WAPLT? Apathetic, Asocial, Schizoid: The AAS Spectrum

The relevance of variance in the capacity for pain and pleasure to personality includes several possibilities. The AAS spectrum is a classification that includes individuals with deficiencies in both pain and pleasure polarity objectives, meaning they lack the ability to experience events as painful or pleasurable. Two variants of the socially detached pattern are the passively detached variant (labeled the schizoid personality in the DSM) and the actively detached variant (the DSM avoidant personality). These individuals may sit passively through life without motivation. The emotionally extreme spectra of personalities that are grouped together by notable and distinct pleasure deficiencies include the AAS schizoid and SRA avoidant personalities. They lack the ability to experience the rewards, joys, and positive experiences of life, either intrinsically or due to preoccupation with matters of danger and distress.

This post focuses on the AAS personality spectrum, which comprises aloof, introverted, and seclusive individuals who struggle to establish friendships or gain satisfaction from personal relationships. A relatively normal variant of AAS personalities is the apathetic person, who functions adequately but prefers to be alone and is considered colorless and shy. The most severe AAS variants have a profound defect in the ability to form social relationships and are under-responsive to all forms of stimulation. These individuals exhibit a fundamental imperceptiveness to the needs and moods of others, which is not due to active disinterest but rather a lack of capacity for empathic responses. Overall, AAS individuals lack the ability to experience the subtleties of emotional life and are unfeeling not by intention or self-protection but due to their intrinsic emotional blandness. (663-664)



Before we proceed, it may be helpful to consider each personality as a style of ecological adaptation resulting from the interplay of biological dispositions and early learning. For individuals with disorders like schizoid personality disorder there may be a constitutional incapacity to experience certain emotions – a disability, if you will – resulting in a lack of sensibility towards feelings, a defect in responsiveness to even ordinary emotive sensations, and a numbness to most promptings, good or bad, internal or external. This deficiency in affective sentiments and motivation results in their characteristic behavioral impassivity and interpersonal indifference.

The polarity schema for schizoid personalities shows these people possess a marked deficiency in the capacity to experience both psychic pleasure (enhancement) and pain (preservation). In other words, they are unmotivated to seek out joy and gratification, are unable to view life enthusiastically, and experience none of the distressing affects of life, such as sadness, anxiety, and anger. As a consequence of these deficiencies, individuals with schizoid personality disorder have little motivation to seek out rewards or to distance themselves from potentially discomforting experiences. This results in a rather passive, accommodating individual who is ill-disposed to modify life circumstances or participate actively in life’s events. Due to these deficiencies and inclinations, individuals with schizoid personality disorder are often self-involved (individuated) and have little motivation to become involved in the affairs of others (nurturance).

This reflects the deductive model by which Millon formulates a personality. This is essentially the same procedure by which Costa and Widiger articulate the components of these disorders using quantitatively derived five factors as their model, as well as the manner in which Cloninger does likewise, employing his biologically anchored tripartite schema of harm-avoidance, novelty-seeking, and reward-dependence. The key distinction between Millon’s model and those of a quantitative or neurobiological character is its grounding in a theory that transcends the particular forms of expression in which personalities manifest themselves (lexical, biochemical). Rather, it is anchored to the deeper elements of nature, as found in evolutionary principles that apply to all major biological disciplines of science. (676)

Trait Domains


Expressive Emotions: Impassive: AASs are typically characterized by their lack of demonstrativeness, deficits in energy, and vitality. To observers, they appear unanimated and robotic, displaying marked deficits in activation and spontaneity. Their speech is usually slow and monotonous, lacking emotional expression and often characterized by inattentiveness or a failure to grasp the emotional dimensions of human communication. Their movements are lethargic, lacking rhythmic or expressive gestures, and they rarely respond alertly to the feelings of others. Although they are not intentionally unkind, they seem preoccupied with tangential and picayune matters, passively detached from others and drifting along quietly and unobtrusively in a world of their own.

