Psychoanalyze Your Characters 3

Thank you for joining me for our prior discussions about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Today I’ll cover the lesser-known Schizotypal Personality Disorder, which can be summed up in one word: odd.

People with Schizotypal Personality Disorder have bizarre mannersims and beliefs, and have trouble forming relationships. Unlike Schizoid Personality Disorder, individuals with Schizotypal PD want to connect with others, but their oddness and high social anxiety make that difficult. You might notice the similarity to the word Schizophrenia, but the perceptual disturbances and magical thinking of Schizotypal PD are not as intense or debilitating as in Schizophrenia.

Here are the criteria for Schizotypal Personality Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association. At least 5 must be met for the diagnosis:

* Incorrect interpretations of events, including a feeling that something innocuous has a direct personal meaning

* Odd beliefs or magical thinking that are inconsistent with cultural norms

* Unusual perceptions, including illusions

* Odd thinking and speech patterns

* Suspicious or paranoid thoughts, such as the belief that someone’s “out to get them”

* Flat emotions, appearing aloof and isolated

* Odd, eccentric or peculiar behavior or appearance

* Lack of close friends or confidants other than relatives

* Excessive social anxiety that doesn’t diminish with familiarity

I was thinking that “Doc” from Back to the Future might fit this diagnosis, but he’s probably more manic than schizotypal. I was also wondering about “Martha” from Lisa Sanchez’s novel Eve of Samhain but if she really IS a witch then I guess she’s not Schizotypal. 🙂

A character from one of my favorite movies (American Beauty) does seem to fit this diagnosis, though:

Ricky Fitts, played by Wes Bentley, is a social outcast. He nails the peculiar appearance and flat emotions of this disorder. Developmental risk factors for Schizotypal PD include a history of abuse and emotionally detached parents, and he has those factors in spades. 

What other characters can you think of that might fit this diagnosis?

I could cover another personality disorder in the next post but I might shift into some Axis I disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or eating disorders. Do you have a preference?

Happy Holidays to you! Please join our Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop.

23 thoughts on “Psychoanalyze Your Characters 3”

  1. I love these posts! I learn so much 🙂 Hee hee. Yes, Martha is a witch. I will admit, though, that when I first dreamed her up, and I didn't know about her powers, she fit quite a few of the above criteria. Then I discovered her back story and well, you'll just have to wait and see!!!


  2. Kelsey, that's great you're enjoying my little Psych 101 blog tutorial.Lisa, now you've intrigued me! I look forward to learning about Martha's background. I was thinking that some emo/goth teenagers might seem to fit this diagnosis although they're too young to diagnose with a personality disorder.


  3. Okay, I'm totally a fan of psychology, as you now know…this is one of my fav psychological disorders. I especially love that you mentioned American Beauty as it is one of my favorite movies and Ricky Fitts fascinates me. I want to be him. Well, you know, mentally, probably not anatomically. LOL! Great post…I love reading these! We may have to talk psych sometime…Truly love it!! 🙂 Happy Holidays! Jess


  4. Love these posts…but now I'm wondering if I don't need therapy? 8-)Regarding schizotypal, it sounds like this PD shares some symptoms with things like Asperger's or Autism. I realize there's a lot more to psychology than you can put in a blog, but how do you discern between all the possible diagnosis? It seems like it must be quite a challenge.I'm really enjoying this series. I'd probably like to hear about PTSD next, but am looking forward to whatever you choose.


  5. Fascinating post! I love how you give us examples of characters in movies that we’re all familiar with. :)(Also interesting, are all the weirdoes I’ve met in my lifetime who, although don't quite meet the criteria for Schizotypal Personality Disorder, nevertheless come to mind! ;)I think you should blog next about whatever strikes your fancy – a ‘disorder’ which you find interesting; useful; things that people are likely to come across in RL or when creating characters. I don’t think that any blog readers would have a problem with you swinging back and forth between Axes! (you swinger, you!)


  6. Hi Jessica, I too loved the character of Ricky Fitts. His relationship with his neighbor girlfriend (her name is escaping me) seemed so jaded and realistic, and his father scared the crap out of me! We'll need to read each other's books and examine the psychology behind them someday. 🙂


  7. Robin, oh no–don't get caught up in med student syndrome, diagnosing yourself too readily! ;)You asked an excellent question. There IS overlap between these disorders and sometimes it's very complex to diagnose. What gets me is that insurance companies want a diagnosis after my first session with a client, so some of it is an educated guess until I can really get to know the client.Autism involves cognitive and social deficits, so it would be relatively easy to distinguish from Schizotypal, but Asperger's might be more difficult since both Asperger's and Schizotypal have social deficits. I'm not a child psychologist so I'm not as familiar with autism and asperger's–I'm guessing some experts out there could answer your question better. The personality disorders cannot be diagnosed until the individual is 18 years old. I know a little more about PTSD so that may be what I discuss next. Thanks! Jen


  8. Janine, I can't believe you found a way to call me a swinger in response to this blog post! *glares*Boy, we all have some weirdos in our lives and it's interesting to think of potential diagnoses. You raise a good point though–personality TRAITS don't necessarily mean there is a diagnosable disorder, even if we don't like those traits in others. A disorder means that there's a clinical syndrome causing significant distress. Some people like their oddness (myself included) 🙂


