Human beings have a strong need for order and a compulsion to categorize phenomena we encounter in the world. Binary thinking stems from an ancient tradition: success or failure, happy or sad, black or white, good or bad, introvert or extrovert. Yet, does anything ever exist in dichotomy? There is for example, always some good in bad and some bad in good; no one really falls neatly into the category of an introvert or an extrovert.
The concept of schizotypy represents a movement away from traditional categorical models of schizophrenia — and illness states more generally, in recognition that boundaries between normality and abnormality are not always clear, try as we may to parse the two terms into organized tiers.
Much like extraversion characterizes the upper extreme of the introversion-extraversion continuum, psychotic illness states are thought to mark the higher end of the schizotypy spectrum. Said differently, the symptoms which mark psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia may be present in varying degrees across the human population and be expressed in non-pathological thoughts and behaviors. The Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire is a useful and commonly used tool to assess one’s position on the schizotypy continuum, constituting yes-no response items such as “people sometimes find me aloof and distant” and “I am an odd, unusual person”.
So what does it mean to be a “high schizotype”? Being high on schizotypy is often treated as a pathological condition. Given that schizotypal signs tend to bear qualitative resemblance to symptoms of schizophrenia albeit quantitatively less severe, high schizotypes are considered to be putatively at risk for developing psychosis. However, there are several reasons not to despair — and perhaps even embrace — your unique traits of schizotypy.
If you are a high schizotype,
- You may bear the liability for developing schizophrenia… However, your fate is not “set in stone.” The majority of psychometrically-identified schizotypes do not go on to develop schizophrenia and often enjoy healthy and fulfilling lives.
- You may hold uncommon beliefs not shared by others… Nonetheless, these beliefs enhance your comprehension of yourself, others, and phenomena in the world, adding meaning to your life on the whole. High schizotypes do not experience a loss of contact with reality.
- Having different beliefs than others can feel isolating at times. You may tend to feel alienated from people, or alone even when you’re amidst a crowd… But this also means you value quality over quantity when it comes to relationships. You may struggle more than others to form close ties, but those that you do establish, you treasure and cherish.
- You may find it challenging to organize your thoughts at times…
Yet, it is precisely your tendency to draw unconventional associations between objects of thought that makes you creative, good at problem-solving, and gives you your great sense of humor.
- You may have a socially awkward approach to life and be viewed by others as odd or eccentric… It turns out that some quirkiness may be necessary for being a brilliant writer, composer, or inventor. Developments in our understanding of schizotypy have allowed for speculations on famous people of the past who may have been high schizotypes. While no official personality assessment records exist for these individuals, the list includes Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.
- You may be more easily stressed and experience more negative emotions than others… However, you have personally-enriching mental experiences, and thus both require and seek less stimulation from external sources to derive pleasure. Your rich internal experiences may also make you better at self-healing and introspection.