What is Schizotypal Personality Disorder? Definition, Causes
Individuals with schizotypal personality disorder exhibit a consistent, long-term pattern of severe social and relationship limitations. They seem to take little joy in life, regardless of circumstance and typically choose to engage in solitary activities rather than those that involve other people. This can make treatment of schizotypal personality disorder very challenging.
Living with Schizotypal Personality Disorder
People with schizotypal personality disorder prefer social isolation, similar to those with schizoid personality disorder. But unlike schizoids, people with schizotypal personality disorder experience cognitive (thinking) and perceptual distortions along with their odd behavior.
These cognitive and perceptual distortions include the individual seeing or hearing things like flashes of light or someone calling his or her name. The individual may see shadows lurking in the corner, but quickly realize nothing is there.
Don't confuse a schizotypal personality with schizophrenia. Unlike schizophrenia, even though sufferers may see or hear things that aren't there, they realize that these things don't represent factual events or reality. So, their perceptual distortions aren't hallucinations as they are with schizophrenia. They also may have eccentric beliefs and behaviors, but aren't disconnected from reality.
For example, if you have schizotypal personality disorder, you may have odd fears and preoccupations. These may show up as intense paranoia that the government or your workplace is monitoring you. You may even have intense beliefs about aliens and things like alien abductions. These beliefs may be so strong that they inhibit your ability to form lasting close relationships. (Read about famous people with schizotypal personality disorder.)
Causes of Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Experts don't have a clear understanding about the causes of schizotypal personality disorder. It's theorized that genetics play a critical role in its development because the disorder is more common in families with schizophrenics. Most experts believe that causation stems from a three-pronged and complex combination of genetics, biological, and social factors.
People with a family history of schizophrenia and other psychopathologies are at a greater risk for developing schizotypal personality disorder. In fact, research indicates that those with a first degree relative who has schizotypal symptoms may be up to 50 percent more likely to develop the disorder compared to others.
Other risk factors include people who:
- Had a mother who smoked during pregnancy
- Were born from an unwanted pregnancy
- Have a higher birth order (i.e. one of the older siblings)
- Have a lower socioeconomic environment during early childhood
- Used marijuana before age 14
Having one or more of these risk factors doesn't guarantee a person will develop schizotypal personality disorder, but only increases the possibility.
Last Updated: 20 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD