Aspergers, or schizoid personality disorder?

Making diagnoses can be tricky business. In the medical world, even with all the lab tests and imaging currently available, physicians frequently have a hard time pinpointing the best label (never mind the best treatment) for a set of symptoms. Diagnoses are even squishier in the mental health world, where labels are based primarily on how an individual behaves and feels; lab tests and imaging are rarely used.

Elsewhere in this blog I’ve documented how the diagnoses for our son Nathan changed over time. In his late teens, the notion that he had Aspergers took hold. Psychological tests at his high school qualified him as “autistic-like”; the psychiatrist who finally provided an official Aspergers diagnosis said of Nathan, “He has it, in spades!”

Nathan has been through a few mental health professionals since then. All of them seemed to be on board with the Aspergers diagnosis, although the emphasis of their treatment was on Nathan’s depression, which had reached crisis levels (0r depths).

Nathan started seeing his latest psychologist (Dr S) last July. I gave my input in the first session, and subsequently sat in the waiting room during their monthly sessions. By February’s appointment, I decided it was time to ask Dr S about his impressions, and whether there were adjustments we should make in supporting Nathan’s journey through life.

Dr S asked me what I saw as Nathan’s challenges. I replied, “Blah blah blah his depression, and blah blah blah Aspergers…”

Dr S interrupted me. “Oh, I don’t see any signs of Aspergers. I think Nathan has schizoid personality disorder. Have you ever heard of it?” I shook my head. He then showed me the diagnostic criteria for this scary-sounding label.

“Wow, that does seem to fit him!” I said.

Dr S turned to Nathan. “Are you curious about this?”

Nathan grimaced. “Not really.” He declined to read the diagnostic criteria.

Dr S told me two major things about schizoid personality disorder. First, it would be pointless to try to get someone with Schizoid PD to socialize if s/he doesn’t want to. Second, he said people with Schizoid PD rarely hold jobs.

I left his office trying to wrap my head around this new framework for Nathan’s condition. My new task was to find out more about Schizoid PD. I also wondered how common it is for the diagnosis to be switched with Aspergers or autism spectrum in general. The following is what I have found.

First, it helps to know what a personality disorder is.  This summary from the Mayo Clinic is in plain language (compared to the others I found):

A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and to people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, work and school.

In some cases, you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you. And you may blame others for the challenges you face.

Among the better-known personality disorders are the paranoid, narcissistic, and antisocial personality disorders.

Like all personality disorders, Schizoid PD doesn’t become evident until the teen years or early adulthood. It is more common in males, and is thought to affect 1 – 5% of the population.

Here is a summary of Schizoid PD symptoms, copied from this link to Psychology Today:

The schizoid personality rarely feels there is anything wrong with him/her; symptoms are an indifference to social relationships and a limited range of emotional expression.

  • Takes pleasure in few, if any, activities
  • Does not desire or enjoy close relationships, including family
  • Appear aloof and detached
  • Avoid social activities that involve significant contact with other people
  • Almost always chooses solitary activities
  • Little or no interest in sexual experiences with another person
  • Lacks close relationships other than with immediate relatives
  • Indifferent to praise or criticism
  • Shows emotional coldness, detachment or flattened affect
  • Exhibits little observable change in mood

It is important to know that Schizoid PD is not schizophrenia, and it isn’t schizoaffective disorder. Both of those involve psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. People with Schizoid PD are in touch with reality. That being said, there does seem to be a relationship between Schizoid PD and schizophrenia: they turn up in the same families, and individuals with Schizoid PD may be more likely to develop schizophrenia than the general population. Another condition, called schizotypal personality disorder, has similarities to Schizoid PD but (from what I gather) involves more fear and eccentric behavior.

Other informative links about Schizoid PD are from Wikipedia (lots of detail here!) and the Mayo Clinic. It was disturbing in the latter link to read that one of the risk factors for Schizoid PD is “having a parent who was cold or unresponsive to emotional needs.” I immediately thought of the times I was understated or annoyed in reacting to Nathan’s many meltdowns. Ah, parental guilt! The Wikipedia entry softens this somewhat by saying that the link to parental aloofness is a hypothesis, not a certainty.

