Earlier, I wrote an article on low emotionality, and I heard from a handful of readers with similar experiences. However, one reader response caused me some chagrin. They pointed out the similarity to Schizoid Personality Disorder, and I immediately regretted not mentioning it, since it’s the one that actually fits me best. It’s a bit embarrassing to figure out this stuff in real time while I’m blogging about it. But I want to do right by the readers who related to my article, so here we are.
So, Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD). Perhaps the best way to briefly describe it is to cite the DSM-V diagnostic criteria:
- Neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family.
- Almost always chooses solitary activities.
- Has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person.
- Takes pleasure in few, if any, activities.
- Lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives.
- Appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others.
- Shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affectivity.
SPD is diagnosed if a person fits at least four of the criteria, and if it causes some serious impairment or dysfunction. (Please correct me if I’m wrong. The DSM is not publicly available so I’m not sure of the exact criteria.) I more or less fit all seven, although I don’t think it causes any dysfunction in my life. So… I have a schizoid personality or I’m on the schizoid spectrum, but it’s not SPD.
“Flattened affect” seems to be what psychologists call what I was calling “low emotionality”. Well, I knew going in that I’d probably discover psychologists have a pre-existing term for it. “Flattened affect” makes sense given the meaning of “affect” in psychology, but I can’t get over how bad its SEO is. Who’s ever going to search for that phrase?
I’m not much for close friends. I’ve had some close friends over the years, but I don’t make an effort to maintain them, and I don’t have any right now. I am socially active, but my preferred style of friendship is occasionally hanging out with groups of people without becoming close to anyone in particular. I used to do this with atheist student groups for many years, now I do it with meetup groups. And of course, blogging is kind of like that.
“Appears indifferent to praise or criticism” fits me perfectly. Yeah, I’m the kind of person who dislikes compliments and thrives on criticism.
One of the diagnostic criteria is, basically, asexuality. Note, I’m gray-asexual rather than asexual, but that still sorta counts.
Yeah, I feel weird about this. Earlier I said that my low emotionality seemed connected to my asexuality, but I was just trying to make a personal observation of my subjective experience, I wasn’t trying to say they were actually correlated. But asexuality and SPD? It’s official: they’re correlated. That’s why they put it in the diagnostic criteria and all. But I don’t really get the sense from interacting with the ace community that there are a lot of aces with SPD around.
In a 2016 survey of online ace communities, only 2.5% said they had SPD (see this report, page 35). This is similar to the prevalence of SPD in the general population (estimated around 1-3%). But SPD may be under-diagnosed, and perhaps the people who have it are unlikely to participate in ace communities.
One more remark. I feel like by blogging about this, it conveys an exaggerated picture of how strongly I have it. I said I was lacking in enthusiasm and anger, but I can also remember many times when I experienced one or the other, so they’re not totally alien emotions. And I may not experience pleasure in response to things that most other people enjoy, but in general I do not have difficulty feeling happiness, sadness, or humor.
And perhaps this is true of many people with schizoid personalities, for all I know.
This is all to say, if you found my article on low emotionality to be relatable, you might consider looking into schizoid personality disorder. You might find it relatable, or perhaps not, take it or leave it. And if you think you might benefit from an online community, there’s a schizoid subreddit and an SPD PsychForum.