What Is Schizotypal Personality Disorder?
Schizotypal personality disorder may include severe anxiety, paranoia, disorganized thinking, odd beliefs, derealization and psychosis. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, schizotypal personality disorder is categorized as a cluster A personality disorder.
Symptoms of Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Signs and symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder may appear during childhood, but they are typically not fully formed until early adulthood. Because a person’s personality constantly changes during childhood and adolescence, a diagnosis of this disorder may not occur until early adulthood.
The World Health Organization’s diagnostic guidelines, called the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, lists the following symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder:
- Cold or inappropriate affect
- Odd or eccentric behavior
- Social withdrawal
- Paranoid or bizarre ideas not amounting to true delusions
- Obsessive ruminations
- Thought disorder and perceptual disturbances
- Occasional transient quasi-psychotic episodes
- Auditory or other hallucinations
- Delusional ideas
The above list of schizotypal personality disorder symptoms may sound very similar to schizophrenia to the untrained practitioner. However, even though there are some similarities, schizotypal personality disorder does not have any of the specific characteristics of schizophrenia.
Causes of Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Some research suggests that there may be a genetic component to the development of schizotypal personality disorder. This disorder is more common in families that also have a history of schizophrenia. However, schizotypal personality disorder is not the same as schizophrenia.
While genetics may play a part in the development of schizotypal personality disorder, environmental factors seem to be the deciding factor in whether a person will develop this condition. Usually, throughout childhood, a person learns to understand social cues and to respond to social situations appropriately.
For someone with schizotypal personality disorder, this type of learning does not occur. Instead, the person may be uncomfortable in social situations, to the point where they may avoid any social interactions altogether. Interactions during childhood may be to blame as negative interactions, and traumatic experiences may prevent the normal course of social learning. Strict or cold parenting styles, separation from caregivers at an early age, neglect and abuse all may cause schizotypal personality disorder. However, these experiences during childhood do not mean a person will develop this disorder.
How Is Schizotypal Personality Disorder Diagnosed?
There is no schizotypal personality disorder test and general use of the diagnostic criteria is not recommended. Usually, it is preferable to seek an assessment from an experienced professional. Generally, at least four of the above-listed symptoms must be present for this diagnosis.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder Statistics
Schizotypal personality disorder is understudied when compared to other mental health diagnoses. The prevalence is estimated to be between 3 to 4 percent of the population. Men are more likely to develop this disorder, perhaps due to cultural norms that steer males away from expressing emotions.
Who Is at Risk for Schizotypal Personality Disorder?
The most significant risk factor for developing schizotypal personality disorder is having a family history of schizophrenia. Environmental risk factors typically refer to childhood experiences. Children who have been abused or neglected and raised by cold, distant caregivers are at higher risk of later developing this personality disorder.
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