Speaking of guilt, I found a website called Out of the FOG, which provides support for family members of someone with a personality disorder. FOG stands for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt – common reactions for those dealing with such a person. Anyway, if you follow the OOTF link above, you’ll see a list of 30 traits that are common in people with Schizoid PD, and toward the bottom of the page is the official diagnostic criteria from the DSM (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association).

It appears there are no really great treatments for Schizoid PD. Psychotherapy may help, if the individual decides s/he wants to make progress in coping with society. Medications can be prescribed for some of the symptoms that go along with the disorder, such as depression and anxiety.

As for a diagnosis switching between Aspergers and Schizoid PD, it seems to be a fairly common occurrence. A book about Aspergers published in 2007 that I found on our bookshelf says that some researchers believe Aspergers and Schizoid PD might be the same thing. This article by Barbara Nichols from October 2013 talks about the differences but also says some believe Schizoid PD may be on the autism spectrum. The controversy continues. (The nifty diagram (with teeny-tiny print) at the top of this post was taken from this article).

Internet forums are a good way to find out what others have to say. Here are links to three forums on the topic of Aspergers vs Schizoid PD. This one from Wrong Planet gets into other diagnoses besides Schizoid PD that may come up in the Aspie community. The explanation given by Anasthasia in this Psych Forum is one of the clearest I’ve come across. Among other things, she says that an Aspie struggles with reading social cues; a Schizoid can read them but doesn’t care to. This thread in a forum on CosmoQuest gets off-topic, but was notable to me for posing the idea that Schizoids can change their sociability with a lot of will power, but Aspies are wired differently and therefore cannot.

One last link about the differences: for those of you who watch the BBC “Sherlock” series (with Benedict Cumberbatch), here is someone of the opinion that Sherlock has Schizoid PD, not Aspergers.

Which diagnosis do I think fits Nathan better? I’m still a little confused, but the balance is tipping towards Schizoid PD. Sadly, I won’t be able to ask Dr S any follow-up questions: he passed away suddenly 13 days after Nathan’s February appointment. Nathan, who dislikes almost everyone, seemed to be fine with Dr S and their sessions. He expressed surprise but no other emotion on learning of his therapist’s passing.

 

 

 

 

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About janet565

I've lived in the Inland Empire of Southern California since 1982. Born and raised in New Jersey, I've also lived in upstate New York and in Oregon. My profession involves maps and geography, which is usually very interesting. My hobbies are pretty boring - none of them involve tigers (or ligers) or jumping out of aircraft - so they do not bear mention here. I hope you find the blog useful, and wish you well....

55 responses to “Aspergers, or schizoid personality disorder?”

  1. Jenn Cohen says :

    Hi Janet,

    Thanks for sharing this. I think a lot of people are unaware of Schizoid PD, while spectrum disorders have gotten enough press in recent years to reach a wide audience.

    One thing that stuck with me from one of my former professors is that Asperger’s kids tend to WANT friendships with peers, but they’re just really not good at it. The desire is there, but not the skills. Schizoid folks, on the other hand, seem not to have interest in developing friendships. They seem to be fairly comfortable with their loner status, so aren’t motivated to change (which makes treatment just about impossible).

    Don’t know if that helps at all. Really, in the end, the label may not matter that much when you’re thinking about long-term planning. Hang in there!

    Jenn Cohen

    Like

    • janet565 says :

      Thanks for your comments, Jenn! I think you’re right that not many people have heard of Schizoid PD.
      In Nathan’s case, he had a few, very close friends through his childhood, and worked hard at a new friendship in high school. Now in his early 20s, he is no longer maintaining those friendships, and says he doesn’t miss having friends in his life. That seems to fit the Schizoid diagnosis better. I read somewhere that Schizoid traits can diminish by middle age in some people, whereas Aspergers is a more permanent condition.

