Part of the book “The Mind of the Mathematician” by Michael Fitzgerald and loan James – (2007)
“Schizoid Personality Disorder”
Storr begins with schizoid personality disorder. Wolff and Chess (1964) often found schizoid personality traits in the histories of schizophrenic patients) although they emphasized that this tells us nothing at all about the risk of schizophrenia in people with schizoid personality. Schizophrenia is a relatively rare condition, while schizoid traits may be quite common. Wolff (1995) explains that such traits, despite their association in a few people with serious psychiatric illness, “may be biologically advantageous in general because of their possible association with originality and giftedness.” People with the disorder display the following clinical features: they neither desire nor enjoy close relationships, choose solitary activities, have little interest in sexual experiences, get pleasure from few activities, lack close friends other than near relatives, are indifferent to praise or criticism, are emotionally cold, and show detachment or flattened affectivity.
Detachment and emotional isolation characterize the schizoid personality. Often, but not invariably, an individual with this character structure gives an impression of coldness combined with an apparent air of superiority that is not endearing. He or she has problems taking an emotional interest in other people. Others get the feeling that such an individual is unconcerned with, if not superior to, the ordinary mundane preoccupations of average people and that he is out of touch with, or on a different wavelength from, the people with whom he or she mingles but does not mix. Very often the person with a schizoid personality is accused of keeping people at arm’s length and of avoiding intimacyan accusation that is justified. Sometimes these individuals are said to be wearing masks also an accurate observation, since an individual with a schizoid personality habitually plays roles that intellectually she believes to be appropriate but that do not reflect what she actually feels. Thus, she may decide that it is morally right to be generous or tactful or considerate and behave accordingly. Because, however, this behavior originated from an intellectual decision rather than from true feelings, it is likely that all that will be conveyed to the recipient of her attentions is an impression of exaggeratedly good manners.
Such an individual lacks the personal touch the feeling, if not of intimacy,
at least of some shared common ground upon which one person meets another as a human being.
People with schizoid personality disorder tend to seek meaning and significance in things rather than in other people; this is highly relevant to scientific creativity. Because emotional involvement with others appears dangerous, they remain detached and isolated. A paradoxical characteristic of the disorder is that people with it have a sense of extreme weakness and vulnerability vis-a-vis others, combined with its exact opposite, a sense of superiority and potential omnipotence. People with schizoid personality disorder often fail to develop a realistic sense of their position in the human hierarchy, because at a very early stage they cease to interact genuinely with their peers. Thus they often feel characteristically weak and incompetent on the one hand, and have equally unrealistic fantasies of power on the other.
The less satisfaction they gain by reacting to the external world, the more
they become preoccupied with their inner world of fantasy. People with schizoid personalities are essentially introverted.
Storr suggests five reasons creative activity is an apt way for schizoid individuals to express themselves. First, since most creative activity is soli
tary, choosing such an occupation means that the schizoid person can avoid the problems of direct relationships with others: the social situation is under control. Second, creative activity enables the schizoid person to re
tain at least part of his fantasy of omnipotence by creating his own world.
Third, creative activity reflects the characteristics of the schizoid personality because it places a greater importance on internal than external reality.
Fourth, certain kinds of creativity allow the person with a schizoid person
ality to feel they can impose their own order on a world that hitherto seemed unpredictable. Finally, creative activity can act as a defense against the threat of finding the world meaningless and arbitrary.
Storr (1972) selected the physicists Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as ex
emplars of the schizoid personality (also see James 2003a). Sula Wolff (1995) chose the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, cautioning that his abnormal personality can in no way be regarded as the most important aspect of his productive life, nor as an explanation of his genius. Other authorities say that these and others are better regarded as exemplars of the Asperger personality, which has many features in common with the schizoid personality. “