Do you know anyone who has great difficulty in socializing with people and who cannot maintain any close relationship with others? The person might be a patient of Schizotypal Personality Disorder. Read on to learn more about the diagnosis, symptoms and treatments of this condition.
What is Schizotypal Personality Disorder?
Schizotypal Personality Disorder is a type of personality disorder in which the patient experiences great anxiety in social circumstances and prefers social isolation. It is also characterized by odd unconventional thinking and behavior. People suffering from this disorder develop these symptoms during early adulthood and continue with them throughout their lives.
Hungarian psychoanalyst Sandor Rado was the first person to use the term “schizotype” in 1956. The term was abbreviated from one phenotype of “schizophrenic genotype”. The ICD-10 of the World Health Organization (WHO) lists this mental disorder as Schizotypal Disorder.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder Causes
The exact reason behind Schizotypal PD is still unknown. However, there are various theories regarding its probable causes. Most professionals believe it to be a genetic disorder while others consider the social and psychological factors of an individual to be responsible for the condition.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder is included on the Axis II of the DSM-IV-TR (the fourth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). However, it is generally considered as a “Schizophrenia spectrum” mental disorder. Schizotypal PD is more common in people having relatives with Schizophrenia. Technically, it is an “extended phenotype” which helps geneticists to track the genetic transmission of the Schizophrenia affected genes.
Numerous studies show that individuals suffering from Schizotypal Disorder have very similar results with Schizophrenia patients on various neuropsychological tests.
Social and Environmental Causes
Recent studies show that unhealthy social environment of a child can also trigger this disease. Factors like improper parenting styles, some kind of mental stress or trauma and early childhood neglect can develop Schizotypal Personality Disorder as the individual grows up.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder Symptoms
Its main characteristics include a tendency of staying away from other people and unusual way of viewing the world. Schizotypal PD can easily be mistaken for Schizophrenia as both these disorders are characterized by similar Cognitive deficit symptoms (mental retardation, learning disability etc). An individual suffering from Schizophrenia loses almost all contact with reality, often experiencing hallucinations. A Schizotypal PD patient also has the similar symptoms; however, they are reasonably mild in the latter case.
The symptoms of Schizotypal PD are first noticed during the adolescence of the patient. At this stage, the child may have a growing interest in various solitary activities. He may also be an underachiever in school and have difficulty in communicating with other children of his own age. All these factors can make the child a common target for teasing and bullying.
The main symptoms of Schizotypal Disorder in adults include:
- Peculiar behavior, thinking and beliefs
- Incorrect interpretation of all incidents
- Tendency to believe that all external events have some personal meaning
- Belief in powers like telepathy, extra sensory perception (ESP) and sixth sense
- Believing to be able to magically influence the thoughts and actions of other people
- Inability of maintaining close relationship with people outside the immediate family
- Inclination of blaming others for the social anxiety and inability to interact with people
- Perceptual alterations, which means physical illusions including imaginary pains when touched
- Vague and unclear pattern of speaking
- Inappropriate emotional responses
- Paranoid ideas
- Tendency of being suspicious about everything in the surrounding
Schizotypal Personality Disorder Prevention
There is no way of preventing Schizotypal Personality Disorder at present. However, scientists are trying to find out whether it is possible to foresee the chances of an individual being affected by this disorder and prevent it before the serious symptoms arise.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder Tests and Diagnosis
Its diagnosis is done based on a thorough study of the medical as well as personal history of the affected individual. Interviewing the patient about the symptoms also helps in diagnosing Schizotypal Personality Disorder. A physical examination is important to rule out the possibility of other health conditions. Studying the symptoms present in an individual is the main way of diagnosing Schizotypal Disorder as there are no laboratory tests that can correctly determine its presence.
According to the DSM IV criteria released by the American Psychiatric Association, an individual must have at least 5 of the symptoms mentioned below to be positively diagnosed with Schizotypal Personality Disorder:
- Inaccurate perception of all external affairs with a belief that everything has a personal significance
- Ideas of reference which means an inclination to believe all unrelated and innocuous occurrences in the world have a direct personal connection
- Abnormal thinking and speech
- Unusual perceptions such as illusions
- Odd magical thinking and believing in super powers like telepathy, mind reading and clairvoyance
- Tendency of being suspicious of everything
- Eccentric or odd behavior and appearance
- Lack of close friends outside the immediate family circle
- Extreme social anxiety generally resulting from paranoid fears than lack of self-confidence
Schizotypal Personality Disorder is often present with other types of mental disorders (co-morbidity). This happens due to the overlapping criteria of Schizotypal PD with other personality disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder and Paranoid Personality Disorder.
Individuals suffering from Schizotypal and Schizoid Personality Disorders often have similar symptoms. The most notable similarity is that both these disorders make it impossible for the patients to form close relationships with others. But, the reasons behind the similar symptoms help to differentiate between these disorders. Schizotypal PD patients cannot continue relationships with anyone as they do not trust people outside their family circle while individuals with Schizoid Personality Disorder do not want to form any relationships as they do not want to share their time with others.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder Treatment
Until very recently, doctors believed that there is no way of treating a person suffering from this mental disorder. Now, it has been discovered that treating different symptoms can help in improving the condition of a Schizotypal Disorder patient. The treatment varies according to the symptoms present in an individual. It usually includes medications as well as different therapies.
Medications: There are no specific drugs for treating this condition; however, some antidepressant and antipsychotic medicines sometimes relieve a number of associate conditions like anxiety and depression. Prescription medications like olanzapine (Zyprexa) and risperidone (Risperdal) help in reducing distorted thinking.
Behavior therapy: A proper behavior therapy can help the individual learn how to behave in a public place, appropriate words to be used while talking to others, controlling facial reactions and tone of voice etc. These trainings can improve the social skills of the patient.
Psychotherapy: Encouraging a Schizotypal MD patient to build a trusting relationship with the therapist may help the individual to trust other people in future.
Cognitive therapy: It helps to identify and correct the peculiar thought patterns of the patient. For example, it can help a Schizotypal Personality Disorder patient understand what happens in interpersonal exchanges.
Family Therapy: Family members can seek professional counseling together with the patient as this helps to reduce fighting and emotional distances at home. It also provides the affected individual with great support from the family.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder Prognosis
The prognosis for Schizotypal Disorder varies depending on different factors. Support from the family, keeping the patient happy and maintaining a healthy home environment helps to better the outcome of the treatment.
It is very difficult for an individual with Schizotypal PD to become as comfortable in social situations as a normal person, even after receiving a successful treatment. However, proper treatment will allow the individual to have a fairly normal life with good relationships and suitable activities.
Famous People with Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Political leaders like Hitler and Kim Jong-il have suffered from this mental condition. Other well known people with Schizotypal PD include American poet Emily Dickinson and Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder is a lifelong mental condition which cannot be cured completely. However, proper treatment can help the patient to have a long and happy life.
Written by Deepamala Bhattacharya
on January 31st, 2012. The article was last updated on January 31st, 2012