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Schizotypal personality disorder is a serious mental illness that generally results in odd or eccentric behaviors, unusual beliefs and extreme difficulty in social situations. In fact, one of the main symptoms of this disorder is the tendency to be a loner or to avoid spending time in the company of others. This condition generally begins in early adulthood and tends to persist, although sometimes symptoms can improve with age. People who suffer from schizotypal personality disorder often suffer from another comorbid mental health disorder, typically depression.
The causes of this disorder are not completely understood, although psychologists believe that it occurs as a result of hereditary factors or a problem in childhood that affects the normal personality development process. People who have a schizophrenic relative may have a higher risk of developing one of the schizophrenic spectrum disorders, which includes schizotypal personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizophrenia. The symptoms can resemble those of schizophrenia, although the two are distinct disorders that should not be confused. There are specific, unique symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder that do not usually cause as much clinical impairment as schizophrenia.
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One of the key symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder is magical thinking, meaning that the person believes they have ESP or a sixth sense or that they have control over external events or the thoughts or actions of others through their own thoughts. Another symptom is strange or eccentric behavior, such as dressing oddly or inappropriately or acting unusually when in a public setting.
A person with this disorder may tend to go off on tangents when speaking, and what they say may not actually make any sense at all. They are frequently paranoid, suffering from delusions that people, or secret government agencies, for example, are out to get them or are monitoring their activities. Emotionally, they may appear flat or devoid of any real emotion, having responses to situations that are not in line with the event. For example, they may laugh when a loved one dies or cry when hearing good news.
Another principle symptom is excessive social anxiety. Sufferers of this disorder are generally unable to interact with others on even the most basic level. Because of this, a person with schizotypal personality disorder may have few or no relationships outside of family, and may even isolate family members because of their strange behaviors.
Like schizophrenics, they may have psychotic episodes with delusions, although they tend not to be as severe or frequent. The symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder are therefore not as serious as those of schizophrenia. People with schizotypal personality disorder can develop some degree of insight into their symptoms. Despite their severity and the fact that delusions and psychotic episodes may occur, sufferers do not often lose complete touch with reality.
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Mayo Clinic: Schizotypal Personality Disorder: Symptoms http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/schizotypal-personality-disorder/DS00830/DSECTION=symptoms
New York Times Health Guide: Schizotypal Personality Disorder http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/schizotypal-personality-disorder/DS00830/DSECTION=symptoms