      Like

      • MrKnowBody says :

        Hi Janet
        just stumbling across your blog. I hope that life is presenting open doors for you and your son since your last post. Doctors are great at some things, but mental health is incredibly tricky, especially since most diagnosis are on the spectrum of normality- way at one end or the other. Good luck with everything, and thanks so much for sharing

        Like

      • janet565 says :

        Thanks for your good wishes! Very much appreciated —

        Like

      • richard says :

        Hi Janet,

        it is good that you research about SPD. SPD has its own spectrum as well, and you could more and could check out http://www.schizoids.info. There are a few other dedicated sites for SPD and how to manage your child with SPD.

        Like

      • janet565 says :

        Thank you for sharing that site! Looks like it has lots of useful info and insights.

        Like

    • Ruthie says :

      I think of my brother, who doesn’t want to be labeled with autism, but clearly is. He had the developmental delays despite being gifted in certain areas once he reached elementary school age (science in particularly). This was before anyone knew anything about Autism, Asperger’s, or now that Asperger’s is no longer officially recognized, High Functioning Autism. From a diagnostic point of view, and if no one had tracked his early development, today he would appear more like a young man (he is now 31) with a schizoid personality disorder. I just can’t overlook the fact, looking back, he had the childhood issues. My family would overlook these with excuses such as “He doesn’t need to talk, he’s the youngest- the older kids talk for him.” I know you have heard all these things. I wonder if other adults with SPD also had similar experiences in their families with denial. It was very hard for him, being a kid. I feel strongly that there is more to look at with our young folks labeled with this particular personality disorder and autism spectrum fits better.

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      • janet565 says :

        Thanks for sharing your brother’s story, Ruthie. The thing with brain-related diagnoses is that they “only” hang a label on observed patterns of thought or behavior – there isn’t a lab test or anything where the doctor can say, “Since the patient’s level of [x] is below this threshold, the patient has [this disease/condition].” And there can be multiple reasons why a person might exhibit certain patterns – so we have the confusion between ASD and SPD, for instance. I think that before too long, psychiatric doctors and neurologists will have a better handle on things and come up with a different way of diagnosing.

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  2. Lori A says :

    Janet,
    Thank you so much for sharing your thorough research! My 16 yo son was diagnosed 2 years ago with AS but the criteria for Schizoid p.d. also seems to fit him better. I am always looking for ways to understand him better. We homeschool and his social interaction is mostly limited to relatives and close family friends. We havent seen any depression, possibly because he is not having to deal with many social situations.He has been challenging himself to try small interactions like ordering food, etc. He does have a desire to improve his abilities and has mentioned he may try to get a job this summer. This would be amazing if he actually does it. One aspect of his interactions that I’ve noticed is a desire to be in control and frustration when he can’t. He admires rock stars because of the way they can control the audience and even some dictators because of their charisma and ability to control others. I wonder if this is an aspie thing or just unique to him? BTW, we also have another son who was diagnosed with Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (different from OCD) and he has many traits that are similar to Asperger’s. Take care.
    Lori

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    • janet565 says :

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Lori! Interesting that your son talks about dictators: a few years ago when talking about possible careers, our son said he’d be most interested in being a dictator of a small island nation. Ummmm…. Interesting about your other son also. Honestly, there seems to be a lot of overlap in many of these diagnoses.

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  3. bkaz says :

    It’s funny how superficial these diagnoses are. On a cognitive (vs. emotional) level, schizoid and asperger’s are exactly the opposite. Schizoid is characterized by sensory detachment and dominant default mode (dreaming) vs. task-positive (immediate environment) networks. ASD by intense sensory perception / overload, and resulting task-positive vs. default mode dominance. You really have to look into neuroscience of it: schizophrenia (pathological extreme of schizoid) results from *increased* synaptic pruning: http://today.duke.edu/2015/05/mouseschizo , while autism (pathological extreme of asperger’s) from *decreased* synaptic pruning: http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273(14)00651-5
    I think they extremes of a common spectrum: http://cognitive-focus.blogspot.com/2014/10/cortical-trade-offs-specialist-vs.html

    Liked by 1 person

    • janet565 says :

      Thanks for your comment! This will allow readers to delve deeper into the “why” of these brain patterns. By the way, my son’s latest psychologist stated that he believes Nathan meets the criteria of BOTH Aspergers and schizoid personality disorder. That threw me! Can someone be on both extremes of the same spectrum? I do see characteristics of both diagnoses in Nathan. It seems (to this layperson) like the whole framework of how brain issues are characterized needs to be revamped.

