schizotypal or ASD?

I have been meaning to write about this one for a long time. Since as far back as when I first started this blog. It’s a topic I find rather complex and at the same time somewhat near to my heart since I now identify rather strongly both with ASD and schizotypal disorder. My original intention was to include as much actual research as I could. But I’ve had to admit that the whole research angle just isn’t going to happen with me. So it’s just going to be little old me speculating on the topic as best I can. There’s a good chance this is going to be a bit long and a little rambly, but I hope I’ll still be able to get something relatively useful out on the page.

Schizotypal disorder and autism spectrum disorders both cause social awkwardness and can in some cases seem very similar. I’ve encountered at least one other person with schizotypal disorder who was assessed for autism spectrum disorders before landing on schizotypal disorder. I was too. Although it needs to be said that it is entirely possible to have schizotypal disorder or schizophrenia without having any of the “autistic traits”. I’ll elaborate on what these traits might look like later in the post.

Before I was diagnosed with schizotypal disorder, I was assessed for autism spectrum disorders. After the assessment I was told that I did in fact cover the criteria for an ASD diagnosis. This was quite a revelation to me.

I’d never thought of myself as possibly autistic. Sure, I’ve always been socially awkward, keeping to my closest friends as much as possible and acting much the shy wallflower any time I found myself without my friends. But the problems I was having didn’t really feel like the problems an autistic person might deal with. They were “me” problems.  I was unfortunately influenced by the misconceptions about ASD and simply couldn’t connect my own experiences with what little I’ve seen of autistic people in movies and tv.

People with Asperger’s were “weird” – that’s to say, not my brand of weird. As a kid, I played just fine with other kids my age. Sure, I was a mostly solitary child, who preferred to sit inside and draw rather than play outside with the other kids. But that’s because I’m introverted. I have no problem keeping eye contact, I just sometimes find faces distracting when I’m talking or thinking. I can’t seem to follow schedules and find routine boring. I hate math, love metaphors and have an excellent sense of humor, thank you very much. And I don’t have what one could consider “a special interest”. In fact, I tend to skim over many different topics and enjoy many different hobbies without fully immersing into a single one. I thought for a long time that “a special interest” in a topic automatically made you an expert, knowing every possible little thing, able to recite facts as if you’ve memorized every last detail. Just goes to show how little I knew.

I’ve later learned that all these things were misconceptions perpetuated by media that simply didn’t understand autism at all. I, like many others, had almost all my knowledge from movies and tv shows. The autistic character is usually either the completely non-communicative child who sits there, rocking back and forth fixated on spinning wheels and throwing epic tantrums when disturbed, or it’s the savant who’s autism is more like a superpower. So, basically either Rainman or the kid in that one Bruce Willis movie I forgot the name of. And the rest are more or less variations of the same two tropes.

In truth, those are only two flawed examples of a whole spectrum. The vast majority are relatively “normal”. Their brains simply function a little differently from the norm. It’s natural they would have some difficulties. A bit like a left-handed person living in a world made for right-handed people. And just like left-handed people, there isn’t really just one type of autistic person. They’re all different with their own thoughts and feelings and personal interests.

Furthermore, there were other autistic traits I never knew existed, such as sensitivity to certain stimuli like textures, sounds, smells, visual stimuli such as strobing lights – which who in their right mind even enjoys all that obnoxious flashing anyway?! As it turns out, I do have some sensitivity to some stimuli. I’ve always had a strong preference for soft fabrics over course and scratchy. I detest the smell of cigarette smoke and I find both visual and auditory “noise” exhausting. But I’ve always considered these things as normal – and they generally are. We all have things we like and dislike. They don’t have to be indicative of a disorder or disability.

Special interests are often the hallmark of an autistic person. But to say they work like a kind of superpower, giving them superhuman awareness and mastery of a topic they take a special interest in, is plain ridiculous. It’s true savants exist, but they’re incredibly rare. Special interests are more of a thing that brings joy and relaxation to the autistic person – even facilitates human connection, giving a sort of framework through which one can communicate with others, much like a hobby. But unlike a mere hobby, it can also arrest one’s attention to the exclusion of everything else including bodily functions such as the need to eat and sleep, and can make it difficult to focus on anything else.

Being passionate about a topic doesn’t necessarily mean you know every little thing about it. Sometimes a special interest can even be an annoyance rather than a passion, a niggling detail that you just can’t help but focus on until it grows on you and you realize that it’s become a part of you and this is just your life now. Someone caught up in their special interest genuinely can’t keep themselves from thinking and talking about it, even when it bores the people around them to death, or when they need to focus on homework instead. And as long as it’s bringing joy and meaning to their lives, why would they want to focus on anything else? I don’t believe I have any special interests like that. More often than not, I’m not particularly interested in talking about my hobbies all that much. Unless someone gets me going on a topic I’m particularly passionate about, I’m happiest simply quietly engaging in my hobbies by myself. I do tend to focus a lot on one thing at a time until I get bored of it and start looking for something else to focus on. But I can put those things away when I need to. I use them mostly to fill the silence, so my head doesn’t start filling it with things I don’t want.

Another big feature of ASD is the meltdowns. I’m sure most of us have seen at least one video of a kid having a screaming, crying meltdown somewhere on the internet. It can look like an epic temper tantrum, or a big emotional breakdown. But it’s not. It’s not something they can fully control. It’s a bodily reaction to stress and/or over-stimulation. The specifics and severity can vary quite a bit and can sometimes depend on the situation. I don’t think I’ve ever had a meltdown like that. Although I’ve had situations where I felt overwhelmed and my mind would just shut down on me and I’d either disappear into my favorite books for days or do nothing but play solitaire for hours until I’m able to face the world again.

The last autistic well-known autistic trait I want to mention here is “stimming”. This can be rocking, fidgeting, rubbing your arms or legs, or other forms of movement with a repetitive nature. People stim for many reasons, typically during strong emotion, such as to get rid of excess energy when excited or to self-soothe when anxious. I’ve sometimes had periods where I’d do something like this. I’d bounce my leg when excited or anxious, at one point I had a little “delicious food dance” where I’d rock from side to side, sometimes I’ll tap my foot. When I was little I’d have this bedtime ritual were I had to rub a corner of my comforter all over my body before I went to sleep.

