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The schizophrenia spectrum is a term used to group together several mental disorders that have shared features. This particular spectrum is a little confusing because it includes disorders that are considered psychotic, mood disorders, and diagnoses that are principally considered to be personality disorders. There is often a vast difference between the aspects of a personality disorder and psychosis, but the common thinking in this area is that all these conditions belong within the same group due to their commonalities.
There are a number of illnesses that are part of the spectrum, and naturally, schizophrenia is included in this list. So is schizoaffective disorder and schizophreniform disorder. The major personality disorders added to this are schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders. Some diagnoses like delusional disorder may be classified in more than one way.
The term schizophrenia is not just a single diagnosis, and people may express this disorder in many ways. They can be virtually devoid of emotion, with little or no interest in surroundings and no engagement with others. Alternately, many people suffer delusional thinking and a number of people have hallucinations. It’s possible to view all of the manifestations of schizophrenia as a spectrum within the schizophrenia spectrum. There are many potential ways this disease can be expressed, but they are typically fairly obvious if the disease is moderate to severe.
A related medical condition is schizoaffective disorder, which often has features of delusions or hallucinations in addition to severe swings in mood. It’s been called bipolar disorder plus schizophrenia. For both of these illnesses on the schizophrenia spectrum, common treatment is antipsychotic therapy and mood stabilization therapy for the schizoaffective. Another disease that may benefit from brief antipsychotic therapy is schizophreniform disorder, which tends to occur in short episodes instead of lasting like regular schizophrenia does.
Personality disorders included in the schizophrenia spectrum are schizotypal and schizoid personalities. Of these, only the schizotypal might regularly get treatment, while the schizoid personality can be functional, thought better served with therapy. Schizotypal illness is characterized by few social relations, bizarre behaviors, beliefs or thinking patterns, and difficulty fitting in. People with this condition usually seem different than the rest of society. The schizoid personality tends to be lacking in emotion, but can be highly functional. Difficulties tend to arise for this person if he or she is in a relationship with others, as dissatisfactions about ability for such a person to connect arise.
People with personality disorders are more often treated with psychotherapy than medications. Successful therapy can take significant time due to the entrenched belief systems or lack of affect in these clients. It might take many years for people to learn how to live with and compensate for a personality disorder.
Other illnesses like delusional disorder may be mild to severe. Degree to which these are curable depends on a variety of factors. Almost any condition on the schizophrenia spectrum is serious, and successful treatment is a complex matter that begins with accurate diagnosis.