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      • bkaz says :

        That’s the problem with psychologists, they mostly look at affective symptoms. You can have the same emotional reaction for the opposite reasons: aspies avoid socializing because interactions are too intense for them, schizoids because they don’t care enough. And both because they don’t fit in: have few common interests with the peer group. That doesn’t make their interests similar to each other. The spectrum I mentioned is in cognitive style, which I think is more fundamental: emotions are secondary to perception. Of course, there are plenty of other things involved, some are primarily affective. Most of human motivation is conditioned, and conditioning is produced by interaction between cognitive and affective sides. Glad you found it interesting.

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      • janet565 says :

        Thanks for the follow-up! There’s a lot to learn, that’s for sure.

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      • bkaz says :

        Sure, sorry to hear about your troubles. As you know, main problem with schizoids is motivation. I have two: curiosity and ambition. Short of that, the only thing that may work is a bootcamp. Won’t happen in America, maybe China…

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      • Schizoid Dude says :

        I can’t really speak to much to how Aspergers works, but I have a very good grasp on Schizoid PD. Anyone who says that someone meets the criteria for both Aspergers and Schizoid is simply matching symptoms and doesn’t have a clue as to what these conditions actually are. They can seem very similar to people on the outside, but as bkaz said, they’re actually pretty much opposites. Aspergers is characterized by lacking empathy. Schizoid is caused by having way too much empathy. This sounds kind of the opposite of what bkaz said with “aspies avoid socializing because interactions are too intense for them, schizoids because they don’t care enough,” but it fits, although I think he worded this poorly.

        The Aspergers person tries to make friends but since they can’t empathize, they make huge missteps constantly and that’s very frustrating to them. And they don’t really understand what happened or why and so they keep doing the same thing over and over. (somewhat guesswork on my understanding of this)

        The Schizoid person, on the other hand, is like River from Firefly. They see and feel all sorts of things in other people that those people don’t see or feel themselves, which also causes them to make huge missteps in interacting with people, because they can’t really tell the difference between what they “should” be seeing and what they do see. But for the Schizoid, this isn’t just frustrating, it’s incredibly painful. They’ve accidentally hurt another through their clumsiness and because of their excessive empathy, that brings them pain much greater than what they actually caused the other person. Because of this, the Schizoid person simply gives up. Some will choose to just stop interacting with people so that they don’t have to deal with it. Others will put up blocks that allow them to socialize less painfully but in doing so create other difficulties (like being present but not talking at all). And some of those blocks can even be on part of their empathy, which will make them look more Aspergery even though they’re really Schizo.

        So, knowing this, telling them apart is pretty simple. Has your child ever cried for purely empathic reasons and not being actually hurt himself? Particularly when he accidentally hurt someone else emotionally? If so, he’s Schizoid. If not, you’re more likely to be looking at Aspergers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • janet565 says :

        Thanks for your comments! They are giving me a new perspective on this issue. From what you said, my son falls on the Schizoid side; he did show empathy for others when he was a little guy.

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      • alexmc3 says :

        All of this is also how schizophrenia is linked to Schizoid. The schizophrenic is the Schizoid who never managed to find ways to cope and went crazy from the pain.

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  4. bkaz says :

    Another thought, have you tried stimulants like deprenyl, adderall, modafinil? Good for motivation.

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    • janet565 says :

      Thanks again for your comments! Yes, Nathan took Adderall for several years in middle school and high school, alone or in combination with antidepressants, Risperdal, Abilify etc. None of the meds he was ever prescribed had a noticeable positive impact. After awhile he developed philosophical objections to taking these kinds of meds, and so he stopped. Same with supplements like fish oil and zinc. I heard a presentation by Bill Walsh of the Walsh Research Institute about targeting individual nutrient imbalances, and that makes a lot of sense to me. At this point I still don’t think Nathan (now an adult) would be compliant. However, as he approaches age 24 he’s brought up the idea of getting a part-time job in a few months. We see that as a big step forward for him in motivation, compared to the last 10 years!