So, as it turns out, I was never aware of just how many autistic traits I actually do have. Besides the aforementioned examples, I learned at the age of 27 that I can’t actually take a hint. So many things just fly straight over my head and I never really noticed before. Later I asked my mom if she knew and she said: “Oh, yeah.” Like it was the most natural thing in the world! It apparently never occurred to her in all those years to, y’know, mention that to me. It would have been nice to know sometime during my teen years, when I felt like I was somehow stuck behind a glass wall that I couldn’t figure out how to get past, or later when I started wondering if maybe words didn’t mean the same thing to others as they did to me. Knowing my mother, she simply acknowledged this fact about me and quietly adjusted her own behavior to accommodate my ‘quirk’ without thinking too much about it. Unconditional love and acceptance can apparently have its downsides too.

Anyway, as I was saying, the social awkwardness of schizotypal disorder is very reminiscent of that of ASD’s. At least on the surface. It made me think that perhaps the two are somehow related. I’m certainly not the only one who’s noticed the similarities. I’m half-convinced that I was born with ASD which somehow evolved into schizotypal disorder as I grew older. Perhaps my aspie brain couldn’t cope with the strain of trying to live life as if I was normal, and the stress of it developed into a mental disorder? Although on the other hand, I don’t think people with ASD are necessarily more likely to develop STPD than anyone else. Both do have a genetic element, making each more likely to surface in some families, but I don’t think the actual genes involved are the same.

I’ve heard some people mention the possibility of autism and whatever causes schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like disorders belonging to the same broad spectrum, simply residing on opposite ends of the bell-curve. Sort of like this:

Human Spectrum Bell-Curve

Although in reality the colors would probably blur together a lot more.

So, the reason those who suggest the two reside on opposite ends of a spectrum give for the theory is that while both are characterized by social awkwardness, the underlying reason for the awkwardness appears to differ. Where those with ASD, roughly speaking, tend to be more oblivious whereas those with schizotypal disorder and paranoid thinking, in particular, tend to be more hyperaware of other people’s intentions to the point they over-interpret and basically assume the worst. In this regard, perhaps my brain works more like that of ASD than the schizotypal, so I don’t know that this is necessarily true. The truth is probably rather more complicated than what a neat, little model can fully explain.

While looking up the possible relationship between ASD and schizotypal disorder/schizophrenia, I found a research article that startled me quite badly. It was about how schizophrenics with autistic traits had a bleaker prognosis than those without autistic traits. I wish I’d saved the article as I never got to read the whole of it, nor can I remember where I found it. I was too busy going “oh, crap. I’m so screwed!” And have been a little leery of seeking out more articles like it.

Despite my initial scare, the interesting thing for me here is that autistic traits + schizotypal traits makes for a slightly more complicated progression compared to only having one or the other. This suggests to me that the two are different, but can sometimes overlap. Thankfully, it’s not as bad as I initially thought when I first saw that one article. At least in my own case.

In practice, rather than looking at it as an “either-or” situation, I consider myself as having both ASD and schizotypal disorder and try to make concessions in my life to accommodate both. I know for a fact that I struggle with social relations, that my hobbies sometimes take up a little too much time, and that stress causes my mental state to deteriorate. So, it’s basically about knowing my own vices and weaknesses and taking steps to compensate for them so I can live as normal and comfortable a life as possible. It’s not so much about putting myself in one box or the other. It’s taking the elements of each that match my own life and try to learn from them.

Stress management

I find that the most important thing when living with a mental disorder is stress management. Stress is something that can affect anyone working under too much strain for too long. The more strain we live under already the less we’re able to deal with unexpected events and emergencies. You might recognize when you’re having a bad day, your mood is already bad from the moment you drag yourself out of bed, and after that, every little thing that goes wrong just stacks up until you reach a point where you just want to give up on life, go home and bury yourself under your comforter for the rest of the day and possibly the next too.

Each little thing that goes wrong could be packed into a box and labeled as “a stressor” and each new box stacked on top of your mind represents the strain on your psyche. Balancing one box on top of your head is obviously a lot easier than balancing five or six. At one point or another, you will reach a point where even one more tiny box might send everything tumbling down over your head. Some people might naturally be able to balance more boxes than others, but we all have a breaking point.

My psychologist explained stress to me with a model similar to the the cute drawing above. I think the model was developed to help people with ASD and their families understand what causes meltdowns and how to manage their lives in a way that minimizes chances of such things occurring. But I think it’s an excellent model to explain stress and burnout as well. For us living with a mental disorder simply managing day to day life is already a strain and so it takes less boxes to push us to our breaking point. Luckily, we can make use of our symptoms to gauge where we’re at on the scale. Typically, symptoms worsen the more stressors we’re dealing with.

So, the first step in stress management is to sit down and try to identify the stressors in our lives. These are the things that drain our energy, that cause frustration, or put pressure on us. For instance, as an introvert social interaction tends to drain me, so I need to make time for myself to spend on my own in order to recharge. Even having to manage chores and deciding what to have for dinner can become draining when I’m already bogged down by other things. Another thing that puts a strain on me is uncertainty. Especially if I know there’s a chance something unpleasant is going to happen. When I worked for this grocery store delivering wares from storage and various providers to the two stores, I found I started to increasingly dread when we had to deliver to one of the stores in particular. Because there was a chance we would have to park the van on the opposite side of a busy road from the store and there was no crosswalk where we had to cross. I was always scared to death crossing the road, afraid of getting run over. The more times I had to deal with this unpleasant situation, the more I sought to avoid it until I stopped working for that company altogether.

One thing I was a little surprised to realize was that one of my favorite hobbies: gaming, actually contributed more to my stress. This is because games are typically goal-oriented and having to overcome challenges tends to encourage adrenaline production, which is very detrimental to getting your body to relax. I even had to quit playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons because the time-locked nature of the game stressed me out so much. I did not deal well with having to play the game on certain days in order to participate in events and gain items and recipes that I wanted for my island. Oftentimes, the events unfortunately often coincided with periods where I was too busy with other things to even think about spending hours playing Animal Crossing just so I could look for the recipes I wanted, which would appear at random – which was incredibly frustrating. Having to participate in combat is obviously also detrimental to getting your body to relax and most games tend to have some kind of combat element.

