5. Avoidant behaviors.
The basic response that most people with SPD have to their social fears is to physically and emotionally distance themselves as much as possible from other people. At a party, they tend to quietly stand at the edges of the group with a drink in their hand, or they stay close to the nearest exits.
6. Relationship escape hatches.
They also tend to build escape hatches into their intimate relationships. By “escape hatch” I mean an easy way for them to justify periodically leaving the relationship, such as accepting a job that involves frequent travel or starting an affair with a married person who cannot be with them all the time.
The idea of having to be in a relationship with no barriers makes them very anxious. My clients report feeling trapped and claustrophobic when they are expected to be in a close, ongoing relationship—even with someone they claim to love.
7. In and out relationships.
One of the typically schizoid relationship patterns involves going in and out of the same romantic relationship repeatedly (Klein, 1995). Initially, they feel very much in love and try to get the other person to reciprocate their feelings. However, as soon as the other person returns their feelings and there are no longer any real barriers to intimacy, they become scared.
They unconsciously shut down their feelings to protect themselves and find an excuse to back out of the relationship. However, as the time and distance between them and their ex increases, their fear diminishes. They start to feel love and attraction again. This leads them to approach their ex again and try to restart the relationship. Unless they get therapeutic help with their intimacy fears, they will keep replaying this pattern as long as the other person keeps taking them back.
8. Behavior may appear narcissistic.
Sometimes, people in a romantic relationship with a schizoid person may mistake the above behaviors for narcissistic behavior because they appear superficially similar and feel so hurtful. However, the schizoid’s motive is quite different from the narcissist’s.
Narcissists leave because they have become bored or angry, no longer idealize their partner, and want the validation of someone new. People with schizoid personality disorder leave because they feel trapped and afraid of being controlled (Greenberg, 2016).
9. Elaborate fantasy life.
People who have made schizoid adaptations tend to substitute elaborate fantasy relationships for real relationships. My schizoid clients explain that unlike in real life, in their fantasies they have total control over what happens. That makes fantasy relationships safer.
Some people with SPD create such compelling and elaborate fantasy worlds that they go on to become famous writers.
10. Existential fears.
My schizoid clients are the only ones who sometimes become preoccupied with the idea of death and the inherent meaninglessness of life. They may also express the fear that their distancing defenses will lead them to become totally isolated from other human beings, in a void without connection to anybody, and that they will not be able to reconnect.
11. Hides emotional reactions.
This is in sharp contrast to people with borderline or narcissistic personality disorder who may loudly and publicly attack other people when they feel triggered. Most people with schizoid personality disorder quietly try to handle everything themselves. The last thing that they want is to involve anyone else in their problems.
12. Lacks whole object relations and object constancy.
In addition to the above adaptations that are specifically characteristic of SPD, people with SPD also lack whole object relations (WOR) and object constancy (OC), as do people with personality disorders of any kind.
In brief, whole object relations is the capacity to see yourself and other people in a relatively, realistic, stable, and integrated way that simultaneously contains both liked and disliked qualities. Object constancy is the ability to maintain whole object relations when you are angry, hurt, disappointed, or physically distant from the other person. Without WOR and OC, people are either seen as all-good or all-bad. The schizoid version is “safe or unsafe.”