 by Eugen Bleuler to designate a natural human tendency to direct attention toward one's inner life and away from the external world, a concept akin to introversion in that it was not viewed in terms of psychopathology. Bleuler also labeled the exaggeration of this tendency the “schizoid personality”.
Since then, studies on the schizoid personality have developed along two separate paths; firstly, the descriptive psychiatry tradition which focuses on overtly observable, behavioral, and describable symptoms which finds its clearest exposition in the DSM-IV revised, and secondly, the dynamic psychiatry tradition which includes the exploration of covert or unconscious motivation and character structure as elaborated by classic psychoanalysis and object-relations theory.
The descriptive tradition began in Ernst Kretschmer’s (1925) portrayal of observable schizoid behaviours which he organized into three groups of characteristics; (1) unsociability, quietness, reservedness, seriousness, and eccentricity; (2) timidity, shyness with feelings, sensitivity, nervousness, excitability, and fondness of nature and books, and (3) pliability, kindliness, honesty, indifference, silence, and cold emotional attitudes. In these characteristics one can see the precursors of the DSM-IV division of schizoid character into three distinct personality disorders, though Kretschmer himself did not conceive of separating these behaviours to the point of radical isolation, considering them instead as simultaneously present as varying potentials in schizoid individuals. For Kretschmer the majority of schizoids are not either oversensitive or cold, but they are oversensitive and cold “at the same time” in quite different relative proportions, with a tendency to move along these dimensions from one behavior to the other.
The second path, that of dynamic psychiatry, began with observations by Eugen Bleuler