I have a “friend”, I guess you could say, except this person doesn’t really want friends. He apparently has no need to bond or connect with anyone. He is content to be left alone 24/7, and even though he is very bright and CAN be talkative if the conversation interests him, he will also seclude himself for weeks. He says that people are “inconsequential to his reality” and that emotions are “lies” and that he doesn’t really have emotions, that he was born without them. He speaks in a monotone most of the time, and recites long passages from books and movies as if it were the most natural thing in the world, right out of the blue. His knowledge is apparently endless, but he doesn’t seem to even realize that he is “substantially educated”. I have seen this man put on complete shows for people- he will, around people of influence, display appropriate emotions- and seconds after they have left, become emotionless again. He isn’t doing this for my benefit either. He used to be the same way around me, but gradually let his true personality (or lack thereof) show through. I have reasons to believe that his childhood was less than perfect, and now I am at a crossways. How should I proceed? This guy is very secretive, and I’m afraid that if I try to get him to open up, he’ll never talk to me again. I’m worried about him, because he spends so much time alone and has been “fascinated” (his word) with death ever since I’ve known him (5 years). And even though I’ve known him 5 years, he still has the aura of a stranger. He never volunteers information about himself, never seems excited or disappointed, and others’ assessment of his work (either good or bad) doesn’t seem to effect him. If I believed in such things, I’d swear he was an alien, or something. He’ll go days (more than 4) without sleep, but doesn’t get tired (not obviously anyway). He isn’t manic either. I rarely see him eat. My question is: is this normal behavior? I feel silly for asking, because he appears to be functioning… perfectly. But I also get the sense that he is like, leading a double life or something. How is it possible to never register emotion, rarely sleep or eat, obsess about death all the time… and still not get depressed? Don’t people (even the most extreme introverts) have a natural desire to be with humans sometimes, to have some sort of physical contact, to express themselves? I’m very confused, and a little concerned. Are my concerns warranted? How would you proceed? I’m probably one of the only people in the world that sees him ‘regularly’, and most people think he’s doing fine.
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From your description, one diagnosis that a diagnosing clinician would need to consider (and I’m not making a diagnosis here, mind you) is that of Schizoid Personality Disorder. A personality disorder is a condition of life that some people have wherein they display particular patterns of behavior in a very fixed sort of way that is often quite at odds with the social requirements of a given situation. The DSM-IV defines Schizoid Personality Disorder as follows:
A pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
- 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
p> There may be, of course, other things going on, and I may be quite off base. There is just no way to really get an accurate picture of someone via a description. It is necessary to put them in front of an experienced psychiatrist or psychologist in order to have a good chance of an accurate diagnosis. If your friend is indeed schizoid, there is no need to worry too much about it, besides the fact that it leads to strange behavior. If he is getting by in the world, then he’s doing okay.