Individuals with this personality show under-responsiveness to all forms of stimulation. Events that would typically provoke anger, elicit joy, or evoke sadness in others seem to fall on deaf ears. They display a pervasive imperviousness to emotions, including those of joy and pleasure. Feelings of anger, depression, or anxiety are rarely expressed, and this apathy and emotional deficit are cardinal signs of the schizoid spectrum. Their generalized inability to be activated and aroused may manifest as a wide-ranging lack of initiative and the failure to respond to most reinforcements that prompt others into action. When they do become involved, it tends toward mental activities such as reading or watching television or physical activities that require minimal energy expenditures, such as sketching, watch repairing, computer surfing, and the like. (677-678)

Interpersonal Conduct: Unengaged: Individuals with AAS personalities typically display unengaged interpersonal conduct, appearing indifferent and remote to the emotions and behaviors of others. They tend to prefer solitary activities and exhibit little interest in the lives of others, fading into the social background or appearing aloof. Maintaining a peripheral role in most interpersonal settings, they do not desire close relationships nor enjoy socializing. Observably, they struggle with engaging in the give-and-take of reciprocal relationships and are often disengaged in group interactions, seeming to be involved in their own world of preoccupations. Their social communications are typically perfunctory, formal, and impersonal, particularly in mandatory settings like school or work. As a result of their tendency to remain socially detached, AAS individuals tend not to learn complex interpersonal coping mechanisms. While they do experience mild degrees of drives or discords, their hierarchy of motives leans towards social detachment as a comfortable and preferred state, rather than a driving need. When faced with social demands beyond their comfort zone, they may retreat and withdraw. However, persistent social discord or demands can trigger various pathological disorders, such as those seen in acute schizophrenic syndromes. (678-679)

The AAS personality is often characterized by an impoverished cognitive style, particularly in the realm of social and personal life. Their communications with others may seem unfocused, circuitous, and sometimes fail to convey clear intentions. Due to their difficulty experiencing deep emotions, they rarely engage in introspection, which further diminishes their insight. They display a vagueness and lack of depth in their thinking, which makes it difficult for them to articulate relevant ideas regarding interpersonal phenomena.

Some AASs may also experience tonal agnosia, which means they struggle to pick up on the expressive qualities of both their own voice and those of others. Although they technically understand language, they have difficulty understanding the nonverbal cues that enrich human-to-human communication. This may be related to their defective perceptual scanning, where they struggle to differentiate between events and perceive them in a disorganized fashion, often intruding extraneous or irrelevant features.

Overall, their impoverished cognitive style seems to be especially pronounced in social and emotional contexts. They may be able to grasp grammatical and mathematical symbols with precision, but they struggle to comprehend the emotional nuances of human interaction. (679)

Self-Image: Complacent: The AAS individual demonstrates a disinterest in social interactions and displays little emotional awareness or curiosity towards the lives of others or themselves. They appear to be emotionally unresponsive to both praise and criticism. When they do look inward, they tend to describe themselves as introspective and reflective, although their self-descriptions are often vague and superficial due to their limited ability to reflect on social and emotional processes. They seem content with their lives, and are not driven by social aspirations or competitiveness. This lack of clarity in self-description does not stem from protective denial, but rather from deficient powers of self-reflection. They tend to be reserved and distant towards others, showing little concern or care. Interestingly, they are able to recognize that others tend to be indifferent to them and their needs. (679-680)

Intrapsychic Content: Meager: The past experiences stored in the minds of most AAS types seem to be limited and poorly articulated. Unlike well-adjusted individuals, these memories lack specificity and clarity, and do not show much dynamic interplay among drives, impulses, and conflicts. Because AAS personalities tend to experience events and people in a weak and undifferentiated manner, relatively little is imprinted in their minds. They are low in arousal and emotional reactivity, and are relatively imperceptive, which can lead to blurred distinctions. As a result, their inner life is largely homogeneous, undifferentiated, and unarticulated. Due to the limited range of experiences in their minds, AAS individuals are unable to engage in dynamic interplay, and are unlikely to change and evolve as a result of intrapsychic interactions. (680)