Rather, activities that are actually relaxing can be quiet, creative hobbies such as knitting, painting, or reading. Even just sitting on youtube just watching cute animal videos for a while is quite relaxing. Apparently, looking at cute fur-babies doing cute and funny things makes our brains produce the happy-relaxy juice.

A cute quokka to put a smile on your face.

Some might also find journal-writing quite relaxing with the added effect of putting your thoughts and emotions into words to help offload worries. Exercise is another thing that can help the body relax better and lower blood pressure. Obviously, doing the exercise itself might feel awful and straining, but it does help in the long run. One could even use the exercise as a way to channel anger and frustration in a healthy way. For an extrovert, something like going out to a dance club might be considered relaxing. But if so, one might consider holding back on the alcohol consumption.

Speaking of alcohol, certain foods and drinks might put more of a strain on your body, which in turn puts a strain on your psyche. For my own part, I have a couple of food intolerances which causes my intestines to protest quite painfully and often times even keeps me awake at night.

Sleep is another important thing to consider, which is quite a problem and a source of worry for an insomniac like myself. Stress management blends neatly into managing your sleep cycle as things that stress you out often contribute to terrible sleep, which in turn adds even more to your stress.

So, once you’ve identified the things that put a strain on you and the things you find pleasant and relaxing, the challenge comes in successfully balancing the two. You can’t simply remove all your stressors, but making the effort to reduce them will in turn reduce the time you need to dedicate to recharging. When you know what activities put a strain on you, you can take steps to plan some especially pleasant activities to balance things out when you know you have to do something particularly strenuous. Or when you have to deal with an unexpected stressor, taking steps to decompress afterward will help lessen the impact quite significantly.

Once you start to successfully manage your stress levels, your symptoms should also lessen. Perhaps even to a point medication is no longer necessary. Although your symptoms can return as soon as you’re put under more strain again, so you might have to make permanent concessions in your life in order to stay healthy and happy. Prioritizing is an absolute necessity.

For my part, there are jobs I’ve had to realize I can’t ever do as they’re simply too stressful. I’ve also had to change my diet quite a bit, of which the hardest part has been having to go without my favorite treats and snacks. In turn, I haven’t had to cut down on my gaming too much, which is nice.

On decency and dealing with an emergency

I had to call an ambulance for a complete stranger today.

I was at work when I heard drunken rambling. I couldn’t see the person and having the problems I do interacting with other human beings at the best of times, I did my best to ignore it and focus on my work. Then I was approached by a young girl of maybe 12 at the most, asking for help. She said there was a man who had collapsed on the ground and couldn’t get back up.

As an adult, there’s only one thing you can do, when a kid asks you for help. And that’s to put on your adult pants and deal with the situation. Even if you don’t want to. And I really, really didn’t want to. But I knew the guilt of doing nothing would eat me up. So, I went with her to see the man. He was conscious, if not entirely lucid. He was obviously drunk and lay on the ground where he’d fallen, unable to even sit up. I tried to ask him if he was hurt. He insisted he wasn’t, but he couldn’t get up and couldn’t quite get his legs to work right. I thought I saw what looked like blood seeping through his pants at one knee, but I couldn’t be sure. I didn’t want to be and figured it could just as well have been something he’d spilled on himself as he fell.

I did my best to at least get him up to sit, because he was lying awkwardly on his side. But he was big and heavy. Thankfully a woman, who looked to be some kind of social worker came over and between the two of us, we managed to get him to sit up, at least. He kept insisting that he just needed help getting back up onto his bench, but the woman suggested I should call an ambulance. I’d been considering it myself, but I was grateful for her saying it out loud. It might have taken me longer to get to it if she hadn’t. I stayed with the man until the paramedics arrived. Then, booked it. I thought about mentioning the wet patch I’d seen over one knee, but I figured the paramedics would do their job without my input.

This was actually my second time as an adult having to deal with finding a stranger collapsed in public. The first time, I witnessed a young woman suffering some kind of seizure just outside my local mall. I’d just gone out for takeout, that’s all. Then I saw her, just slowly sliding down to the ground as she started convulsing. I think she might have had to deal with it before, because she’d managed to put herself in the recovery position. But she was alone, and I was the first one there. I had absolutely no idea what to do. I think I tried to check on her, see if I could get a response or anything. She was unresponsive. I was lucky that the mall was full of people. I remember there was a woman, who appeared to be somewhat in shock. She kept repeating: “I don’t know what to do.” I didn’t have my phone on me, so I couldn’t call an ambulance. Luckily there was a man who did. I didn’t want to just stand there doing nothing, so I suggested the woman go fetch mall security, assuming they would have had some first aid training. As soon as there was someone there who appeared to know what they were doing, I was out of there.

I hated not knowing what to do. I hated feeling helpless. So, I half resolved to take some first aid class, just in case I got into a similar situation. I never did. That was a few years ago.

I don’t know if things had gone differently today if I’d taken a first aid class. I don’t think I’d have acted differently. I don’t think it would have affected me any different either. Seeing another person in distress, is very distressing in and of itself. Unfortunately, many people choose to look the other way. They don’t know how to deal with the situation and choose simply not to. I myself would be inclined to choose this option. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I shy away from any kind of responsibility. I still manage to “man up” when necessary, but as long as I don’t deem it necessary, I’m happier to run away. See no evil, hear no evil and all that. No need to play hero when there’s no need to.

Regardless of what I choose to do about the situation though, once I see what I’d rather not, I can’t un-see it. It sticks with me regardless of what I do. I take everything to heart and it’s better to be able to tell myself: I did everything I could, given the situation. Rather than have to beat myself up over what I did or didn’t do.

