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Environmental Causes of Schizotypal Personality Disorder

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The Environmental Causes of Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Schizotypal personality disorder (SPD), is considered by many as part of the schizophrenic spectrum. It is characterized by discomfort with other people, peculiar patterns of thinking and behavior, and eccentricity. These may take the form of cognitive or perceptual disturbances. Yet, unlike schizophrenia, these psychotic symptoms are not as fully developed as delusions or hallucinations but instead can be characterized as perceptual illusions. A person suffering from SPD might become extremely anxious in social situations, especially those involving strangers. Schizotypal patients also tend to be overly suspicious of others and are not prone to trust others or to relax in their presence.

Another characteristic of the disorder is that schizotypes are often odd and eccentric. They often harbor absurd superstitions such as a belief in ESP and many other psychic or paranormal phenomenons that are outside the boundaries of accepted thought. In some cases Schizotypes believe that they possess magical powers, such as the ability to control other people with their thoughts. (Buss 2002)

As a result of these symptoms, people diagnosed with SPD have great difficulty with social relationships, and are often alienated from mainstream society. This paper aims to investigate the suspected causes of this strange disorder, focusing on environmental and hereditary factors.

Some recent studies have found a correlation between the use of street drugs and instances of SPD. Researchers in New Zealand found that people who commonly used

cannabis were more than three times as likely to develop schizophrenia and or schizotypal disorder later in life. There have been 30 published research experiments linking cannabis to these disorders. The increase in this evidence during the past decade has been attributed to increases in the potency of marijuana. (Allebeck 1993)

Some street drugs are credited with not only increasing the risk of developing SPD, but actually in some cases have triggered the onset of the disorder. SPD and schizophrenia can some times be brought on by heavy use of hallucinogenic drugs, especially LSD; but it appears that a person has to have a predisposition towards developing SPD for this to occur. There is also some evidence suggesting that a person suffering from SPD but undergoing treatment can have a relapse episode by taking LSD. Methamphetamine and PCP are also known to mimic the symptoms of SBD, and can therefore bring about symptoms of the disorder without a previous diagnosis. (Allebeck)

Some other research has found that enriched educational, nutritional and social environments substantially lower the risk of developing SPD. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry reported that a low maternal body mass index late in pregnancy, small size at birth, a small placental size, and early childhood low body mass index were associated with an increased risk for developing schizophrenia observed in the Finnish population born between 1924 and 1933. The study reports that poor nutrition during gestation and early childhood reflected by these indicators may be related to the increase risk for the development of the illness. A causal relationship between small infant size and low body mass index in childhood and schizophrenic disorders has not yet been established. The correlation between nutritional status and increased risk for

developing a schizophrenic disorder is interesting for several reasons. If bad nutrition contributes to the development of the disease, improving nutritional intake during pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood would help decrease the incidence of disorder. Determining whether improved nutrition can influence the incidence of this disease is an important topic for further investigation. This study points out that poor nutrition, but not reduced calorie intake, is correlated with the increased risk for schizophrenia. (Wahlbeck)

Some studies indicate a positive correlation between urban and rural living conditions and differing rates of SPD and Schizophrenic disorders. A report by Danish researchers suggests that people who live in urban environments have an increased risk of developing these types of disorders. The study found that individuals who spent their first 15 years of life in a highly urban area were nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with SPD and Schizophrenia, compared to people who grew up in rural environments. While a family history is the greatest risk factor for the disorder, people with no family history of the disease can develop it, therefore indicating that environmental factors may play a role. "In general, the more years lived in the higher the degree of urbanization, the greater the risk of schizophrenia,'' Drs. Carsten Bocker Pedersen



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