Intrapsychic Dynamics: Intellectualization: AAS individuals tend to describe their emotional and social experiences in a detached, objective, and analytical manner. They focus on the formal and factual aspects of their experiences, rather than the emotional or personal significance of these events. Unlike other personalities, AAS individuals do not engage in complicated unconscious processes or elaborate intrapsychic defenses. They are relatively untroubled by intense emotions and are difficult to arouse or activate. Consequently, they experience little impact from events and lack the intense and intricate inner world that is typical of other personalities. While they may retain memories and emotions from the past, their emotional lives lack the complexity and richness found in other individuals. (680)

Intrapsychic Architecture: Undifferentiated: As mentioned earlier, the intrapsychic world of individuals with AAS personality is often barren and lacks the complex emotions, conflicts, and thoughts that are present even in most normal individuals. There are minimal drives to fulfill their needs, and they experience minimal pressure to resolve their internal conflicts or deal with external demands. Compared to other personalities, the structural composition of their intrapsychic world is highly diffuse and lacks dynamism. The various components of their personality, including emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, are not differentiated and integrated into a coherent whole. (680)

Mood/Temperament: Apathetic: One of the most notable and defining features of AAS individuals is their lack of emotional sensitivity. They report few, if any, romantic or affectionate needs, and struggle to experience major emotional states like pleasure, sadness, or anger. They often come across as emotionally unresponsive, exhibiting very weak feelings and seeming detached from the world around them. This may also manifest as alexithymia, which is a deficiency in the range and subtlety of emotionally related words. As language reflects our inner experiences, a lack of emotional sensitivity may be reflected in a lack of emotional vocabulary. (680)


Like many personality disorders, the characteristics seen in the pathological form of AAS may also appear in a milder form among individuals considered to be within the normal range. Therefore, the AAS schizoid prototype can be viewed as dimensional, distributed on a continuum of severity from normal at one end to severely pathological at the other.

First, I describe those who fall on the so-called normal end of the AAS spectrum. Oldham and Morris (1990) describe what they refer to as the solitary style, which characterizes self-contained individuals who do not require guidance, admiration, emotional sustenance, entertainment, or shared experiences from others. Although they may engage with others, they find comfort, reassurance, and freedom within themselves.

Another description, drawn from the Millon Index of Personality Styles (Millon, Weiss, Millon, & Davis, 1994), refers to the normal AAS pattern as retiring. The inventory’s manual describes them as having minimal needs for giving and receiving affection and showing feelings. They tend to have few relationships and interpersonal involvements and do not develop strong ties with other people. They may come across to others as calm, placid, untroubled, easygoing, and possibly indifferent. They rarely express their inner feelings or thoughts to others and feel most comfortable when left alone. They prefer to work slowly, quietly, and methodically, often in the background in an undemanding and unobtrusive way. Being somewhat deficient in the ability to recognize the needs or feelings of others, they may appear socially awkward, if not insensitive, as well as lacking in spontaneity and vitality. (Millon et al 31) (Millon 2011 682)

Reserved Apathetic Personality: The reserved apathetic personality is characterized by a difficulty to see the bright side of life, to be optimistic about the future, or find ways to enjoy themselves. This personality type lacks the capacity for affect and struggles to be pleased with the relationships and activities in their lives. They possess attitudes that foster and enrich their rather meager existence. They are markedly unable to experience major affective states, making life especially bland and leaving their inner world devoid of most sensibilities. The reserved style contrasts with introspective apathetics, whose inner world is full of cognitive ideas and processes, although they also are rarely sensitive and concerned with human affairs.

Although reserved apathetics strive to ensure that favorable things happen in their lives by observing the affairs of others, they view their experiences as being determined largely by forces beyond their control. The reserved person generally dislikes relying on others, usually making decisions to engage in solitary actions on their own with little advice from others. They are not particularly comfortable with themselves or with the world in which they find themselves and are unable nor desirous of functioning in pleasurable activities or self-fulfilling ways.