As I sat waiting for the ambulance, I had to interact with the old man. He was in such a sorry state. Filthy from lying in the mud and disheveled. To put it bluntly, he looked like a bum. He even called himself a bum at one point. He was wearing a hospital shirt underneath his jacket and told me he’d been hospitalized more than once. He said it was no use, that they couldn’t do anything for him. He said they couldn’t give him what he wanted. I didn’t ask what it was he wanted. I didn’t really want to know. He said he was all alone. No parents. He’d been waiting for a man to deliver his medication. But he didn’t want to sit alone in his messy apartment. So he’d come to the bench to sit and had himself some beer. “To make myself feel a little better”, he said. He tried to light a cigarette, but he could barely move his hands properly and misjudged the distance between the lighter and the end of his cigarette. And the wind kept blowing the flame out. So I helped him light it by shielding the flame and guiding his hands. His hands and arms were so stiff. He asked if I could just light it for him, but I told him I couldn’t. I assume he meant by putting the cigarette to my own mouth, which wasn’t going to happen with the pandemic and besides, I hate cigarette smoke. Eventually though, we got it lit.

It was such a short exchange. But so absolutely heartbreaking. I’d like to think that I acted with compassion and did some good for the poor guy. He was just so lonely and hurting. I still feel like I should have been able to do more somehow. I still feel bad for running for the hills the moment the paramedics arrived. I excuse myself by telling myself I had work to do. But in truth, I just couldn’t bring myself to do more than I’d already done.

Experiences like these tend to stay with you. Especially if you’re the sort to agonize over everything. It got me thinking about what I could do to help alleviate some of the agonizing. Being able to tell myself I did a decent thing, that I was brave enough to face an awful situation and treat an old man with a bit of compassion and dignity helps a great deal. Giving myself some time to recover and just process things probably helps too. I considered making myself a relaxing cup of tea. Which would probably have been a whole lot better than cramming as much sugary goodness into my mouth the minute I got home. Turning to sweets is almost as unhealthy as turning to alcohol to cope. Next time, I’ll make an effort to make myself turn to tea instead. A nice cup of tea and some quiet relaxation.

I did want to make a point with this post, besides simply sharing an experience that weighs heavily on my mind. It is that if and when you find yourself in a stressful and unwanted position where another person needs your help, it doesn’t have to be a choice between compassion and self-preservation. But whatever you do, it is important to take the time to take care of yourself after the fact and acknowledge when you find yourself out of your depth. As long as you make sure to take care of your own needs, it’s possible to extend your limit as necessary – but only for a short time.

And you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be super to be a hero, you don’t even have to be a hero to be a decent human being.


One of the hallmarks of STPD seems to be eccentricity. Odd thinking, speaking, strange appearance etc. So I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. How do I and others with STPD stand out in a crowd? Honestly, I can’t really tell myself.

Let’s start with an easy one. Clothing. I wear jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, and comfy sweaters. Easy, comfortable and pretty anonymous. I wear mostly black or muted colors in earthy tones. I do have one bright pink hoodie, which was a gift and which I wear because it’s comfy like you wouldn’t believe! So, anyway far as I can tell, I dress normal. The weirdest piece of clothing I own is a super-soft gray bunny hoodie with floppy ears on the hood, which I do wear outside on occasion and people seem to find it adorable. And it’s warm and comfy like you wouldn’t believe.

Others with STPD I’ve seen also looked perfectly normal to me. The one person that stood out the most to me appearance-wise was one girl who had a bit of a punk-rock style going which wasn’t really a stand-out in Copenhagen. And besides, clothing styles belonging to identifiable subcultures such as goth and punk-rock tend to be excluded from the eccentric clothing criteria in STPD. All in all, we basically looked like average college kids.

So where does the whole dressing strangely even come from? Is it even relevant in this day and age? Surely I can’t have been the only one to think: “How can I have STPD? I don’t look like I have STPD”. But maybe clothes are just an easy thing to focus on. I think the odd clothing style is but one of many ways the schizotypal brain can express its uniqueness. We wear certain clothing for many different reasons. We wear what we feel comfortable in and what we like, what makes us happy, and we use it to express how we want the world to see us.

I wear what I wear chiefly because it’s comfy and secondly because it’s fairly anonymous and so I’m not likely to stand out in a crowd. I don’t like to stand out. It makes me nervous when people notice me. But the thing about clothing is, whatever you wear can stand out depending on the environment you’re in. A bright pink hoodie isn’t likely to stand out too much on a shopping trip, but it surely is at a funeral. A nice suit and tie is generally associated with giving off a good impression most places, but it might not be the thing to wear walking down a shady neighborhood at night. Knowing what to wear when can be a bit difficult to keep in mind, especially when your mind’s already so cluttered. So it might be we either spend too little or too much time on our clothing choices. But so what?

One thing I like to do when looking at the criteria for STPD is not only to ask: is this thing present in my life? but also: is it a problem? If it’s not a problem, then it’s not worth paying attention to. The way I dress is not a problem, so it doesn’t matter. If, on the other hand I looked so alien that people actively avoided me or I continuously found myself in trouble because of what I wear, then it’s worth paying attention to. As mentioned, we can dress to express ourselves, but even when we don’t do so consciously, people around us are likely to judge us based on our appearance. Someone who’s tattooed all over their face isn’t likely to land a job as a salesperson or receptionist. So, if there’s a chance your clothing style or overall appearance communicates something other than what you want and creates problems for you or holds you back, then it’s worth paying attention to. Otherwise, feel free to express yourself as you want and wear what you feel comfortable in. Luckily, in this day and age you have to go pretty far out clothing-wise to really seem too alien.

So anyway, what is it about STPD that we tend to stand out as eccentrics? Although I think you can certainly be eccentric and not have STPD and have STPD and seem pretty normal on the outside. I think there might be a quality in the way we think or how our brain works that makes us more susceptible to developing STPD. I read somewhere and I unfortunately forgot where, that there was some research evidence linking the Big Five personality trait ‘Openness’ with Schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like disorders like STPD. It made me think of that thing some skeptics like to say: “Being open-minded is fine, but you don’t want to be so open that your brain falls out”. I wonder if that’s kind of what happens? That we’re so open to new experiences that we kind of lose ourselves?