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      • bkaz says :

        That’s good. I think he should try modafinil / provigil. It’s a stimulant, but works very differently from Adderall, etc. Also used for schizophrenia. Another thing, I think he needs a psychiatrist rather than psychologist, – less B.S. Good luck!

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      • janet565 says :

        Thank you so much! I’ll sure keep your suggestions in mind in the future.

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  5. La Quemada says :

    My son was first diagnosed as an Aspie, but I never felt fully comfortable with that diagnosis. Then in HS he was re-diagnosed as PDD-NOS, which fit a little better but wasn’t that helpful because we could never find much guidance on what that meant we should do. Then he finished HS and fell into a gigantic pit of lethargy. My husband and I have often commented that he is the single lease motivated person we have ever seen in our lives. No job, no volunteer work, no community college (he used to enroll but stop going mid semester). Mostly he stays inside and sleeps a lot, does some texting and social media. He no longer goes to therapy or takes his anti-anxiety meds or even takes care of himself so we don’t have the opportunity to look at whether there might be another diagnosis and other supports for him. Your blog has really opened my mind though about considering a diagnosis outside of autism. Thank you for the very informative post.

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    • janet565 says :

      Thanks for your comments! Glad you found the post useful. Your son sounds a lot like our son Nathan. After a few years of the lifestyle you describe, Nathan is now being helpful, cooperative and respectful about things we ask him to do to help out, and is now considering getting a part-time job (he’s almost 24). No meds or social interaction – that hasn’t changed. He goes to therapy in spurts. For people with multiple diagnoses, sometimes one thing (like depression) can “rise up” and trump all the others. Best wishes to your family!

      Liked by 1 person

      • La Quemada says :

        I am glad to hear some things are getting easier with Nathan. My son turned 25 recently, and so far, no real change. But he moved in with his girlfriend and her family, hours away from us, and the poverty and chaos and dysfunction of her family certainly hasn’t helped the situation. For now I am kind of standing to the side, making sure he knows we love him, and waiting until there’s a time when he wants more support. But I still like to read and learn and think about what support options might make sense, when he’s ready for them. Thanks again!

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  6. caelesti says :

    It’s pretty common for people on the autism spectrum to fit more than one diagnosis. (I have ASD/AS, ADHD & dyscalculia, generalized anxiety disorder & depression) A diagnosis is after all, a set of traits & behavior patterns and it really varies by individual. What sucks is when a person has various difficulties getting along with people/school/work etc. but they don’t fit into any them, then they can’t access services. When you can fit more than one label, I suggest emphasizing the one that will garner the most empathy from people and the most services & support- this would be autism in this case. It sounds like you’ve lucked out with the professionals you’ve encountered so far, but some people may use the schizo PD label against him. They’ll do that with autism too, but it seems people with PDs are even more stigmatized. I know several autistic people who have a lot of those symptoms but I suspect they are better off without such a label. A lot of getting by as an adult with neurodivergent conditions is knowing yourself & your needs, playing to your strengths, managing your weaknesses and how to outsmart the system- being selective about when to use labels (& which ones) is one the “outsmarting” moves.

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    • janet565 says :

      Thanks so much for your insights – a LOT of wisdom here! The only thing I can add is that it’s difficult when the person with multiple diagnoses is so overwhelmed and depressed about how they don’t fit in society, and doesn’t have the drive or emotional energy to adapt or “game the system.” Loved ones and other bystanders can try but may not always succeed in sparking a shift in perspective – especially when a personality disorder is involved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • caelesti says :

        I totally understand- I have been there! Still struggle with motivate myself. It’s great that he has the support- I know many adults who do not & are left on their own. You might also find this blog helpful- written by a lady that has Borderline Personality Disorder- it’s different, but I know less about resources for personality disorders than I do about autism & learning disabilities, but I have been learning a lot about BPD from her. https://prideinmadness.wordpress.com/

