This article is a continuation of the exposition of schizoid personality disorder as articulated by Theodore Millon. In the late 1960s, Werble, Drye and Grinker identified the schizoid type as a subset among other borderline syndromes. They were described as exhibiting “bland and adaptive behavior…here was little evidence of negative behavior or affect…but what is also missing is manifestation of positive affect – in fact there is no evidence of love for anybody or anything. Furthermore, there is no indication of a well-developed sense of identity.” Asperger himself, writing in 1944, wrote of a pathology in young children which overlapped a great deal with schizoid personality disorder. It involved lack of gesture and expression, gaze abnormalities, predisposed towards natural sciences and mathematics when intelligent, and unusual voice production. They tend towards solitude and independence and these traits seem to persist into adulthood.
The poorly defined sense of identity came to characterized what Winnicott came to refer to as a “false self” personality. According to Winnicott:
“In the cases on which my work is based there has been a true self, hidden and protected by a “false self.” This false self is no doubt an aspect of the true self. It hides and protect it, and it reacts to the adaptation failures and develops a pattern corresponding to the pattern of environmental failure. In this way the true self is not involved in the reacting, and so preserves a continuity of being. this hidden true self suffers an impoverishment, however, that results from a lack of experience. The false self may achieve a deceptive false integrity, that is to say, a false ego-strength…The false self cannot, however, experience life, and feel real.”
Melanie Klein, one of the most important thinkers in the object-relations school of psychoanalysis, spoke of “schizoid mechanisms.” In the mid 40s and henceforth, the “schizoid” was an individual who split off extremely intense emotional experiences from life events. Thus, this person is more like what would nowadays be called an avoidant personality. Splitting is a defensive mechanism by which the infant is able to maintain ego cohesion by expelling parts of himself he regards as bad onto the outside world. This, Klein referred to as “projective identification.”
Later psychoanalysts such as Guntrip (1952) and Laing (1960) further elaborated upon Fairbairn’s and Klein’s concept of the schizoid personality. Guntrip explained how the schizoid feels cutoff from reality and out of touch. While the schizoid may define himself as depressed, Guntrip notes that their so-called depression lacks the brooding, guilt and anger typical of depression. External relationships are empty of their substance, he says, because of their libidinal withdrawal.
Laing (196) likewise commented upon the “false self” phenomenon articulated initially by Winnicott:
“In the schizoid condition here described there is a persistent scission between the self and the body. What the individual regards as his true self is experienced as more or less disembodied, and bodily experience and actions are in turn felt to be part of the false-self system…
This detachment of the self means that the self is never revealed directly in the individual’s expressions and actions, nor does it experience anything spontaneously or immediately. The self’s relationships to the other is always at one remove. The direct and immediate transactions between the individual, the other, and the world, even in such basic respects as perceiving and acting, all come to be meaningless, futile, and false…
The final effect is an overlap experience of everything having come to a stop. Nothing moves; nothing is alive; everything is dead, including the self. The self by its detachment is precluded from a full experience of realness and aliveness.”
Arieti (1955) picked up on Deutsch’s concept of the “as if” personality, suggesting that the schizoid has withdrawn into himself in order to avoid overwhelming vulnerability or pain. The schizoid thus falls into what would be known in contemporary jargon as the avoidant personality, who exhibits active-detached, rather than passive-detached, tendencies. In general, psychoanalysts have frequently associated the “schizoid” label with what would now be known as “avoidant,” in which the individual attempts to avoid rejection by withdrawing into himself. For example, M. Khan (1960) emphasized the relationship between the mother and the child in the development of this personality type, which is labeled schizoid. The mother does not provide a sufficient protective shield, he argues, which produces a kind of cumulative trauma. She then indulges him excessively, maintaining a profound attachment, leading to what he refers to as a “symbiotic omnipotence” which encourages the child to withdraw from others later on in life. He therefore engages in pseudocompliance, withdrawal, autoeroticism and an inability to see help from others.”
The psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg has also weighed in on the discussion. He argues, in Kleinian fashion, that the schizoid’s central defense mechanism is that of splitting. He thus sees them as an example of a borderline personality organization.
“Seen as one variant of the borderline personality organization, their inner worlds, according to his proposals, are populated by contradictory self-images, one set composed of idealized or frightening aspects of internalized others and another split into both shameful and exalted self-images. As a result, there is a persistent state of subjective unreality and identity diffusion, which leads to chronic feelings of inner emptiness.”