When talking about Autism Spectrum Disorders people on the spectrum themselves like to point out that they aren’t wrong or broken. They’re just wired differently. They don’t need to be fixed, they just need to be heard and accepted as they are. They’re “not neurotypical” or “neurodivergent”. I think this is true in many ways for people with STPD. We certainly do have problems that we need help treating. I’m certainly not denying that! But I think we also tend to pathologize what’s simply different even when it’s not really causing significant problems. After all, sometimes it’s just easier to cut down the tree rather than build the road around it.

The very idea of pathologizing simple eccentricity does seems strange to me. We don’t typically go to our doctors because we’re “weird” or “different”. We go because the noise inside our heads is so loud we can’t sleep, can’t hear ourselves think or focus or fully follow what’s going on around us. We go because trying to keep up with the rest of the world is stressing us out, wearing us down and making our brains go haywire with all the warning and stop signals it can throw at us until we actually stop and listen to our own bodies, and finally pay attention to our needs. And sometimes our loved ones make us go because we’re alienating ourselves and everyone around us. It’s not simply because we’re strange. It’s because the strangeness goes so far that it creates problems in our lives that we need to address. Being eccentric in and of itself is rarely ever the problem.

Weird, odd, strange, eccentric, different. Those aren’t necessarily bad things. They can bring color and variety to our lives, broaden our horizons, open up new paths we never imagined. Strange isn’t always easy for sure, but it’s not impossible to live with. It’s when strangeness goes too far, becomes utterly unrecognizable, isolating and makes creating meaningful connections difficult or impossible. That’s when it needs to be addressed.

Interview with Clint Sabom and My Thoughts on Magical Thinking

So I just had an interesting interview with Clint Sabom for his podcast Sanity Sessions. And it kind of rekindled my passion for this blog. I’d lost some interest after I was introduced to r/schizotypal, since I could connect with other schizotypals more directly and there are so many amazing threads to read and discussions to join too! And since I landed a full-time job in November, I’ve also been too busy getting into that to really just sit down and write. I think I’ll try to actively make time for it now though. Because my talk with Clint reminded me that I have so much more about STPD that I want to share and talk about. More than what I’ve covered so far in this blog and even more than we managed to cover in that one interview. And well, I think text really is more my medium, which I’m sure you’ll be able to hear if you listen to the podcast.

So one thing we talked a bit about, and I’m not sure if it made it into the interview because we did talk quite a bit before and especially after, was Magical Thinking. I did talk some about Odd Thinking, which I might revisit because it feels a bit messy and rambling, to be honest. But I never quite touched on actual Magical Thinking. I guess I’ve been kind of ignoring that one a bit because to be frank, I find it kind of insulting that’s somehow a criteria for STPD.

My thoughts are entirely rational to me regardless of how they sound to you. I tend to arrive at my conclusions after careful consideration and the very idea that someone can just dismiss those out of hand as hocus pocus is genuinely upsetting to me. And here’s the thing about magical thinking: It’s extremely common and for the most part harmless or even beneficial. An example of culturally accepted magical thinking would be religion. And if you’re a religious person, I’m quite certain you’d be quite offended by my assertion and that’s kind of my point.

For the most part, magical thinking is little more than minor idiosyncrasies. Just take a look around a casino and look at all the little things gamblers do to “improve” their luck. They rub or blow on the dice, make sure to wear their lucky shoes and the list goes on.

We tend to do these things, I think, because the brain loves patterns. It’s constantly looking for cause and effect: which kind of behavior is rewarded and which is punished. When we get a reward, we immediately look at our behavior leading up to getting the reward and naturally conclude that it was that behavior that triggered the reward. Even if the reward was given by pure chance. It can take quite a while to unlearn this notion even after we discover that doing the behavior again doesn’t produce the outcome we want. It’s even worse if the reward is given sporadically, so we pay more attention to the times our behavior worked than when it failed.

People aren’t really equipped to fully understand random chance and maybe that’s just as well. It’s actually a terrifying thought. Things happen to you that are entirely out of your control. Both good and bad. We like control, because it makes us feel safe. Lack of control is incredibly scary. Anything could happen and you’d be helpless. If I focused entirely on all the terrible things that could potentially happen to me every time I step out of my door, I’d never make it over the threshold. The good news is we can generally influence our chances of getting one outcome over another. We lock our doors to deter break-ins. It doesn’t completely prevent break-ins, but it does reduce the chance. And someone buying a lottery ticket has a much higher chance of winning the big bucks than someone who didn’t purchase a lottery ticket.

In some way, the function of magical thinking can help us determine what behavior is more likely to get us the good stuff and avoid the bad stuff. And coming back to religion, the idea that no matter how bad things get in this life that as long as you live your life well, you’ll for sure be rewarded in the next life is a great comfort, an excellent motivator and helps us keep a positive attitude even when facing adversity.

The point where magical thinking becomes an actual problem is when it starts to take over your life. Perhaps you get so obsessed over finding the one lucky whatever that you end up with a gambling addiction for example. Or another example I know for sure I never got around to mention in the interview was OCD. Obsessive compulsions typically come from some form of magical thinking paired with fear or anxiety. “I HAVE to do this thing in this specific manner, otherwise something terrible is going to happen”. And this is an incredibly painful trap to be caught in. You’re compelled to do something out of fear and the only way to break out of the circle of compulsive behavior that I know of, is to challenge it. You have to face your fear and not give in to the compulsion in order to prove to yourself that your fear is unfounded. This runs the risk of proving your fear correct, because there’s always a chance something terrible can happen even when we take all the right precautions. Facing that fear and not letting it take over your life is an amazing feat. Maybe you should feel just a little bit proud of yourself every time you step out of your door to face the world. Because anything could happen.

Update: I neglected to share the link to the podcast episode, since it wasn’t published at the time of posting this blog post and then I completely forgot about it. Here’s the link to the podcast: The Sanity Sessions: Exploring Mental Illness And Maladaptations Episode 10: Living With Schizotypal Personality Disorder


Growing up, I had two passions: Drawing and reading. Once I grew out of wanting to be Superman when I grew up, I wanted to be either an artist or a writer. To this day, I still want to be an artist or a writer. Depression put a serious wrench in my artistic aspirations however and after about 7 years slugging through university with little more than a useless bachelor’s degree to show for it, I had to finally acknowledge my reading problems.

