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Schizotypy is a concept that regards the field of mental illness often associated with schizophrenia as a continuum rather than a binary possibility. Instead of considering whether someone is schizophrenic or not, this concept allows for varying degrees of schizophrenic behavior and thought. Someone on the low end of the scale may live a normal life without any type of schizophrenic breakdown or other dramatic psychological event, while someone at the high end of the scale is more likely to be impacted in a serious way by schizophrenia. Schizotypy is typically seen as a way to evaluate the potential for schizophrenia in a person, rather than viewing schizophrenia as something someone does or does not have.
In general, schizotypy is seen as an alternative view of schizophrenia and the way in which the mental health of a person can be analyzed. The standard view of schizophrenia holds that someone either is schizophrenic or is not, and then allows treatment for those who are schizophrenic. Schizotypy, instead, is an assertion that many people exist on a continuum of potential schizophrenic behavior, but that it does not necessarily ever have an impact on the lives of those people.
The assertion, therefore, of schizotypy is that schizophrenia is a possibility and that someone can exhibit behavior or symptoms of schizophrenia without ever having a schizophrenic episode. There are a number of different tests that have been devised to evaluate where someone may exist on the scale of schizotypy. Someone at the low end of the scale may never experience any pronounced schizophrenia, while someone at the high end is more likely to have a schizophrenic episode when triggered by a stimulus such as stress or drugs. Tests are used to analyze four major aspects of schizophrenia and to use these aspects to establish where someone may exist on the schizotypal scale.
One of the aspects used in analyzing where someone may exist in the continuum of schizotypy is a consideration of unusual experiences a person may have. These usually consist of unusual perceptions or attitudes a person may have, such as hallucinations or notably strong beliefs in the supernatural. Someone will also typically be analyzed for cognitive disorganization, which means that the person has difficulty organizing and expressing his or her thoughts.
The tests used in evaluating schizotypy will also typically evaluate how introverted a person is and evaluate any anhedonia a person may experience. Anhedonia is an inability to feel pleasure through experiences and activities that are typically pleasurable, such as eating, attending parties with friends, or engaging in healthy sexual practices. The final aspect of schizophrenic behavior that is considered is the tendency for a person to demonstrate nonconformity in an impulsive or unstable manner. Some of these aspects are associated with positive behavior, including connections between mild cognitive disorganization and creativity, but this would typically indicate that someone is merely on the low end of the schizotypal scale.