Schizotypy: What It Is And What Relationship It Has To Psychosis

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Schizophrenia, schizothymia, schizoid, schizotypal, schizoaffective, schizophreniform… surely the vast majority of psychologists and psychology students are familiar with these terms. But… what is schizotypy? Is it a new disorder? Is it a personality disorder? What is different about it from the rest?

In this article we are going to 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 schizotypy?

Leaving aside the categorical view of psychosis (you have psychosis, or you don’t), schizotypy It is a psychological construct that aims to describe a continuum of traits s and personality characteristics, along with experiences close to psychosis (specifically schizophrenia).

We must clarify that this term is not currently used and It is not included in either the DSM-5 or the ICD-10, since these manuals already include personality disorders related to it, such as Schizotypal Personality Disorder. Schizotypy is not a personality disorder nor has it ever been, but rather a set of personality traits that form a continuum of degree.

Brief historical review of schizotypy

The categorical conception of psychosis is traditionally related to Emil Kraepelin (1921), who classified the different mental disorders from the medical model This world-famous German psychiatrist developed the first nosological classification of mental disorders, adding new categories such as manic-depressive psychosis and dementia praecox (today known as schizophrenia thanks to Educen Bleuler, 1924).

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Until recently, the diagnostic systems that psychologists have been using over the years maintained Kraepelin’s categorical vision, until the arrival of the DSM-5 which, despite the criticism it has received, provides a rather dimensional point of view.

Meehl (1962) distinguished in his studies schizotypy (personality organization that had the potential to decompensate) and schizophrenia (the complete psychotic syndrome). Rado’s (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, far from the nomenclature of schizotypy.

However, we owe the term schizotypy in its entirety to Gordon Claridge, who together with Eysenck, advocated the belief that there was no clear dividing line between madness and “sanity”, that is, they supported a conception closer to the dimensional than to the categorical. They believed that psychosis was not an extreme reflection of symptoms, but rather that many characteristics of psychosis could be identified to varying degrees within the general population.

Claridge called this idea schizotypy and suggested that this could be decomposed into various factors, which we will address below.

Schizotypy factors

Gordon Claridge dedicated himself to studying the concept of schizotypy through analysis of strange or unusual experiences in the general population (without diagnosed psychotic disorders) and symptoms grouped in people with diagnosed schizophrenia (clinical population). By carefully evaluating the information, Claridge suggested that the personality trait of schizotypy was much more complex than it initially seemed, and devised the decomposition into four factors that we will see below:

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What relationship does it have with psychosis and mental illness?

Jackson (1997) proposed the concept of “benign schizotypy,” studying that certain experiences related to schizotypy, such as unusual experiences or cognitive disorganization, were related to having increased creativity and problem-solving ability which could have an adaptive value.

There are basically three approaches to understanding the relationship between schizotypy as a trait and the diagnosed psychotic illness (the quasi-dimensional, the dimensional and the totally dimensional), although they are not free of controversy, since when studying the characteristic features of schizotypy, has observed that it does not constitute a homogeneous and unified concept, so the conclusions that can be drawn are subject to many possible explanations.

The three approaches are used, in one way or another, to reflect that schizotypy constitutes a cognitive and even biological vulnerability for the development of psychosis in the subject. In this way, psychosis remains latent and would not be expressed unless triggering events (stressors or substance use) occurred. We are going to focus mainly on the fully dimensional and dimensional approach, as they make up the latest version of Claridge’s model.

Dimensional approximation

It is greatly influenced by Hans Eysenck’s theory of personality. Diagnosable psychosis is considered is at the extreme end of the gradual spectrum of schizotypy and that there is a continuum between people with low and normal levels of schizotypy and high ones.

There has been much support for this approach because high scores on schizotypy may fit within the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.

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Full dimensional approximation

From this approach, schizotypy is considered a dimension of personality, similar to Eysenck’s PEN model (Neuroticism, Extraversion and Psychoticism). The “schizotypy” dimension is normally distributed throughout the population, that is, each and every one of us could score and have some degree of schizotypy, and that would not mean that it would be pathological.

In addition, there are two graduated continuums, one that addresses schizotypal personality disorder and another related to schizophrenic psychosis (in this case, schizophrenia is considered a process of individual collapse). Both are independent and gradual. Finally, it is stated that schizophrenic psychosis does not consist of high or extreme schizotypy, but rather Other factors must come together to make it pathologically and qualitatively different