Again and again I would force myself to sit down and read a text and while I understood each individual word, by the end of the page, I had no idea of what I’d just read. I could still read novels okay and follow the story as long as it was simple enough. No Dosteyevskij or even George R.R. Martin for me, unfortunately. My psychology textbooks and academic articles? They may as well have been written in German for all the good they’ve done me. I’m amazed I managed to make it as far as I did.

Some information would make it through my brain soup and stick around for a while, but then some new information would come along and knock the old right back out again. I had the bizarre experience of re-taking an exam and pulling the exact same topic from the first exam. An article on language learning and Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas.  A couple questions I answered correctly the first time around, I couldn’t remember the second time, but I answered other questions correctly the second time around. Luckily for me, I passed the second time. I was just happy I wouldn’t have to re-visit the article from hell a third time.

Even something as supposedly simple as job applications can be hard for me to work through sometimes. Going through dozens of them in a day to find just one or two that sound promising? That is seriously taxing work. More than once, I received a call from a workplace I couldn’t even remember from all the applications I’d sent. Makes for a pretty lousy job interview when you can’t even remember what job you’re applying for.

Other times, I’d apply for a job only to later realize they were located about half-way across the island if not at the exact opposite end. Some people can commute two hours back and forth to work. I can’t. Two hours of public transit in the middle of rush hour? Yeah, no.

It was something of a revelation to find out others with schizotypal disorder had similar problems with reading. I’m still not entirely sure if it’s a schizotypal thing in particular or more of a general effect of long-term stress. I might try to look that up sometime.

A part of me still refuses to acknowledge that I can’t actually read anything more complex than the equivalent of a Harlequin novel. I was the born academic. I’ve always loved reading and learning. What good is an intellectual who can’t even read? About as much good as a boat made of Swiss cheese, that’s what. So I still routinely expend and exhaust myself trying to slug through all the reading and writing I can manage. It’s still almost entirely simple romance novels and roleplay posts, but I like to think I’m slowly working my way up to something more substantial. Maybe I’ll even eventually find a good use for all the light novels and roleplays I’ve devoured.

Anyway, this whole post came from trying for months to stable together something more academically grounded for this blog. I’ve been ruminating over one topic in particular: The relationship between Asperger’s and Schizotypal disorder, or the differences and similarities between the two. But I wanted to study up on what kind of research has been actually been published on the topic. As you might have guessed from this whole post, it’s not going so great for me.


Medication against mental illness has always been an iffy topic full of taboo. Many believe we are being over-medicated, that mental illness should be treated mentally through therapy and not physically through medication, and so on and so forth. I tend to fall more towards the “no medication” than the “yes medication” end of the discussion. But I also think it is unwise to refuse medication entirely. I realize that my feelings on the matter are just feelings, not actual facts, and ultimately irrational.

I’ve never been a fan of antidepressants and am even less inclined to like antipsychotics. A big part of it is an irrational fear that the drugs will turn me into a completely different person somehow. Like the drugs will make me think and feel different than I normally do. But you could also say that my disorder makes me think and feel differently than I normally would. When you’re sick for so long, it can be difficult to discern where you end and the illness or disorder begins. Am I me or am I just the drugs?

Another big part of my reluctance to take any medication is, I’m embarrassed to take them. Especially when I visit my dad on the weekends. I don’t want him to see me take any pills. It’s a stupid, stupid reason not to take medication, I know. Even so, when I was on antidepressants, I often found myself “forgetting” to bring the pills or forgetting to take them when I did bring them. When I finally took them, I’d always covertly swallow them while no one was looking.

Because of my own stance on medication and the fact my symptoms have always been relatively mild as far as I can tell, my experience with medication is very limited. I’ve been on mild antidepressants twice in my life. Both times I abruptly stopped taking the medication. I’ve never been on antipsychotics. Why would I want antipsychotics when I’m not psychotic? Although, perhaps the classification is a little misleading. Perhaps it’s more helpful to think of them as thought-regulating medication? On second thought, that might actually be worse… It’s silly to get hung up on names and specification, I know but what can you do? My brain’s just full of excuses.

I’ve heard some medication can help with excessive thoughts. I considered something like that, but my thoughts feel more slow and rusty than excessive and I was afraid the medication would somehow slow my thinking to a crawl or even stop completely. I should probably have talked more about this with my psychologist at OPUS. Probably he would have been able to clarify what sort of medication does what and what might be a better fit for me. But I didn’t.

My biggest hang-up against psychopharmacology is perhaps the side effects. Sometimes, the side effects of some medication can be quite severe and it can feel a bit like cutting off a leg to save the arm. It’s a different kind of debility but still one way or the other, you’re still not whole. There are other medications you can take to treat some of the worse side effects, which is good. But at the end of the day, it’s just more pills to take and that can get a little exhausting just to think about.

The first time I took antidepressants, I was 18 and living at home in Nuuk, Greenland. I was diagnosed with mild depression and a visiting psychiatrist (meaning he worked there for a short time before returning to Denmark) prescribed me with Citalopram, I believe. It worked great for a couple of months. Then it stopped working. So I stopped taking them. I didn’t like my psychologist at the time either and when she failed to make a new appointment one session, I simply stopped coming. Instead of ineffective medication and useless psychologists, I decided to treat my own depression by making a point of exaggerating the enjoyment of the few things I still enjoyed. It worked well enough for a while. Focusing on the good things in life is helpful short-term, but if you don’t treat whatever’s making you miserable, eventually all those bottled up emotions are going to come crashing down. It may take years, but it’ll happen sooner or later.

The second time, I started taking basically the same drug, but a different brand because I felt mildly depressed while I was at OPUS and I had a lot of trouble sleeping. This time, I felt no difference at all from the drug after taking it for about a month. Rather, I suffered the unfortunate but very common side effect of being unable to orgasm or taking ages and ages to get there, without the actual intended benefit of the drug. And so, when I forgot to pick up my new prescription just before Christmas the year before last, I simply stopped taking the pills when I ran out. This turned out to be a very reckless move. As it turns out, going cold turkey on antidepressants can have some pretty uncomfortable side effects. Like dizzy spells. At first I thought it was simply lack of sleep that caused the dizziness, but after talking to my psychologist, I realized it was probably the drug. Thankfully, I didn’t suffer any worse side effects and the dizzy spells disappeared on their own.

