Schizotypal personality disorder is a psychiatric condition marked by disturbed thoughts and behavior, unusual beliefs and fears (such as of witches or aliens), and an inability to form intimate relationships.
The word personality describes deeply ingrained patterns of behavior and the manner in which individuals think about themselves and their world. Personality traits are conspicuous features of behavior and are not necessarily pathological, although certain ones may encourage social problems. Personality disorders are enduring, persistent behavior patterns severe enough to cause significant impairment in functioning as well as internal distress.
Schizotypal personality disorder is a pattern of deficiency in appearance, behavior, and thought patterns affecting interpersonal relationships, and behavior. Speech may include digressions, odd use of words or a strikingly weak vocabulary. Patients usually experience distorted thinking, behave strangely, and avoid intimacy. They typically have few, if any, close friends, and feel nervous around strangers although they may marry and maintain jobs. These symptoms may place people with this disorder at a high risk for involvement with cults. The disorder, which may appear more frequently in males, surfaces by early adulthood and can exacerbate anxiety and depression.
People with this disorder may be severely disturbed and might appear schizophrenic. More commonly, however, patient beliefs (aliens, witchcraft) are stranger than their behavior, and may oftentimes keep them isolated from normal relationships. Hallucinations, however, are not a common symptom. Other symptoms include:
The cause of schizotypal personality disorder is unknown, but there is an increased incidence in relatives of those with the condition.
Awareness of risk, such as a family history of schizophrenia, may allow early diagnosis.
Schizotypal patients rarely initiate treatment for their disorder, tending to seek relief from depressive problems instead. Some people may be helped by antipsychotic medications, but therapy is preferable in many situations. Patients severely afflicted with the disorder may require hospitalization to provide therapy and improve socialization. Schizotypal personality disorder patients do not often demonstrate significant progress. Treatment should therefore help patients establish a satisfying solitary existence.
The social consequences of serious mental disorders—those that affect family and ability to maintain employment—can be calamitous. Comprehensive treatment, which includes services that exist outside the formal treatment system, is crucial to alleviate symptoms, aid recovery, and, to the extent that these efforts are successful, redress stigma. Consumer self-help programs, family self-help, advocacy, and services for housing and vocational assistance complement and supplement the formal treatment system. Many of these services are operated by people who use mental health services themselves. The logic behind their leadership in delivery of these services is that those using the system might be especially effective in reaching out to those in need.
Behavioral modification, a "cognitive-behavioral" treatment approach, can allow schizotypal personality disorder patients to remedy some of their bizarre thoughts and behaviors. Recognizing abnormalities by watching videotapes and meeting with a therapist to improve speech habits are two effective methods of treatment.
The outcome varies with the severity of the disorder. It is usually chronic.