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Schizotypal vs Schizophrenia: What’s the Difference?

Schizotypal personality disorder (STPD) and schizophrenia are two mental health conditions that can have a drastic effect on how a person thinks, feels, and acts. The names of these disorders are somewhat similar, and the disorders share some characteristics, but they are not the same. When you understand the difference between schizotypal personality disorder vs schizophrenia, you’ll be better prepared to help someone who exhibits the signs and symptoms of either of these disorders.

What Is Schizotypal Personality Disorder?

Schizotypal personality disorder is a mental illness that prevents people from forming and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. 

People who have STPD typically act in ways that other people may describe as odd or eccentric. They may also have a skewed perception of their environment, and they may hold beliefs that are strange or off-putting to others.

People who exhibit the following signs and symptoms may have schizotypal personality disorder:

  • Believing that they caused an event to happen because of something they thought or did
  • Thinking that random occurrences relate directly to them or hold a special meaning for them
  • Believing that they have superpowers or magical abilities
  • Retaining a firm belief in superstitions
  • Being extremely suspicious about the actions of others, to the point of paranoia
  • Claiming to sense the presence of people or objects that aren’t there
  • Acting in a manner that is far outside the norm for their community or culture
  • Speaking in a particularly abstract or otherwise incomprehensible way
  • Being unable to maintain eye contact or correctly interpret social cues
  • Experiencing extreme social anxiety

A person may begin to exhibit signs of schizotypal personality disorder during childhood or adolescence, but most people are not diagnosed with this disorder until they have reached adulthood.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that negatively impacts a person’s ability to perceive their environment and communicate their thoughts.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the presence of at least two of the following five criteria is necessary for a diagnosis of schizophrenia:

  • Delusions: These are beliefs that are clearly untrue and have no basis in reality.
  • Hallucinations: This refers to seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.
  • Disorganized speech: This can include speaking incoherently, switching topics with no warning or logical pattern, or responding to questions with irrelevant answers.
  • Disorganized or catatonic behavior: Examples may include making strange movements, engaging in inappropriate actions, or appearing to be frozen in place.
  • Negative symptoms: These can include not making eye contact, speaking in a flat or monotone voice, failing to show emotions, and demonstrating little to no motivation.

Most people who have schizophrenia will begin to show symptoms during their 20s or 30s. According to the Mayo Clinic, the development of symptoms prior to age 18 is referred to as early-onset schizophrenia. The Mayo Clinic also reports that the onset of symptoms before age 13 is extremely rare.

Woman with symptoms wondering if she has Schizotypal vs Schizophrenia

Schizotypal vs. Schizophrenia: What’s the Difference?

Both schizotypal personality disorder and schizophrenia can have a devastating impact on a person’s ability to live a full, productive, and satisfying life. But there are some important differences between schizophrenia and schizotypal personality disorder.

First, these disorders are classified differently in the DSM-5. 

Schizophrenia is identified as a psychotic disorder due to symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized speech. STPD is categorized as a personality disorder. According to the DSM-5, personality disorders are characterized by inflexible thought and behavior patterns that deviate significantly from cultural norms and standards.

Another key difference between schizophrenia and schizotypal personality disorder is when symptoms usually first appear. 

Although both disorders are typically diagnosed when a person is a young adult, symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder often begin to appear much earlier. A person usually doesn’t exhibit any signs of schizophrenia until they are in their mid-20s. But it’s not uncommon for symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder to emerge in children and adolescents. 

Also, although both of these disorders can impact how a person thinks or perceives the world around them, they do so in different ways. 

People who have STPD may believe things that are outside the norms of their culture, but these beliefs are not delusions (which are symptoms of schizophrenia). And while those with STPD may sense the presence of someone or something that isn’t there, they will not experience the auditory or visual hallucinations that are characteristic of schizophrenia.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder & Schizophrenia Treatment Options

One commonality between schizophrenia and schizotypal personality disorder is that both conditions are treatable. When someone gets appropriate professional care, they can experience an easing of symptoms and an improvement in their quality of life.

Treatment plans for both disorders can involve a combination of therapy and prescription medication.

For people who have schizophrenia, antipsychotic medications are often prescribed. These medications can be especially beneficial for people who have been experiencing hallucinations and delusions.

When treating a person who has schizotypal personality disorder, medication options may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and low doses of certain antipsychotics. 

Treatment for both schizophrenia and schizotypal personality disorder also often involves residential mental health treatment, partial hospitalization programming, intensive outpatient programming, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoeducation sessions, and robust family support services. The types of therapy and the focus of sessions can vary depending on the nature and severity of the symptoms that the individual has been experiencing.

Begin Treatment for Schizotypal Personality Disorder or Schizophrenia in Atlanta

If someone in your life has been exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia or schizotypal personality disorder, please know that effective treatment is available. Peachtree Wellness Solutions in Atlanta is a safe and welcoming place where your loved one can receive customized care and compassionate support. Visit our admissions page or contact us directly to learn how we can help.