The reserved apathetic personality is likely to be interested in the tangible and concrete, that is, in events and stimuli that provide nonhuman information, gained primarily through one’s physical senses. They may be especially curious about the inner workings of objects and instruments, sometimes sufficiently so to analyze them by taking them apart physically. They perform best when faced with practical tasks that require inventive attention. They also strongly dislike being tied to conventional schedules or routines, especially if they are imposed arbitrarily.

The reserved apathetic is fundamentally disengaged from others, indifferent to if not remote from their social surroundings. They might fade into the background to assume a more peripheral role in social, work, and family relationships. The public appearance, however, may cloak an occasional strong feeling that is expressed only infrequently and most likely only in the company of those with whom they feel unusually comfortable. The reserved apathetic lacks confidence, tends to view themselves as uninteresting and of modest competence, and usually devalues their own achievements despite their merit. In public settings, they will behave in a restrained and taciturn manner, reluctant to extend themselves or to engage in the usual social interplay. (683-684)

Introspectively Apathetic Personality: The introspectively apathetic personality is distinguished from the reserved by their vivid imagination, which is complex but not related to human affairs. These individuals struggle to understand their own emotions and thoughts, leading to intense feelings of despair and emptiness. However, they are able to fill this inner void by generating imaginative understandings of inanimate or technological subjects. Their positive motivation lies in seeking rewarding experiences in matters of science and technology, which they pursue to fulfill their otherwise barren lives.

These individuals are stimulated by abstract pursuits and tend to pursue careers in fields such as engineering or computer science. They prefer activities and tasks that yield visible, quick results and exhibit little concern for the needs and habits of those involved. While easy to get along with, they prefer to be surrounded by similarly objective people when faced with difficult decisions.

The introspective personality is generally imperturbable and coolly unimpressionable, with the ability to transcend ordinary thinking and explore risky actions to achieve their aspirations. However, they may also exhibit a proclivity towards taking family and colleagues for granted, at times putting their personal or professional interests ahead of their best interests. This can lead to a disregard for conventional standards of social conduct, and they may deceive themselves as much as those around them.

Despite these potential issues, their ability and ambition often lead to positive outcomes that benefit themselves and others.(684-685)

Languidly Asocial Personality: The languidly asocial personality is a variant of AAS that can arise from either life experiences or inherent disabilities, resulting in an underdevelopment of relevant neural substrates necessary for psychic nourishment and stimulation of inherent activation and pleasurable potentials. These deficits lead to a marked poverty in slowness of their activation level and a general lack of vitality. Languidly asocial individuals are typically characterized by a marked inertia, with a slow tempo of behavior that is rarely vigorous or energetic. They often struggle to meet their responsibilities or engage in pleasurable activities, and their affective capacities may be shallow or deficient.

However, it is important to distinguish between languidly asocial individuals and those with more severe affectless schizoid disorder. Languidly asocial individuals may possess a reasonable measure of sentimentality, albeit rarely of considerable depth or readily expressed. Their lifestyle is typically quiet, colorless, and dependent, with deficits in social initiative and stimulus-seeking behaviors, impoverished affect, and cognitive vagueness regarding interpersonal matters. They may appear weak and ineffectual, experiencing life as uneventful with periods of passive solitude interspersed with feelings of emptiness.

In summary, languidly asocial individuals exhibit a mixed pattern reflecting a core asocial makeup that has been interpenetrated with features of the depressive personality. They are characterized by a poverty in slowness of their activation level, deficits in social initiative and stimulus-seeking behaviors, and a general lack of vitality. (685-688)

Remotely Asocial Personality: The remotely asocial personality refers to a pattern of behavior in individuals who have withdrawn from social relationships to an extreme degree, often as a defense mechanism against early experiences of hostility and rejection within their family or other relationships. This pattern can lead to a reduction in the individual’s ability to feel and relate to the external world, resulting in a lack of social interest, occasional autistic thinking, and depersonalization anxieties.