        Liked by 1 person

      • janet565 says :

        Thanks! I’ll check out Pride in Madness. I’m finding that learning more about PDs is very useful just for everyday life. I did a post recently on narcissists and it took me awhile to get around to writing it because I just wanted to keep reading and reading about narcissism – “Oh; THAT explains why so-and-so behaves that way!” 🙂 https://climbingthecindercone.com/2015/06/01/the-narcissists-in-our-midst/

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  7. caelesti says :

    Reblogged this on The Lefthander's Path and commented:
    Another label with symptoms that overlap with autism

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  8. FontsDownloadFree says :

    Mostly though people who suffer from Asperger are mentally unable to read the emotional states of other people, while people who suffer from Schizoid Personality Disorder can have an excellent understanding of other people’s emotions but don’t care about them or don’t seem them as being relevant.

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  9. Franco says :

    Official psychiatry has a most basic misconception on the issue of Asperger vs Schizoid Personality disorder: it is not an “either .. or ..” situation. To help seeing it clearly: if it is universally accepted that an aspie can develop Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD), why on earth couldn’t he develop Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD) or Schizotypal Personality Disorder (StPD)? Because in all three cases they are conditions at a different level than Asperger: while Asperger is neurological, AvPD, SPD and StPD are psychological.

    It may be useful to realize that Asperger, and autism in general, is conceptually analogous to albinism (which BTW allows to neatly answer the recurrent question “is Asperger/autism a disease”?): while albinos have diminished capacity for sun exposure, aspies have diminished capacity for social interaction. Imagine now that there was a “Nocturnoid Personality Disorder” (NPD), whereby the person prefers to be awake and around at night and to sleep during daytime. For a dermatologically normal person, developing NPD may be a problem. For an albino, it may be a solution.

    We may now extend this analogy to show the difference between the epistemic situations of psychiatry and dermatology. The situation in psychiatry, where conditions are diagnosed based on just problems, is analogous to a hypothetical counterfactual situation in dermatology where albinism could not be diagnosed just by the person’s aspect but only by the appearance of skin irritation after brief sun exposure. In this hypothetical situation, if an albino developed NPD, he would never experience skin irritation. Therefore, he would loose his (problem-based) previous diagnosis of albinism. Which is exactly the case with your son’s Asperger.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Looloo says :

    Hi Janet, just wanted to thank you for this very informative post. For a while now, I’ve been struggling to understand my brother’s issues (we’re both in our late 40’s now). The past 6 years since my father died have brought childhood and family “stuff” to the forefront, and I’ve been chipping away at it pretty obsessively. When I FINALLY put some puzzle pieces together a few days ago and googled “Schizoid PD and Asperger’s”, your article popped up.
    I can’t tell you how much peace and a sense of real understanding it gave me. Thank you so very much.

    Like

  11. Rishi Jha says :

    Janet…instead of putting my thought across here, can I email you?
    Rishi

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  12. Paul3579 says :

    Hi Janet

    I am a 23 year old male and I’m going through a condition very similar to your son. I’ve come to the conclusion that I must have both AS and SPD. The thing that sets me apart from AS is that I don’t have a hard time reading social ques. I just don’t naturally talk about ‘normal’ topics because they don’t interest me. What sets me apart from SPD is that I do want interactions with friends (just at a minimal level).

    Anyway, I think there’s one thing I should mention. I think it’s important to be sure that your son really doesn’t desire social interaction and that it’s not him trying to appear less flawed. Maybe he does want it, but doesn’t want to act like he cares.

    I mean when you think about it, if someone truly had SPD, they wouldn’t get depressed because they’re content not interacting with people, but if they do get depressed, it leads me to think that maybe the entire condition of SPD is just people with Asperger’s hiding their feelings.

    But of course, I could be completely wrong. I know that for me though, sometimes I will act like I don’t care when I do.

    I also think it’s probably better to work on the assumption that he has Asperger’s because not only is it less stigmatized, but there are many more resources available to deal with it. With SPD, you genuinely don’t care about socializing and so there’s not much that can be done.

    I hope he’s doing well! I know from experience how hard this can be.

