More than just an unusual state of mind, teens with schizotypal personality disorder display consistent maladaptive behavior and thinking. Teen schizotypal personality disorder is one of ten personality disorders recognized in the DSM-5. It is one of three eccentric-type personality disorders (alongside schizoid personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder). Personality disorders are mental health conditions defined by specific and unhealthy patterns of thinking.
Someone with a personality disorder displays consistent maladaptive behavior and thinking across different settings and circumstances. For someone to be diagnosed with a personality disorder, their behavior cannot be explained by culture, upbringing, substance use, or other diseases/conditions. Because personality disorders are often long-term or lifelong conditions, an early diagnosis and treatment plan is important.
What Is Teen Schizotypal Personality Disorder?
Teens with schizotypal personality disorder are prone to unusual thinking and behavior, but they rarely have symptoms of psychosis. This means that, while they may think and behave in odd ways, they aren’t prone to hallucinations or delusions. The characteristics revolve around strange behavior and bizarre or unusual beliefs. Schizotypal personality disorder shouldn’t be confused with a schizoid personality disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or schizophrenia.
Teen Schizotypal Personality Disorder Signs and Symptoms
Teens with a schizotypal personality disorder may appear incredibly eccentric in how they talk, in what they say, and in the things they do. Other personality disorders can also display eccentricity signs, but the abnormal or strange behavior in teens with a schizotypal personality disorder is a central element of the illness.
Schizotypal personality disorder is also characterized by severe social and communication issues and trouble maintaining or building relationships of any kind, from platonic to romantic. They may be extremely paranoid of others and display extreme social anxiety. While delusions and hallucinations are rare, teens with schizotypal personality disorder still interpret the world in odd ways while misinterpreting things so that they see unusual patterns in places where there aren’t any (especially with regards to themselves).
In other words, teens with a schizotypal personality disorder may be prone to seeing conspiracies everywhere and believing that certain events reinforce their strange world view, even when they should be doing the opposite. Their strange beliefs may (but don’t always) extend into superstitious thinking and other “magical thinking,” such as belief in the paranormal and the supernatural. Magical thinking is defined as believing your actions have an influence on unrelated events without changing the circumstances.
Some other signs and symptoms commonly associated with teen schizotypal personality disorder include:
- Solitary lives
- No close friends
- Trouble with relationships
- Ideas/delusions of reference
- Social anxiety linked to extreme paranoia
- Strange and odd beliefs, not reinforced by surrounding cultural beliefs
One of the difficulties in diagnosing a teen with this disorder is that it shares many similarities with other conditions, including social anxiety disorder, histrionic personality disorder, mood disorders, and other disorders on the schizophrenia spectrum. However, despite these similarities, there are defining combinations of symptoms that make it a unique condition in need of its own treatment type.
Teen Schizotypal Personality Disorder Risk Factors
Risk factors are circumstances that correlate with certain disorders and may cause them or are related to their cause. The more risk factors a teen displays, the higher the likelihood of diagnosis. Risk factors are usually either internal (heritability) or external (environmental factors). Heritability plays a significant role. Teens are much more likely to be diagnosed with the condition if someone they are closely related to has been diagnosed with similar or closely related personality disorders.
Relevant environmental risk factors tend to come from early childhood experiences. Experiences of abuse, emotional neglect, a cold or distant parent, and extreme or chronic childhood stress are more common in teens diagnosed. Other risk factors include being prematurely tasked with adult responsibilities, having a parent with magical/odd thinking, and a financially unstable background.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Diagnosis must be very in-depth and usually involves a lengthy mental health interview to identify possible symptoms, discern medical history, and rule out other potential causes, from different personalities to certain mood disorders, influencing factors, and drug use. There are self-tests, but these are meant to prompt teens and adults to visit a mental health professional for treatment rather than an adequate diagnosis.
An accurate diagnostic interview takes a teen’s behavior, thinking, and experiences into account as a whole before making an official diagnosis. Treatment for schizotypal personality disorder requires a long-term plan with professional help. Home remedies aren’t recommended because of how pervasive the illness can be, and it takes a long time to learn to recognize and manage symptoms.
Psychotherapy or talk therapy is the most effective way of tackling schizotypal personality disorder, usually in a specialized treatment setting such as inpatient or outpatient care. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy are two commonly used types of talk therapy for helping a teen identify and separate the symptoms of their disorder from other healthier ways of thinking and behaving.
Teen Schizotypal Personality Disorder and Other Disorders
While schizotypal personality disorder shouldn’t be confused with schizophrenia and schizoid personality disorder, it can be considered part of a larger schizophrenia spectrum. These are conditions characterized by a level of detachment from reality, symptoms of delusional thinking, and psychosis.
These disorders are more common than most people would think and are largely misunderstood. Psychotic behavior is not necessarily dangerous or violent. Most people struggling with disorders under this umbrella lead solitary lives and are seen or known to be odd, unusual, or eccentric. Delusions and ideas of reference are a common hallmark of these conditions.
Ideas of reference are a phenomenon wherein innocuous events are misinterpreted as somehow referring to oneself, driving, or reinforcing strange beliefs and conspiracies. They sign that the person experiencing them is fundamentally seeing the world differently (and not entirely accurate) way. These delusions can cause paranoia as the person experiencing them is convinced that they are correct and that everyone else is conspiring against them.
Schizotypal personality disorder, like other personality disorders, can be a long-term or lifelong diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help drastically improve a teen’s quality of life and reduce the disorder’s impact in later life. When tackling any condition, a professional and individually catered treatment plan is important.