While they may retain the wish for affective bonding, they have protectively damped down these emotions and wishes to such an extent as to be possibly unaware of them. These individuals typically possess low self-esteem and inadequacies in autonomy and social competence, leading to a peripheral and dependent role in social and family relationships.

Remote asocial individuals may be vulnerable to becoming involved in violent or extremist activities, as they are often isolated and ostracized, and can be easily swayed by the charismatic leaders of purposeful ethnic or religious groups. Many of these individuals earn a meager livelihood, often relying on public support and welfare. However, neither a weakness of will nor a deficient intellectual endowment need be present in these individuals.

Assessment instruments such as the MCMI-III indicate that these individuals exhibit features similar to the ESS schizotypal personality, manifesting high scores on both the schizoid and schizotypal scales. They may exhibit behavioral eccentricities, a lack of social interest, and frequent depersonalization anxieties. Overall, the remotely asocial personality is a commingling of both core schizoid and avoidant features. (688-692)

Affectless Schizoid Personality: The affectless schizoid personality is characterized by emotional detachment, isolation, and a lack of social communication. It is likely that these features are partly a result of constitutional deficiencies, such as marked neurological deficits in regions of the nervous system that subserve the capacity to relate with warmth and sensitivity to others. This deficiency is probably due to inborn limitations, placing affectless schizoids at the lower end of the normal distribution of affective sensibility. Affectless schizoids may exhibit features that interweave with those seen in compulsive personalities.

It is important to distinguish affectless schizoids conceptually from schizotypal personalities, which primarily involve social/cognitive defects. In schizotypal personalities, there is a marked constitutional weakness in accurately understanding the meaning of human communication, while affectless schizoids exhibit “affective lameness.” Both defects result in marked social difficulties, the former owing to an inability to cognitively grasp the meaning or fathom the interpersonal logic of thoughts and behaviors, and the latter due to an incapacity to connect or resonate to others affectively.

Languid schizoids should also be distinguished from affectless schizoids. Languid schizoids exhibit a primary slowness and ponderousness in energy and activation, with deficits largely evident in slow movements, ready fatigue, and lack of initiative and drive. In contrast, affectless schizoids have deficiencies in the sphere of emotion and feeling, and seem unable to activate their affect. They are unexcitable, unperturbed, cold, and dispassionate.

In former years, deficiencies of an affective character were often judged to underlie “moral insanities.” However, while affectless schizoids may exhibit emotional indifference to friends and strangers alike, this does not necessarily result in moral depravity or criminality. Rather, affectless schizoids simply lack the ability to activate intense emotions, whether social or antisocial in character. They exhibit minimal warmth, but also minimal anger and hostility. (693)

Depersonalized Schizoid Personality: In this variant of the schizoid personality, the individual is characterized by a dreamy and distant quality, leading others to think they are preoccupied with an inner reality. Unlike other schizoids, they are not only inattentive and disengaged from the real world, but also preoccupied with nothing in particular. Despite being present in the world of others, they appear to be staring into empty space, not relating to either the actions and feelings of others or their own internal experiences. These features merge with the schizotypal personality, as they share many characteristics.

Similar to individuals experiencing depersonalization, depersonalized schizoids are also “outside observers” of themselves, perceiving their feelings and thoughts as distant objects that are disconnected from themselves. They have become oblivious to external and internal stimuli, including their own body. They resemble sleepwalkers who are physically present but are unaware of their actions and thoughts. Their thoughts and feelings are vague, undefined, and disconnected. Others sense that something is missing within them because of their inability to relate and their obscure inner world. They seem to be a million miles away, unrelated and unfocused in their human interactions, and their inner world appears distant and largely absent. (693)

One response to “WAPLT? Apathetic, Asocial, Schizoid: The AAS Spectrum”

  1. […] various factors that could lead to social detachment, and it can manifest in different ways. The AAS schizoid personality spectrum is a group of personalities that are pleasure-deficient and exhibit passive detachment. They lack […]


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