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    • janet565 says :

      Thank you so much! You bring up some excellent points that I haven’t really seen brought out elsewhere. I really appreciate your taking the time to share this. A person’s brain and actions don’t always fit neatly into the categories the experts have created. And yes, Nathan is gradually doing better coping with life. He wants to get a part-time job, and thinks he might eventually be able to handle a full-time job. That’s a big step forward from a few years ago. His social interactions are still minimal and he doesn’t seek them out, but he has improved a little in interacting with people like his landlord, cashiers, etc. He’s always been able to read my moods well, and offer empathy when appropriate. Our family counselor said that’s just a survival tactic, but it sure seems genuine to me… Thanks again —

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  13. StCoffee says :

    Hi Janet,

    Thank you very much for writing this. I am a 29 year old man who a few years ago discovered SPD as a concept. It clicked immediately that this is who I was, it was sort of a relief to fit something so well (but not completely). I just now am learning more about Asperger’s mostly because I walk on the front of my foot and bounce all over the place when I’m not paying attention to it. I only recently learned of a connection between unusual gait and aspergers.

    I wanted to share my point of view, and agree with Schizoid Dude’s post from above explaining SPD fundamentally a excess sensitivity to emotional stimuli. I think it’s something that builds from the very start of life as a result of a failure to learn to trust the world of people and things. I think Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages is a good model to understand how and when this ability to trust is formed (http://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html)

    It’s an adaptation to an environment that is overwhelmingly terrifying or painful, unpredictable and without a sufficient sense of safety. I think this experience results from both an inherent hyper sensitivity, a hostile environment and an inattentive, unreliable or overwhelmed caretaker. The more these factors combine to make the child’s world an unlivable place the deeper the adaptive schizoid response. I believe severe trauma, where dissociation is part of surviving, plays a major role in the severity of the condition in adults.

    The schizoid retreats inward and hides their true self from an intolerably fearful world. All humans can do this as an adaptation to conditions, but for kids who go on to become ‘SPD’ it becomes their entire way of living. There is no choice or decision any more, the true and emotionally alive self is stays hidden almost permanently and the exterior becomes a shell that can survive it’s environment and minimize physical pain. It’s from the 1960s, but I highly recommend R. D. Laing’s “The Divided Self” for a useful take on this concept of a true self/false self, how it emerges, and what the consequences are.

    My early school experiences were an abstract thing that felt like an animated painted canvas I was watching. I rationally understood that I was real and a human being but emotionally felt untouchable, I still felt powerful fear and sadness. Critically, I was unaware that my experience was different from those around me. This made relationships impossible. I was lucky to have a few friends based on mutual interests, and they initiated every interaction with no exceptions. I followed instructions and obeyed authority automatically so I did okay in school until late high school.

    I was lucky to eventually reach a point (several actually) of total desperation where I felt I had to change something about my life. As I’m approaching 30 I am just now able to do the very tough work at the core of SPD. I’ve progressed in social skills, hobbies and career greatly in my 20s but still have big interpersonal difficulties. It’s very slow but a schizoid who wants to change can make incredible progress and realize some things that used to be sheer terror can be mastered. There are also advantages to a abstract way of thinking and experiencing life – playing music has been a great new interest of mine.

    So this long rambling post is really just to say try to understand SPD by starting at the foundation of it. The whole list of symptoms are a result of a way of adapting to overwhelming fear or pain and escaping within and hiding the most vulnerable emotional parts of your self. Even today I still feel very powerful fear, like my life is threatened in situations that I know are completely safe. It’s a perpetual state of war and the only retreat is solitude and detachment. Making peace in the mind and heart can feel impossible or undesirable, or both, to a schizoid. Personally I know it’s possible but still out of reach.

    I wish you and your family all the best in your journey.

    Like

    • janet565 says :

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! It’s sure to be a great help to all who read your comment. I need some time to mull over the many good points you bring up! All the best to you —

      Like

      • StCoffee says :

        I am glad to share my perspective, and to have this place to do so. I think my post it came off more authoritative than I wanted. To all readers: this is ONLY speculation based on some research and my personal experiences. I know very little about the biology but there have been some amazing comments in this thread on that. I know very little about aspergers and am grateful for your website to use as a resource to learn more.