I’ve heard a few other horror stories about medication, like the schizophrenic patient who spent her time drugged into a stupor and her medication messed with her hormones making her obese and grow unsightly facial hair that she hated so much she would escape into another world where she wasn’t sick and had a successful life with a career and family. Sometimes, I dream about being able to just park my body in some institution and disappear into my own head and live in my own dream world where everything is exactly how I want it. I feel like I’d be happier that way. But I’m much too proud to allow myself to live out my days like some institutionalized drugged-out potato.

So, do I believe psychopharmacology’s all bad and should be avoided at all costs? No. I do believe drugs can be helpful, even necessary. For all the horror stories, there are many more happy stories where drugs bring relief from internal torment and allow for a relatively normal life. I know someone who takes medication for her anxiety and it relieved her of the terrible stomach pains she suffered from due to the anxiety. I know of a family friend who takes antidepressants because he simply can’t function without them. I don’t think medication is the ultimate solution, but it can bring relief where it’s needed. Recognizing that need is an important step towards recovery.

If your own brain torments you so badly you can’t be in your own skin, if your anxiety is so bad it causes physical pain and leaves you trapped in your own head, if you feel so awful death seems the only escape? Then perhaps trading off happy-fun times with your favorite sex toy doesn’t feel like such a bad deal. And perhaps it won’t have to be for the rest of your life, but just until you’re in a better place overall. The important thing is, you get to a point where you can live well.

Over-inflated Regret

I don’t know if anyone else has this experience, but I am frequently haunted by my own perceived mistakes. Not only actual, real mistakes, but stupid mistakes too; like mistaking a duck for another bird or a minor misunderstanding in an otherwise perfectly innocent conversation. Even forgetting a timed quest in a game cab just about ruin my day. It’s supremely annoying to say the least. It can also be downright crippling. It can be hard to initiate a conversation or go out and do something – anything, when there’s a good chance I’ll sorely regret it and end my day buried under my comforter wishing I never left.


I haven’t found any good sure-fire way to work around this other than try to practice patience, forgiveness and live in the here and now as much as possible. I know logically that my reaction is disproportionate to what’s actually happening but I can’t control my feelings. Eventually, I forget most things, but there’s always some that linger and pile up over time. On my worst days, they become suffocating. Each and every memory becoming a mental hammer to beat myself down with. It leaves me feeling like the next time I go out and make a “mistake” it’ll be like the straw that breaks the camel’s back so to speak. It also makes it very hard to feel motivated to venture out of my comfort zone at all.


It’s about as difficult to explain to others as it is to avoid. Failure to make myself understood absolutely will and often does trigger the mental wrecking ball of regret. Talking about it even now, I feel like I’m exaggerating and that it’s just an excuse to stay home, do nothing and feel sorry for myself. Phrases like “suck it up, Buttercup” and “put on your big girl pants” come to mind. And yet, attempts to arbitrarily push myself to ignore my emotional state only pushes me straight into depression. On the other hand, I can’t very well spend my life cocooned in my own bedroom. I’d not only bore myself to death, but also guilt myself into depression.


Being stuck in a position where doing anything and doing nothing both leads to unhappiness is really uncomfortable. I end up choosing one or the other more or less at random depending on how optimistic and impulsive I’m feeling in any given moment and just hope for the best.


I’ve a sense that doing something is generally better than doing nothing, but I don’t really feel it to be true enough to always keep me motivated. In the end, I fear I end up doing nothing more often than doing something and so my fear of doing anything is too rarely challenged. The only way I know of conquering fear is to challenge it. I just wish it didn’t feel so awful every single time.


inappropriate or constricted affect

What on earth does that even mean?

A quick Google search describes constricted affect as a restriction in the range or intensity of display of feelings. While inappropriate affect is the display of feelings inappropriate for the situation.

I’ve already talked some about the restriction in the range or intensity of display of feelings in Symptom: Emotionally Inexpressive.

Inappropriate affect however, I haven’t talked about at all. It’s fairly easy for me to find examples of this in my own life.

Two memories in particular stand out to me:

The first, I was younger than 15 at least. Maybe 13-14 or a couple years younger? I was in an indoor swimming pool with my dad, his girlfriend and my youngest half brother. I knew the girlfriend could swim. She would jump into the deep end and dog-paddle around. Then, suddenly she began calling for help while splashing around in the deep end of the pool. Maybe she had suffered a panic attack and forgotten how to swim. She wasn’t a very good swimmer to begin with. I didn’t understand any of this. All I saw was that this woman, who I knew could swim, was splashing around as if she didn’t and people were starting to look concerned. It was so funny to me, I couldn’t help but laugh. Being the one closest to her, I simply swam over and pushed her to the shallow end of the pool where she could reach the bottom and get out of the pool herself. Chuckling all the way. It was an indoor pool. Where was the danger? The harm? Of course, I was reprimanded by the attending life guard for laughing. She could have drowned! But she knew how to swim! I know now, that being able to swim is not the same as being unable to drown.

Looking back now, I can see how inappropriate my laughter was. But I still remember how absurd the whole situation was to me. The way she splashed around looked really funny. I just didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.

The second memory is somewhat similar. This one was in high school. The high school I attended had a proud history with not a single suicide among its students. This is significant, given the high suicide rate in Greenland. That record was broken when the school was hit with a suicide epidemic in my second or third year. 3 students killed themselves that year. Including one of my classmates.

After every suicide, the school would gather all the students and hold a memorial. 1 minute’s silence for the poor sod, every single time. By the third time, it went from horribly tragic to downright absurd. Students started asking each other: “Who’s next?” As if there was some invisible serial killer going around offing random people.

At the last memorial, I stood at the back, chuckling to myself. Laughing in the face of tragedy. This time I was well aware of how inappropriate that was. It was no laughing matter. But it still struck me as funny. 3 people, who’d suffered were dead by their own hands and all the rest of us could offer was a speech and a minute’s silence. It was so goddamn sad it was funny.

