Schizophrenia, schizothymia, schizoid, schizotypal, schizoaffective, schizophreniform … the vast majority of psychologists and psychology students are surely familiar with these terms. But … What is schizotyping? Is this a new disorder? Is it a personality disorder? What makes him different from others?
In this article, we will delve into the interesting concept of schizotypy through a brief historical analysis of the term, and we will see how it’s more of a personality trait than a mental disorder of the psychotic sphere.
What is schizotyping?
Leaving aside the categorical view of psychosis (you have psychosis, or you don’t), schizotypy is a psychological construct that seeks to describe a continuum of shootinges and personality traits, as well as experiences close to psychosis (in particular schizophrenia).
We must clarify that this term is not currently used and it is not collected in the DSM-5 or in the ICD-10As these textbooks already contain related personality disorders, such as schizotypal personality disorder. Schizotypy is not a personality disorder and never has been, but a collection of personality traits that form a continuum of degrees.
Brief historical examination of the schizotype
The categorical conception of psychosis is traditionally linked to Emil Kraepelin (1921), who classify the different mental disorders of the medical model. This world-renowned German psychiatrist developed the first nosological classification of mental disorders, adding new categories such as manic-depressive illness and dementia precocious (now known as schizophrenia thanks to Educen Bleuler, 1924).
Until recently, the diagnostic systems we use have been used by psychologists over the years. they maintained the categorical view of Kraepelin, until the arrival of the DSM-5, Which, despite the criticism it has received, provides a rather dimensional point of view.
Meehl (1962) distinguishes in his studies between schizotypy (organization of the personality that has the potential to decompensate) and schizophrenia (complete psychotic syndrome). Rado (1956) and Meehl’s approach to schizotypal personality has been described as the clinical history of schizotypal personality disorder that we know today in the DSM-5, very far from the schizotypical nomenclature.
However, the term schizotypy is entirely due to Gordon Claridge, who, along with Eysenck, defended the belief that there was no clear dividing line between insanity and “common sense”, i.e. say that they have opted for a design closer to the dimensional than the categorical. They believed that psychosis was not an extreme reflection of symptoms, but that many features of psychosis could be identified to varying degrees in the general population.
Claridge called this idea schizotypy, And suggested that this could be broken down into several factors, which we will cover below.
Gordon Claridge devoted himself to the study of the concept of schizotypy through the analysis of strange or unusual experiences in the general population (No Psychotic Disorder Diagnosed) and Grouped Symptoms in People with Diagnosed Schizophrenia (Clinical Population). Carefully evaluating the information, Claridge suggested that the schizotype’s personality trait was much more complex than it initially appeared, and devised the four-factor breakdown that we’ll see below:
- Unusual experiences: it is what we know today as delusions and hallucinations. It is the willingness to have unusual and strange cognitive and perceptual experiences, such as magical beliefs, superstitions, etc.
- cognitive disorganization: The way of thinking and thoughts become totally disorganized, with tangential ideas, inconsistency in speech, etc.
- Introverted anhedonia: Claridge defined it as introverted behavior, emotionally flat expressions, social isolation, decreased ability to experience pleasure, either in general or socially and physically. This is what today corresponds to the criterion of negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
- Impulsive non-compliance: This is the presence of unstable and unpredictable behavior with respect to socially established rules and regulations. Failure of behavior to meet imposed social norms.
What does this have to do with psychosis and mental illness?
Jackson (1997) proposed the concept of “benign schizotypy”, studying that certain experiences related to schizotyping, such as unusual experiences or cognitive disorganization, were related to having greater creativity and ability to solve problems, Which could have adaptive value.
There are essentially three approaches to understanding the relationship between schizotypy as a trait and diagnosed psychotic illness (quasi-dimensional, dimensional, and fully dimensional), although they are not without controversy, as in the study of characteristic traits of schizotyping have been observed constitute a homogeneous and unified concept, so that the conclusions that can be drawn are subject to many possible explanations.
All three approaches are used, in one way or another, to reflect what constitutes the schizotype cognitive and even biological vulnerability to the development of psychosis in the subject. In this way, the psychosis remains latent and would only be expressed if triggering events (stressors or substance use) have occurred. We will mainly focus on the full dimensional and dimensional approximation, as they are the latest version of the Claridge model.
He is strongly influenced by Hans Eysenck’s theory of personality. It is considered a diagnosable psychosis is at the extreme limit of the progressive spectrum of schizotypy, And that there is a continuum between people with low and normal levels of schizotypy and high.
This approach has been strongly supported because high scores in schizotypy may fit into the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.
Fully dimensional approximation
From this approach, schizotypy is considered a dimension of personality, similar to Eysenck’s PEN (Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Psychoticism) model. The “schizotypy” dimension is generally distributed in the population, which means that any of us could score and have some degree of schizotypy, and that would not mean that it would be pathological.
Additionally, there are two graduated continua, one dealing with schizotypal personality disorder and the other dealing with schizophrenic psychosis (in this case, schizophrenia is seen as a process of individual collapse). Both are independent and progressive. Finally, it is claimed that schizophrenic psychosis does not consist of high or extreme schizotypy, but that other factors must come together that make it pathologically and qualitatively different.