Narcissists, Inverted Narcissists and Schizoids

Question: Are Narcissists also schizoids?

Answer: This is not a question about dual diagnosis or co-morbidity. The implications of a positive answer run much deeper than a mere listing of traits and behaviours.

This is the definition of the Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD) in the DSM IV (1994):

A. 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:

(1) neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family

(2) almost always chooses solitary activities

(3) has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person

(4) takes pleasure in few, if any, activities

(5) lacks close friends or confidants other than first degree relatives

(6) appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others

(7) shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affectivity

B. Does not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia, a mood disorder with psychotic features, another psychotic disorder, or a pervasive developmental disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a general medical condition.

In short, as the "Review of General Psychiatry (4th Edition), 1995" puts it:

"The person with schizoid personality disorder sustains a fragile emotional equilibrium by avoiding intimate personal contact and thereby minimizing conflict that is poorly tolerated."

Intuitively, a connection between SPD and NPD must exist. After all, NPDs are people who withdraw from others into themselves. They love themselves in lieu of loving others. Lacking empathy, they regard others as mere instruments, objectified "sources" of narcissistic supply. With the exception of criterion 6 above - the classic narcissist would tend to fit all other criteria.

The inverted narcissist is a narcissist (IN) who "projects" his narcissism unto another narcissist. Through the mechanism of projective identification, the IN experiences his own narcissism vicariously, through the agency of a classic narcissist. But the IN is no less a narcissist than the classical one. It is no less socially reticent.

A distinction must be made between social interactions and social relationships. The schizoid, the narcissist and the inverted narcissist - all interact socially. But they fail to form human and social relationships. The schizoid is disinterested and the narcissist is both disinterested and incapable due to his lack of empathy and pervasive sense of grandiosity.

The ethnopsychologist George Devereux ("Basic Problems of Ethnopsychiatry", University of Chicago Press, 1980) suggested to divide the unconscious into the id (the part that was always instinctual and unconscious) and the "ethnic unconscious" (repressed material that was once conscious). The latter includes all our defence mechanisms and most of the superego. Culture dictates what is to be repressed. Mental illness is either idiosyncratic (cultural directives are not followed and the individual is unique and schizophrenic) - or conformist, abiding by the cultural dictates of what is allowed and disallowed.

Our culture, according to Lasch (from whom I, otherwise, strongly differ - see "The Cultural Narcissist"), teaches us to withdraw into ourselves when we are confronted with stressful situations. It is a vicious circle. One of the main stressors of modern society is alienation and a pervasive sense of isolation. The solution our culture offers us - to further withdraw - only exacerbates the problem. Richard Sennett expounded on this theme in "The Fall of Public Man: On the Social Psychology of Capitalism" (Vintage Books, 1978). One of the chapters in Devereux's aforementioned tome is entitled "Schizophrenia: An Ethnic Psychosis, or Schizophrenia without Tears". To him, the whole USA is afflicted by what came later to be called a "schizoid disorder". C. Fred Alford (in "Narcissism: Socrates, the Frankfurt School, and Psychoanalytic Theory", Yale University Press, 1988) enumerates the symptoms:

"...withdrawal, emotional aloofness, hyporeactivity (emotional flatness), sex without emotional involvement, segmentation and partial involvement (lack of interest and commitment to things outside oneself), fixation on oral-stage issues, regression, infantilism and depersonalization. These, of course, are many of the same designations that Lasch employs to describe the culture of narcissism. Thus, it appears, that it is not misleading to equate narcissism with schizoid disorder." (page 19).

We have dwelt elsewhere on the developmental phases of the narcissist and on the psychodynamics of narcissistic developments, its causes and reactive patterns (see: "The Narcissist's Mother", "More on the Development of the Narcissist" and "Narcissism - The Psychopathological Default"). Still, it is worthwhile to isolate the theoretical foundations of any equation between narcissism and the schizoid