  9. Hm, which disorder do I prefer…I'll take any of the above. These posts are fasinating.It's a lot of information to take in, so your examples are very helpful for illustrating and differentiating the disorders. As soon as I saw the picture of Ricky, I was like \”Aha!\”


  10. Interesting post. My undergrad is in social work so I know just enough about these disorders to be dangerous.(: Anywho, FWIW, I really like how you break down these disorders for your readers. Providing examples from movie characters really helps. Now, I do have a question, but it will come at the end of this lengthy description. Please bare with me. I have a family member who, in the forty years I've known her, has never been wrong. Seriously, I cannot recall one time she has ever apologized for anything. Every argument or fight we've ever had, has been my fault. I took her to a political function where she met the governor. Later, he sent her an e-mail that said, \”Thank you for your interest in our state.\” She asked me what I thought about it. I explained that it was an election year and he was probably trying to rally all the financing he could get. She said, \”Brad owes me a dress, I told him you'd say that.\” I asked her if the Governor left his private cell, or asked her to contact him when she visited again. Her answer was \”No.\” I asked her what she thought it meant, and she told me that he wanted her. It is so difficult to deal with this person, that I have not spoken to her in three years. REally, every bad thing that ever happened to her was someone elses fault. If she did something wrong and was called on it, she justified and dismissed it. FWIW, she has since fallen out with another family member as well. Even though I had nothing to do with THEIR argument, I can't help but wonder if she'll try to blame it on me. She is also very controlling. I've heard her tell her husband that if he left her she'd take everything he had (which he stands to lose a lot of money if this happens). She has to be the center of attention at all times. About five years ago our families got together for New Years. We were having a great time, laughing, etc., she interupted the festivities to make an announcement. She said, \”Brad and I are getting a divorce.\” Her husband's eyes widened and he said, \”We are?\” Of course my brother asked her what she was thinking to make such a horrible announcement at such a time. She just laughed and polished off the rest of the bottle of champaign. This person is also very charming, intellegent and creative. Anyhow, I don't mean to dump all this, but I've often wondered if this person suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I know you can't give a diagnosis without meeting her, but based on the aformentioned behaviors I described, I just wondered if they fit the bill. If so, how does one effectively deal with a narcissist? Would they always have to be placated? Is there hope for a normal, healthy relationship based on mutual respect? I'd be interested to know. Have a merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.


  11. Hi Andrea, Wow! Aren't families fun? And holidays bring out the best in our family members. 😉 I just loaned the book \”When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People\” (isn't that a great title?) to one of my clients and maybe that would be some good reading for you too.It sounds like the woman you're discussing might have some narcissistic traits but I'm wondering if her behavior might be more in line with traits from Histrionic Personality Disorder. I debated covering that one instead of Schizotypal.From wikipedia: \”Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking, including an excessive need for approval and inappropriate seductiveness, usually beginning in early adulthood. These individuals are lively, dramatic, enthusiastic, and flirtatious.They may be inappropriately sexually provocative, express strong emotions with an impressionistic style, and be easily influenced by others. Associated features may include egocentrism, self-indulgence, continuous longing for appreciation, feelings that are easily hurt, and persistent manipulative behavior to achieve their own needs.\”When she thought the governor was coming on to her, that made me think of the overtly seductive behavior of HPD–perhaps she only knows how to interact with some individuals in a sexualized manner. And her behavior seems more attention-seeking than narcissistic to me.I want to be clear that I am NOT diagnosing this woman, merely discussing how different behaviors might align with different diagnoses. You obviously cannot control her but you can learn to control your reaction to her. I know that one of the biggest benefits from my own counseling was learning how to manage my reactions to others.Merry Christmas to you and here's to a great 2011!


  12. Yes! The behaviors associated with HPD were spot on. You are so right, I can't control other people, but I can control my response to them. Unfortunately, the aforementioned person knows exactly how to push my buttons. If she doesn't get a reaction one way, then she'll take a different approach. This is the reason I walked away. The relationship was too unhealthy. Although I wish things could be different, after I made the choice there was no turning back. About two years into our falling out, nostalgia hit and I sent her a card containing two sentences that wished her well. Her response was a scathing three page letter filled with accusations and insults. I never responded to the letter, but it was crystal clear she did not like being ignored. The only way we'll ever have a relationship is if I kissed up to her and took all the blame for walking away. She'll never change, and that means she'll always try to get a rise out of me. It's just not worth it. FWIW, the title of the book \”When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People,\” is brilliant. I'm heading over to Amazon to order two copies right now. One for me. The other will be a late Christmas present for the family member the person in question had a falling out with.(: Thanks for the helpful feedback. I really enjoyed your post. I look forward to reading more of them in the future. Have a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year.


  13. Egads, Andrea, I guess THAT will teach you to reach out. You're right, sometimes attempting to keep a relationship alive is just not worth it. I hope you find the book helpful! Thank you for the good wishes. Jen xx


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