Schizotypy – Just Very Slightly Mad

This kettle is boiling over. I think I’m a banana tree.

About one percent of the population have schizophrenia. We’ve all bumped into them on occasion, talking to themselves in public with no regard to social conventions. And on seeing such a person you may think that there is something really wrong. True that. But you may also think, that guy is nothing like me. That, however, may be a mistake.

Because even though schizophrenia is thought of as a disease of the brain, there is a lot of research to suggest that it’s just the extreme end of normal personality traits. In Big Five terms, those traits would be Introversion, Neuroticism, Openness, and lack of Conscientiousness. Or in terms of the MBTI it would correspond to the INFP  personality type  -  the single most common type at Personality Café.

When a person with these traits show a resemblance to schizophrenia it’s called schizotypy. Typically people with this kind of personality have paranormal experiences, entertain conspiracy theories, are suspicious of others and have a peculiar and disorganized way of thinking.  To others, they come off as odd, but not pathologically so.

Research has confirmed that schizotypy is genetically linked to schizophrenia but how this should be interpreted is a matter of dispute. Some psychiatrists say this means that there is a set of personality traits that make a person vulnerable to the disease of schizophrenia, while others say schizophrenia itself is just the extreme end of normal personality traits and that there is nothing pathological about it. Because having problems and being confused is not necessarily the same as being ill.

Personally I agree with the idea that schizophrenia is just a matter of personality. But regardless of that, one thing is clear: the typical thoughts, ideas, and behaviors of a schizophrenic can be found in a large portion of the general population in the form of schizotypy. This is most likely because of the link between schizotypy and creativity that has been found in many studies.  Humanity needs creative people  like Einstein  and Mozart. And we all need some amount of creativity to solve everyday  problems. That’s why the gene variants that contribute to schizotypy and schizophrenia have not been weeded out.

So remember the next time you see some guy rambling to himself on the side walk: you may have more in common with him than you think.  And when you think about it, he is not a burden to society – he is the guy who is carrying the burden for the rest of us. He is the guy who makes the Einsteins and the Mozarts of this world possible.

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4 Responses to Schizotypy – Just Very Slightly Mad

  1. how to grow a banana tree from a seed…

    [...]Schizotypy – Just Very Slightly Mad « Staffan's Personality Blog[...]…

  2. Sisyphean says:

    Interesting. As a visual artist and writer with schizophrenia in my family, I must say I find this article interesting. From a very young age others have thought I was very odd and for a long time I thought they were just being mean, I assumed everyone else also had wild imaginative conversations with their toys, sculpted hundreds of tiny clay men to stage massive battles, and drew aliens and fantasy creatures in their spare time. It took a while for me to understand that I was very different, especially when I got older and my friends lost a lot of their creativity where I did not… I still think and play and draw as I once did (I wonder if it’s linked to neoteny at all) I am also INFP in myers briggs and way high on the openness to experience but my neuroticism is pretty low. I am a very relaxed person, can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked if I’m on weed though I’ve never actually had it (nor any illicit substance, I do drink occasionally but not to excess). I’ve long had the suspicion that my traits are likely on the scitzotypal spectrum as my mentally ill uncle and I have a great deal in common (He was my favorite uncle as a child).

    • Staffan says:

      It’s probably linked to neoteny since children or young animals explore the world but adults less so. And Openness, and probably Jungian intuition too, declines with age.

      It would be a shame if these traits disappeared through screening embryos or something like that. The world needs grasshoppers, not just ants.

      • Sisyphean says:

        Yes! I often use this exact story and turn it on its head, asking why the ant can’t provide the grasshopper with some sustenance in order for the grasshopper to bring him joy during the many cold winter nights. This is what artists, singers and writers have done for centuries: entertain. We have to eat too though. My feeling is that we are an important part of the human social equation, functioning as social glue among other things. A lot of my work focuses on how humanity is different but that difference is not necessarily bad or good. Like many things, it is what you make of it.

        Also a side note about schitzotypals. INFP might be common, especially among women but for men like myself it is rare. I meet a lot of artists (most of whom are women these days, except for photography where it’s closer to 50/50) but I meet very few people who exhibit ideaphoria consistently. There is the drive to create which is one thing and then there is the ability to constantly recombine your mind in random and interesting ways leading to idea after idea after idea. In my experience seldom do the two exist in one person but when they do watch out!

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