What are the Signs of Schizotypal Personality Disorder?

April 8, 2022

Everyone is unique in their own way. The teen years are often filled with awkward behaviors, developmental changes, and other aspects of physical and social development that may be considered odd or different to others. However, suppose your teen displays strange thinking patterns, odd behaviors, or struggles to form relationships with others. In that case, it may be an indicator of a more profound mental health challenge such as a personality disorder. 


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists several different personality disorders. Each has unique symptoms, various risk factors, and different outcomes. It is important to understand how each type of personality disorder differs from the rest to ensure your teen can get early and effective treatment at a teen-focused treatment center like Hillcrest. In many instances, an individualized treatment developed around your teen’s specific therapeutic needs can help them learn to manage their symptoms and achieve recovery.


What are Personality Disorders? 

Personality disorders are a specific group of mental illnesses that involve long-term thought and behavior patterns that are often unhealthy and inflexible. Typically, these behaviors lead to significant problems in personal and social relationships. Teens who struggle with personality disorders often have trouble managing problems or stressors that occur in everyday environments such as school, social settings, or at home. Although the specific cause of most personality disorders remains unknown, it is believed that genetics and early childhood experiences such as trauma play a significant role.


Each type of personality disorder is characterized by unique symptoms. Also, symptoms of personality disorders may be mild or severe. Teens who struggle with a severe personality disorder may experience overwhelming difficulties as they try to focus on progressing through school and transitioning into adulthood. Many people with a personality disorder do not acknowledge that their thoughts and behaviors are unhealthy or out of the ordinary. In other words, they often don’t realize that they have “a problem.” Typically, they often blame others for their challenges and believe that their thoughts and actions are entirely “normal.” It may be challenging to get your teen the help they need to address a personality disorder for this reason.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th edition, lists thirteen personality disorders. Each of these disorders is categorized into clusters. The clusters are primarily based on symptoms unique to the illnesses within the category. Cluster A personality disorders include paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder. Cluster B disorders include histrionic personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Finally, Cluster C includes avoidant personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dependent personality disorder.


What is Schizotypal Personality Disorder? 

A teen with a schizotypal personality disorder often displays a pervasive pattern of both interpersonal and social challenges. Someone with a schizotypal personality disorder often cannot maintain or feels they do not need close relationships. This means that relationships with family, friends, or romantic relationships are a struggle, if not impossible. It is not uncommon to hear someone with schizotypal personality disorder described as bizarre or even eccentric. They may also act suspicious or paranoid when engaging with or spending time around others. They often fail to “fit in” or “blend” in most settings. 


Recognizing Schizotypal Personality Disorder Symptoms

One of the most notable symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder in teens is a palpable, extreme sense of discomfort in interpersonal situations. This is also a symptom that sets schizotypal personality disorder apart from other personality disorders or social anxiety disorders. With time and continued exposure, teens with a social anxiety disorder will generally feel more comfortable in these situations. 


A teen with a schizotypal personality disorder will not. Unfortunately, even with ongoing exposure to the same environment (people, places, or situations), they will remain uncomfortable and unable to function. Instead, they are more likely to further isolate themselves in an effort to avoid having to engage with or interact with others. 


Another symptom of schizotypal personality disorder is superstitious beliefs. Although this does not occur in all cases, some teens with schizotypal personality disorder fixate on the paranormal or are very superstitious. These beliefs are outside what is typical or expected as part of cultural or social beliefs. Depending on the severity of your teen’s symptoms, they may believe they have magical control over others or hold magical powers that affect others. For example, they may feel the reason a classmate leaves school early is that they “wished” an illness or ailment upon them. 


They may also believe their powers over others extend positive influence as well. Someone with a schizotypal personality disorder may think their thoughts and behaviors can prevent harmful or negative outcomes such as something “bad” happening to someone or at a particular place. Your teen may also experience alterations in perception (similar to hallucinations), such as believing a spirit is present or hearing something unseen whispering or calling their name. Although they may experience transient (episodes that come and go) psychotic episodes when faced with extreme stress, they do not experience the regularly occurring delusions or hallucinations experienced with schizophrenia. These episodes may resolve within minutes or might continue for hours. 


