What Are Personality Disorders?
People with personality disorders have long-standing patterns of thinking and acting that differ from what society considers usual or normal. Their inflexible personality traits can cause great distress, and can interfere with many areas of life, including social and work functioning. People with significant personality disorders generally also have poor coping skills and difficulty forming healthy relationships.
Unlike people with anxiety disorders, who know they have a problem but are unable to control it, people with personality disorders generally are not aware that they have a problem and do not believe they have anything to control.
What Is Schizotypal Personality Disorder?
Schizotypal personality disorder is one of a group of conditions informally thought of as "eccentric" personality disorders. People with these disorders often appear odd or peculiar. They also may display unusual thinking patterns and behaviors.
People with schizotypal personality disorder may have odd beliefs or superstitions. These individuals are unable to form close relationships and tend to distort reality. In this respect, schizotypal personality disorder can seem like a mild form of schizophrenia -- a serious brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others. In rare cases, people with schizotypal personality disorder may eventually develop schizophrenia.
What Are the Symptoms of Schizotypal Personality Disorder?
People with schizotypal personality disorder display a combination of odd behavior, speech patterns, thoughts, and perceptions. Other people often describe these individuals as strange or eccentric. Additional traits of people with this disorder include the following:
- Dressing, speaking, or acting in an odd or peculiar way
- Being suspicious and paranoid
- Being uncomfortable or anxious in social situations due to their distrust of others
- Having few friends and being extremely uncomfortable with intimacy
- Tending to misinterpret reality or to have distorted perceptions (for example, mistaking noises for voices)
- Having odd beliefs or magical thinking (for example, being overly superstitious or thinking of themselves as psychic)
- Being preoccupied with fantasy and daydreaming
- Tending to be stiff and awkward when relating to others
- Coming across as emotionally distant, aloof, or cold
What Causes Schizotypal Personality Disorder?
Genetics may play some role in the development of schizotypal personality disorder. This disorder is more common in relatives of people with schizophrenia and typically develops in early adulthood. Inborn temperament, coupled with a person's unique reactions to life events, relationships in early life, and development of coping strategies likely together contribute importantly to the formation of personality during childhood and adolescence, and its abnormal development.
How Is Schizotypal Personality Disorder Diagnosed?
If symptoms are present, a health care professional will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and possibly, a physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose personality disorders, the doctor might use various diagnostic tests to rule out physical illness as the cause of the symptoms.
If the doctor finds no physical reason for the symptoms, he or she might refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist, health care professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate someone for a personality disorder.
How Is Schizotypal Personality Disorder Treated?
Psychotherapy -- a form of counseling -- is the form of treatment most often used. The goal of therapy is to help a person change his or her interpersonal styles, expectations, coping patterns, and habits of thinking and behavior, in order to develop more appropriate and effective social skills. Through treatment, people with this disorder can often be taught to recognize when they are distorting reality.
People with schizotypal personality disorder who also suffer from another disorder, such as anxiety or depression, might benefit from medication, such as an antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug. In some instances, especially at times of crises or extreme stress, severe symptoms might develop, requiring a brief period of hospitalization. However, medications are usually not the main focus of treatment for personality disorders.
Treatment for people with this disorder is most effective when family members are involved and supportive.
What Complications Are Associated With Schizotypal Personality Disorder?
People with this disorder might be at risk for developing anxiety or depression. They also tend to have poor social skills and lack fulfilling relationships. Without treatment, people with this disorder can become even more uncomfortable in social situations, which can lead to greater isolation.
What Is the Outlook for People With Schizotypal Personality Disorder?
The outlook for people with schizotypal personality disorder varies with its severity. The outlook generally improves for a person who is motivated to change and seeks and complies with treatment. With treatment, some people experience significant improvement while others do not.
Can Schizotypal Personality Disorder Be Prevented?
At this time, there is no known way to prevent schizotypal personality disorder. However, assessing the risk for the disorder, such as having a family history of schizophrenia, might allow for early diagnosis and treatment.