        I don’t think the pathology/disorder approach is the right one for these conditions. I see them as adaptive mechanism that have trade offs like all adaptations. It took me a long time, but I’m glad to be who I am, because I fit the schizoid criteria doesn’t change that fact. I hope my post didn’t communicate that people with SPD need to be fixed. We may benefit and have better lives from learning some skills or adopting new habits of mind and body. Truly, I wish society had more schizoids and less tyrants and narcissists.

        What I will say is the challenge of accepting ones self is worth the struggle for all of us. Nearly all my life I felt great self loathing and of no value because of the difficulties I had. As I worked, built skills and met people I very slowly began understanding myself and my own individual story. From a place of acceptance, I decided I wanted to venture out of my comfort zone, dig into my past, and face the seemingly impossible.

        I wanted to write this because there are many schizoids who achieve self acceptance but do not desire a new way of life. I think only at the very extreme levels does the schizoid style become a detriment to a good quality of life. For all people outside of the imaginary ‘normal person’ our culture values, the decision to change is theirs to make and I hope my earlier post didn’t give the impression that this was the right or only path for people labeled with SPD. God bless the unusual, our communities need them more than they know.

        I am happy to chat more if you had any questions better suited to email Janet, I really appreciate this resource you’ve created and am open to sharing the little bits of knowledge I have on the topics.

        Like

      • janet565 says :

        Thanks again for your comments! Your remark about the excellent string of comments in response to this post has given me the idea of revisiting the topic in a new post, incorporating the info contained in the input. I wish I could do it now, and respond in more depth to what you’ve written, but currently am too pressed for time and attention in “real life” to do a good job of it. So stay tuned, and please feel free to keep contributing commments. Thanks!

        Like

      • StCoffee says :

        Just wanted to offer another reference that I just recalled:

        Disorders of the Self: New Therapeutic Horizons: The Masterson Approach (https://www.amazon.com/Disorders-Self-Therapeutic-Horizons-Masterson/dp/1138883743)

        I was curious enough to rent a copy because it several chapters on schizoid therapy. It was challenging to follow (it uses object-relations approach) but really fascinating and well written. It gave me a lot of insight even though I am not involved with Masterson therapy.

        Take care

        Like

  14. CD says :

    Hi thanks for posting this.

    I’m almost certain a have mild autism (32/50 on the AQ), which as you can imagine is readily confused with other issues. They are all just labels at the end of the day though.

    I fit all of the criteria on the left and middle column, but none on the right column.

    Like

    • janet565 says :

      Thanks for your comment. I wasn’t familiar with the AQ, so I looked it up just now: it’s an autism-spectrum quotient, or a test to screen adults for possible autism. Looks like there are several versions online. You are right – it’s all just labels, but sometimes those labels are useful in communicating with or among professionals, and in getting appropriate services or therapies.

      Like

  15. Shane says :

    I know its a bit late, but I found this trying to look up a bit more on Schizoid PD. I was diagnosed with it last year and have often wondered if it falls on the autism spectrum. But it isn’t a topic I often bring up since there is still a huge stigma in the world with any psychological disorders, and even though I often speak about how this stigma needs to die, at the same time I help it by hiding my own. But I rationalize it as I don’t want people treating me differently because I have one. Whether or not that rationalization is good, I don’t know.

    I’m not a psychologist, but I can definitely see a lot of overlap between aspergers and schizoid.

    The guilt thing, I totally understand. My parents were rather cold and absent, but just reflecting upon my own life, a lot of that may have been because I was that way towards them too. So, at least from my own limited point of view, I don’t think you had any cause in it.

    On the part where it says that many will never hold a job. That may be true. Just from my personal experience, I’ve held one for quite some time. The issue (and of course this is different for everyone) is finding the perfect job to suit me. With mine, my social interaction with others is minimal. Its a technical position so I’m not dealing with people but more with computers. So there may be hope with that end of things.

    And all in all, best of luck with your son.

    Like

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