Schizotypal personality disorder

Last updated on 5th April, 2013

We recognise that the system of personality disorder diagnosis can be considered controversial. It is completely your choice which term, if any, you want to use, knowing that your doctor or care team may use another.

We appreciate that the feelings and behaviours associated with personality disorders are very difficult to live with, and everyone deserves understanding and support. We recognise the diversity in understanding of experiences and preferences around terms individuals may wish to use. We are also aware that some professionals disagree with the system of personality disorder diagnosis, and that some people given the diagnosis find it unhelpful and stigmatising.

The terms used on Counselling Directory are those that are generally used in the UK, currently. We refer to these terms throughout, with the hope of reaching and supporting as many people as possible.

Schizotypal personality disorder is characterised by cognitive or perceptual distortions, odd behaviour and the inability to maintain any close relationships. Research has suggested that schizotypal personality disorder represents mild schizophrenia as similar, yet not identical, symptoms are shared. Those with the disorder often believe they have extrasensory abilities, can see into the future and can read other people's minds. They also describe supernatural experiences, such as out of body experiences and recurrent coincidences.

Nature of schizotypal personality disorder

Those with schizotypal personality disorder have difficulties forming relationships and typically have few, if any, close friends. They also feel extreme anxiety in social situations and may act inappropriately, or not react at all, during conversations. Sufferers often seek isolation from others, convinced that they are the constant topic of ridicule, criticism or gossip. Thus those with the disorder trust few people and view the world as an isolated place.

Schizotypals typically dress oddly, behave eccentrically and their speech is elaborate and difficult to follow. This may be the cause of ridicule, thus leading to their paranoia that everyone else is out to get them. However, unlike with schizophrenia, those with schizotypal personality disorder are not generally prone to delusions. Though they may resemble those with schizophrenia, more commonly sufferers behave only mildly oddly having unusual beliefs. The disorder can best be defined as disturbances in thought patterns, appearance and behaviour, and a lack of interpersonal relationships. Schizotypals are more likely to join cults.

Symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder

  • odd beliefs, behaviour and fantasies
  • eccentric appearance and behaviour
  • odd speech, often difficult to follow
  • unusual perceptual experiences
  • excessive social anxiety
  • few, if any, close friends
  • suspicion and paranoia.

Cause of schizotypal personality disorder

The cause of schizotypal personality disorder is still unknown. However research has found increased occurrence of the disorder in relatives of Schizophrenics. Awareness of family history may allow early diagnoses. However, schizotypal personality disorder should not be confused with schizophrenia.

Treatment for schizotypal personality disorder

Some form of psychotherapy is usually the preferred choice of treatment for this disorder, as with most personality disorders. Reality is typically more distorted with this disorder than with schizoid personality disorder. Medication may be used for more acute phases of the disorder, which commonly occur during stressful situations which the individual cannot cope with adequately. However, schizotypals rarely seek treatment for their disorder on their own.

What should I be looking for in a counsellor or psychotherapist?

Currently there are no official rules or regulations in place to stipulate what level of training and experience a counsellor needs to treat schizotypal personality disorder, however we do recommend that you check your therapist is experienced in the area for which you are seeking help.

The NHS recommends psychotherapy as a form of treatment for personality disorders.

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