Schizotypal Personality Disorder

What are personality disorders?

We all have unique personalities that have developed as a result of both genetics and environment. As we grow our personalities are constantly shaped by our experiences and behaviour choices.

Those with a personality disorder have developed rigid or extreme thoughts and behaviours that they cannot control. They have trouble relating to others and are often limited in their ability to deal with daily life. Personalities normally continue to develop through teenage years so disorders are generally not diagnosed until adulthood.

There are 3 main groups or clusters of personality disorders.

Cluster A – odd or eccentric behaviour

  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder

Cluster B – Dramatic or erratic behaviour

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Cluster C – Anxious or fearful behaviour

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependant Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder


What is Schizotypal Personality Disorder (STPD)?

People with Schizotypal Personality Disorder are uncomfortable with close relationships preferring spend their time alone. They demonstrate peculiar or eccentric behaviour and have distorted beliefs.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder should not be confused with Schizophrenia. While those with STPD may experience symptoms that appear to be delusional and may even hear voices, they have not lost touch with reality.

The World Health Organization does not classify STPD as a distinct personality disorder but sees it as a mild or preliminary form of Schizophrenia. However the American Psychiatric Association’s classification system (used above) does class it as a separate disorder that is also within the Schizophrenia spectrum (Cluster A).


What causes Schizotypal Personality Disorder?

The cause of Schizotypal Personality Disorder is still unknown, however there is strong evidence showing it is more likely to occur in close relatives of Schizophrenics. This does not mean that family members will automatically develop the condition as a range of other factors such as childhood trauma or social influences may also have an effect.


What are the most common symptoms?

Sufferers of STPD usually display a distinct set of symptoms including:

  • Ideas of reference that are almost delusions. For example they may believe a random or external event has a particular meaning that is specific to them.
  • Odd beliefs including the belief they have magical or clairvoyant powers.
  • Strange perceptual experiences such as hearing voices or other sensory illusions.
  • Bizarre patterns of speech or unusual phrasing.
  • Extreme suspicion of others
  • Restricted emotional expression. This often makes them seem cold or indifferent.
  • Odd or peculiar behaviour and mannerisms. For example they may avoid eye contact or wear eccentric clothing.
  • Few close friends other than immediate family members and little desire for sexual intimacy.
  • Irrational social anxiety even in familiar situations. This is generally caused by suspicion of the motivation of others rather than negative self-perceptions.

Sufferers of STPD are more at risk of joining a cult or extreme religious sect due to their irrational beliefs.

The earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the less likely the person will be to develop more severe symptoms and other complications.


What are the main treatment options?

People with STPD rarely seek treatment of their own accord. This is partly due to their suspicion of others and partly because they lack the ability to perceive their own behaviour as unusual. Therefore it is usually through the help of a family member or close friend that they get the help they need.

Counselling or psychotherapy of some sort is the most widely used treatment for Schizotypal Personality Disorder. Medications may also be used in the initial phase to help stabilise erratic behaviour or to minimise the risk of physical harm. In some cases, low doses of anti-psychotic medication may also be used for ongoing treatment.

During therapy the counsellor will focus on developing a trusting relationship with the sufferer as progress can often take years. The approach will depend on the individual circumstances and may include a mix of therapies. With time, the person can learn to be more realistic about their beliefs and find ways to cope more effectively in social situations. They may also begin to develop healthier personal relationships.


Why seek professional help?

Mental illness can be frightening and isolating, especially if you are in a depressed or suicidal state. Talking to friends and family may help but having the support and guidance of a professional counsellor is usually more beneficial. Therapy sessions are confidential and non-judgemental. Seeking help early gives you a greater chance of overcoming your condition and getting your life back to normal.


Where to find help

Our True Counsellor Directory lists hundreds of psychotherapists and counsellors from Australia.

Some psychotherapists and counsellors listed in our directory offer counselling over the phone and online in addition to one-on-one consultations. Many also offer workshops and seminars.

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