Teens with schizotypal personality disorder frequently display little emotions during social interactions with others. They may also say or do things to make others shy away from spending time with or around them. They will often wear bizarre clothing combinations (such as a winter coat with sandals) or ill-fitting or shabby clothing. Your teen may lament or express sadness about a lack of close relationships; however, their behaviors and actions suggest otherwise. Although they will interact with others when pressed or obligated, they prefer to keep to themselves and avoid close interactions. 


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders indicates symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder may begin during early childhood or adolescence. In addition to the above, several symptoms often present in children and teens that may suggest the presence of schizotypal personality disorder. These include underachievement in academic pursuits, hypersensitivity, strange fantasies, limited or poor peer relationships, isolation, social anxiety, and expressing odd or peculiar language or thoughts. 


Considerations for Diagnosing Schizotypal Personality Disorder

When seeking help for your teen, mental health providers must rule out other personality disorders before beginning treatment for schizotypal personality disorder. Many common personality disorders share similar or overlapping symptoms. Successfully treating your teen’s mental health condition requires choosing and developing a program suited to their specific diagnosis. Conditions including bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, schizophrenia, and other personality disorders share similar symptoms with a schizotypal personality disorder. 


Treating Schizotypal Personality Disorder at Hillcrest

Like other personality disorder diagnoses, there is no “cure” for schizotypal personality disorder. The symptoms linked to schizotypal personality disorder are likely to persist throughout your teen’s lifetime. However, with treatment focused on your teen’s specific diagnosis and symptoms, it is possible to reduce the intensity of symptoms and improve your teen’s overall social and interpersonal functioning. 


The most effective treatments for schizotypal personality disorder include a combination of medications and psychotherapy treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is the most widely used treatment for schizotypal personality disorder and a wide range of other mental health conditions. The goal of any therapeutic intervention is to help your teen learn how to trust others and develop coping skills they can use to manage future symptoms. At a treatment center like Hillcrest, building trusting relationships frequently starts with developing a trusting relationship with their mental health provider. 


Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a specific form of psychotherapy focused on examining and then challenging (or changing) negative or harmful thoughts and behaviors. This process can help your teen understand how their thoughts and actions contribute to ongoing mental health and social health challenges connected to schizotypal personality disorder symptoms. Using cognitive-behavior therapy to modify their existing behaviors and develop new, healthier ways of thinking can vastly improve their symptoms and limit the extent to which symptoms interfere with their day-to-day interactions. 


Another form of therapy includes family therapy. With any mental health condition, including schizotypal personality disorder, family involvement is essential to helping your teen heal. A key symptom of schizotypal personality disorder is the inability to form and foster healthy social and interpersonal relationships. This often leads to struggles within the family that can cause further difficulties as your teen begins their treatment journey. Involving family members in therapy can help family and loved ones better understand the symptoms and challenges faced by someone with a schizotypal personality disorder. Family therapy can also improve communication skills for all family members, including your teen. Improved interaction and communication skills will eventually improve trust and the ability to enhance relationships within the home environment. 


Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved a specific medication or medications for use in schizotypal personality disorder treatment. However, because schizotypal personality disorder shares similar symptoms with a range of mental health conditions, it is possible to use medications traditionally used in therapeutic programs for conditions such as depression and anxiety. Using antidepressants or antianxiety medications can help reduce the intensity of some symptoms allowing your teen to focus their attention on learning and developing coping strategies they can use to manage other symptoms.  


A schizotypal personality disorder is a chronic condition that many live with throughout their lifetime. Like many chronic conditions, schizotypal personality disorder does not have a known cure. However, with support and treatment, it is possible to learn how to manage symptoms and significantly reduce the impact schizotypal personality disorder has on one’s daily personal and social interactions. The first step is to contact a mental health specialist at Hillcrest to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help. Contact our admissions team today to learn more about our Los Angeles area treatment center for teens.