Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Schizotypal personality disorder is a condition that causes a person to turn inward, avoid intimate relationships and experience symptoms of extreme social anxiety. Unlike schizoid personality types, people with schizotypal personality disorder find their own social isolation to be painful, and may ultimately develop distorted perceptions regarding relationships and how to act appropriately. This may cause odd or eccentric behavior, strange beliefs and questionable actions in public or while amongst people.
Symptoms of Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Schizotypal personality disorder causes some of the same symptoms as full-blown schizophrenia, though it is classified differently and not as severe. Symptoms may intensify at certain times and for no apparent reason. Following is a list of behaviors to look for if schizotypal personality disorder is suspected:
- Emotional coldness or vacancy
- Social withdrawal and the tendency to be a loner
- Odd behavior and eccentric ideas
- Inappropriate thinking that influences behavior
- Excessive suspicion and paranoia
- Odd speech resulting from unusual perceptions
- Occasional illusions or hallucinations that may cause delusional behavior
Causes of Schizotypal Personality Disorder
The immediate cause of schizotypal personality disorder is unknown, but patients who are related to someone with schizophrenia are more likely to develop the condition. Alternatively, studies show that people who experience symptoms of this disorder may be extremely sensitive to criticism or hostility, leading them to introvert and avoid social contact. Evidence suggests that this type of behavior may have resulted from childhood neglect, early separation or inappropriate parenting styles. It's important to note that prolonged substance abuse may contribute to the development of symptoms as well.
Diagnosing Schizotypal Personality Disorder
In order to come to a diagnosis of schizotypal personality disorder, a person must not have exhibited any of the symptoms that indicate schizophrenia, but must have symptoms that are more severe than those of schizoid personality disorder. These three are contained within the same psychological spectrum, but require different criteria for diagnosis. Any one of the symptoms experienced continually or in episodes for at least two years can indicate this disorder. A professional evaluation should include evidence of family medical history, observance of behavior and consideration of responses during an interview.
Treating Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Finding the most appropriate treatment for schizotypal personality disorder may require some trial and error. Traditional medical treatments, such as medication and therapy, have the most documented results. Patients may find some relief by experimenting with alternative forms of therapy as well, such as meditation, herbal supplements or relaxation techniques. The following is a brief synopsis of conventional treatment options which may provide some relief:
- Medication – medication aimed specifically at treating schizotypal personality disorder is not available. If appropriate, a prescription will be recommended to treat underlying symptoms such as depression or anxiety. If psychotic episodes are frequent, an antipsychotic medication may be preferred.
- Psychotherapy – counseling with a preferred therapist may help to develop a trusting relationship with the patient, leading to an increase in social interaction and the ability to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
- Behavioral therapy – teaching new behavioral skills can help a patient to recognize certain cues and learn new ways of reacting when in a public or social situation.
- Cognitive therapy – building an awareness for triggering events can help people with this disorder to overcome fears or anxiety and develop coping skills that can lead to better understanding of appropriate actions and more beneficial thought patterns.
- Family therapy – involving family in therapy sessions can help to uncover events that may have led to symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder, and relieve symptoms by diverting focus to more positive behavior patterns.