But yeah, laughing at a memorial is hardly appropriate behavior.

We tend to do odd things when we don’t know what to do. Some lash out and become violent. Others are paralyzed and overcome with their own inadequacies. Some, like me develop a warped sense of humor and laugh at tragedy.

Behavior that is inexplicable or inappropriate when looking from the outside, usually makes sense when seen from the inside. Our behavior, no matter how insane are bound by their own internal logic. Even if we can’t quite explain it, it makes sense to us. It feels natural. I couldn’t not laugh.

Reacting to horrible things by smiling or laughing isn’t actually as out there as it might sound. Laughter and smiles are mechanisms deeply ingrained in humans. They have a relaxing, calming effect. Even disarming. After all, people will like someone who’s smiling better than someone who’s frowning. It’s an excellent coping and defense mechanism. For example, we automatically laugh when we get tickled. I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly enjoy being tickled, even though it does feel good to laugh.

So, do I laugh at horrible things because I’m a horrible person who lacks empathy? I don’t think that’s the case at all. But it’s very easy to make that assumption. If tragedy makes you laugh, you’re assumed to be horrible, if comedy makes you cry, you’re assumed to be overly sensitive and if you get angry at nothing at all, you’re an excellent target for bullying.

So, I think inappropriate affect is an expression of a divide between what goes on on the inside and what goes on on the outside. Either due to the outside stuff being interpreted incorrectly inside your head, like putting 2 and 2 together and getting chicken pot pie, or because you’re reacting to something going on inside your mind that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the outside world. I find that spending too much time with your own thoughts tends to dull awareness of what’s actually going on around you. My point is, the inappropriate behavior has meaning and logic behind it. Just not meaning or logic that’s obvious when seen from the outside.

Sickness – reason or excuse?

One thing I tend to struggle with a lot is distinguishing between genuine need for rest and laziness. I’m constantly second-guessing myself whenever I decide to call in sick from work for instance, because there’s nothing physically wrong with me. I know I could technically go to work and get it done, although not as well and I’d be exhausted and utterly miserable. On top of that, I’d usually be looking forward to an even more miserable time the following day.

Eventually, if I kept pushing myself, I’d reach a point where I can’t make myself do anything at all. That’s surely not a healthy work ethic. I certainly don’t think it’s very constructive to push myself to the breaking point. But when is it okay to stop up and take a break? And how long should that break last? At which point does need for restitution become plain laziness?

I’ve been on a very long sick leave from job-hunting and even though I don’t at all feel ready to go back to that particularly unpleasant rat-race, I felt more or less forced to. It was either that, or stay in an internship I felt entirely unsuited for and found increasingly more stressful and confining.

I didn’t want to drag myself out of bed and either spent most of the day twiddling my thumbs, waiting for customers to service, a task I’ve always despised, even if it’s really just scanning in wares and accepting payment. Most of the time. That is when there was a bar to scan and it showed the right price. Then there was the greens. At the store I worked, we sold surplus goods, so the actual wares tended to wary and the greens varied a lot in type and quality. Often times, the prices could even change throughout the day, depending on quality, quantity and how well they sold. It was confusing and I hate that kind of uncertainty.

It’s the weirdest things that can wear you down. Simply standing around all day wears on the feet and back like you wouldn’t believe. Doing nothing at all tires and stresses and simply not knowing what to expect from a workday can, when you’re not the sort of person thrilled by surprises, really, really drain your energy levels.

Then, when you’re spending all your energy out at work, you come home to dinner that needs cooking, dishes, cleaning, laundry and all the wonderful elements of being a responsible adult. I consider myself very lucky I don’t have any children to look after on top of all that. Sometimes I wonder how anyone can manage all those things. My parents have both done a pretty decent job of it for decades. In my dad’s case all alone for most of my youngest little brother’s life.

For them, simply pulling yourself together and get the job done seems to do the trick. Most of the time anyways. But for myself, I find that approach absolutely miserable.

If I can make work and chores fun on the other hand, it’s so much easier to get done. And taking lots of breaks tends to make things much easier and more fun. Trouble is, breaks can take hours, even days. And then the work piles up to epic proportions, to the point where I’m exhausted just looking at it. To the point where I feel I need to take a break before I’ve even begun.

It’s so much easier, to sit down and disappear into my own, little world instead of with all the things I should, but really just don’t feel like.

It’s understandable that when you’re sick, you can’t do as much as when you’re healthy. But in my experience it’s maybe not so much a matter of whether you’re sick or not, but how sick. For longtime sickness, you tend to have good days and bad days. It’s not like the flu or a cold, where you’re sick and then get over it. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if it’s a good day before I get out of bed. Most mornings, I’m tired but otherwise feel okay. Most days the mood will generally hold throughout the day, other days, I can suffer a major panic attack right after breakfast or on the way out the door.

In reality, the panic attacks aren’t something that come straight out of the blue. None of my symptoms are. It’s usually a slow build-up where I feel maybe a bit stressed, a bit down, but otherwise okay. I think it’s better to alleviate some of the strain while it’s nothing but that. I just have a hard time figuring out a way to properly do that without taking the whole day off. And it feels so incredibly wrong to call in sick when I’m still more or less okay. It’s much easier to justify staying home, when I can barely get out of bed or the mere thought of stepping out the door sends me hyperventilating. It’s either one extreme or the other. Neither’s a good solution. Life shouldn’t be a choice between working yourself to death or be dismissed as lazy and selfish.

I started this post intending to write about whether or not I might be using my diagnosis as an excuse to work less and play more. Instead it became a bit of a rant about how much I dislike work. But they’re sort of connected. Work sucks, play’s fun. I’d much rather play than work.

So then, do I feel like crap because I’m actually sick, or because I’d really, really just rather stay home and play, and just can’t find any better excuse besides making myself sick? Or maybe do I dislike work so much I make myself sick to avoid it?

Thinking about it, it’s possible, isn’t it? When you’re sick, you get to stay in bed. Exactly what I most feel like doing most days. Then it feels more like a reward than a necessity. If you’re sick, you can’t be expected to work, which we’ve already established I’m not exactly a fan of.

Am I so lazy that I’m making myself sick just to have an excuse to laze about?