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Personality analysis of the schizoid personality

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

This post is a summary of Nancy McWilliam's chapter on Schizoid personalities in her book Psychoanalytic Diagnosis.

Schizoid personalities, which includes schizophrenia at the psychotic end of the functioning spectrum, also includes more highly functioning people. People with a schizoid personality can be overwhelmed by external stimulation and may be very withdrawn and introverted. Just being introverted doesn't equate with having a schizoid personality. While some other personality types have a tendency toward introversion, schizoid personalities withdraw because of a combination of avoidant attachment styles and sensory overload.

Someone with a schizoid personality type may appear as eccentric. They can be highly creative artists because of how stimulating the external world can be for them. They don't have antagonistic attitudes toward relationships, like some other personality types. They simply aren't very interested in relationships.

Some of this lack of interest is because of a fear of being engulfed by relationships. Those with schizoid personalities may want to occasionally spend time with others, but may also retreat quickly if they feel the relationship may engulf them. Those who are friends or intimate partners will have to be patient and try not to force the person with a schizoid personality to be closer than what they are comfortable with. There can be a sort of instinct to push or prod those with schizoid personality types to open up. This will be counterproductive.

On the extreme end, those with schizophrenia have had a sharp break from the external world. Their experience is one of internal fantasy and illusion. While there are certainly biological and genetic precursors for this state, it's still important to try to understand the subjective experience of the person in this state.

Like with all personality structures, there is no one set of circumstances that produce a schizoid personality. Family dynamics may have included a very intrusive same-sex parent that the person needed to withdraw from to prevent being consumed. It may have also included deprivation which can explain some of the sensory hypersensitivity.

Having a schizoid personality means trying to balance entering into a world that can be incredibly overwhelming with withdrawal. Those who can respect this can find people with schizoid personalities who are creative, friendly, and authentic.

Personality Analysis of the Schizoid Personality References

McWilliams, N. (2011). Psychoanalytic diagnosis: Understanding personality structure in the clinical process (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.


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