Saturday, January 7, 2012

Diagnostics, Part 3: How Withdrawal Becomes Frightful

(see also: Part 1, Part 2)

The DSM group, which is currently working on revisions for the fifth version of the manual that describes mental disorders, has removed the proposal for the term "introversion" as one of the criteria for diagnosing schizotypal personality disorder. Unfortunately, they've simply replaced the term with another one, namely detachment. Although this is an improvement, it's not what I would call a solution.

They now refer to introversion as one and the same as detachment, (e.g., they say that "extraversion is the opposite of introversion, a.k.a. detachment)", and then they go on to describe detachment as a facet of Schizotypal Personality Disorder. This essentially means that introversion is a facet of the same disorder. In case you're curious, here's how detachment is characterized:

  1. Restricted affectivity: Little reaction to emotionally arousing situations; constricted emotional experience and expression; indifference or coldness.
  2. Withdrawal: Preference for being alone to being with others; reticence in social situations; avoidance of social contacts and activity; lack of initiation of social contact.

I'm not sure whether to be worried about these definitions or whether this is just a typical day in the life. My mind reels with questions about this proposal, but probably the detail that confuses me most is the inclusion of "withdrawal" -- especially as it's defined above. Though I understand that it's the combination of all (or most) of the listed characteristics that determines whether someone has a personality impairment, I just don't agree that all of the characteristics belong there. They're not relevant.

As I see it, withdrawal is an integral part of being an introvert. It's something that we need, and it feels good. It helps us to recharge, and to be ourselves. And yet it's said to potentially indicate something wrong in one's personality. So simply by being ourselves, we risk becoming diagnosed with a disease.

My conclusion from all of this is, as usual, that we live in an extrovert's world. Our world is defined by the ones who make the most noise. When people are afraid of something, they define it as a disease.

And, apparently, introverts inspire fear.



Rebecca said...

I don't get how people can see introversion as something negative. I like it. I wouldn't change myself even if I could. I wish the rest of the world could understand that as well.

Zeri Kyd said...

Nice to see you again, Rebecca. I completely agree. Luckily there are many of us who do understand.

Rebecca said...

I've been thinking about something though. Some people say introversion is on spectrum as Autism, right? Autism is a disorder, so if introversion really is on the same spectrum, maybe it is a disorder as well? Do you know what I mean? Like I said, I personally don't think introversion is something negative. Just thinking out loud here.

Zeri Kyd said...

Rebecca, though I see what you're asking, that's not quite how it would work. It might be possible to dismiss someone who has very mild autism with being no more than introverted, but there are huge differences between the two. See the following two links:

If it's true that autism and introversion are on the same spectrum, that only means that they are related in some ways. Being related wouldn't make them both disorders.

I'm no expert on autism, but if you know someone who seems to be having related issues, you might consider contacting a specialist.

Rebecca said...

Yeah I know. Like I said, I was just thinking out loud. Thanks though :) And hey, thanks for a very interesting blog.

Rebecca said...

And I hope it's ok I leave so many comments and ask so many questions. I just think a lot. All the time.

Zeri Kyd said...

Hi, Rebecca, of course! I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Google Susan Cain's new book titled
"Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking," which is 5-star reviewed on Amazon and receiving a lot of media attention. Haven't read it but a Introverted friend has and has found it very helpful in finding balance in her reality. Best.

Zeri Kyd said...

Anonymous, I have of course heard much about Cain's book. It sounds wonderful. If you get a chance to read it, please let me know what your thoughts are!