Have you ever felt judged because of something that you could not change, for a flaw that you did not ask for, a trait woven deeply in your personality, for something that is just you and is there to remain? It does not feel too great, does it? There are policies for racism, sexism, and assault, but what about for unfair treatment towards mental illnesses? The right to have medical records not disclosed to an employer is protected under HIPAA, but what if your mental disorder is already known or you have been outed? Being a member of the workforce is already stressful, but now you are made to feel unworthy, irresponsible and unreliable all because of something that you cannot change. Sure, every person’s experience is different, but for people living with Schizoid Personality Disorder (PD) and Schizotypal PD, experiences at the workplace can be even more challenging.
It is a common mistake to connect schizoid PD and schizotypal PD to schizophrenia. Although these disorders do present with overlapping symptoms, they are in fact different. Regardless, many people are not aware of that and automatically attach the stigmas of schizophrenia to schizoid PD and schizotypal PD. For example, “schizo” a slang term derived from the word schizophrenia has now become synonymous with “crazy” in society. Therefore, when people hear that someone is living with schizophrenia, they often disregard the humanity of the person. Instead, they think of the negative connotations associated with this personality disorder and deem the individual as being “unpredictable or dangerous” (Whiteman, 2014). This type of mentality can lead to both subconscious and conscious biases and stereotypes. Such stereotypes not only hinder the day to day lives of individuals dealing with these personality disorders, but it also affects their ability to work. For example, only 8% of people living with schizophrenia are in the workplace in the UK (Evans, 2017). Additionally, not only do these general stereotypes affect people living with schizophrenia, but it also affects people living with schizoid PD and schizotypal PD because people believe that they are all the same. Not only do such individuals have to deal with the biases and stigmas of their own disorder, but now of another disorder with the close sounding name. That’s twice as much stigma and twice as many misunderstandings and stress.
While these disorders are co-morbid, as aforementioned they are indeed different. Schizoid PD and Schizotypal PD are defined as Cluster A disorders meaning that they are characterized as “odd, eccentric, or bizarre” (Burton, 2018) A person living with Schizoid Personality Disorder is usually defined as “detached and aloof and prone to introspection and fantasy” (Burton, 2018). Also, a person with Schizoid Personality Disorder may often display characteristics of “detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of emotional expression” (Kaurin et al, 2018). For this reason, others may assume that the person is cold or rude, which can negatively affect relationships, especially in environments where teamwork and cooperation are required. On the other hand, a person living with Schizotypal Personality Disorder is characterized by “oddities of appearance, behavior, and speech, unusual perceptual experiences, and anomalies of thinking similar to those seen in schizophrenia.”
These behaviors can also allow people to assume a negative perception which hinders relationships. Along with the usual stigmas of mental disorders, there also comes the stigma of mental disorders in the workplace. Usually, it falls along the lines of less efficiency, productivity losses and feelings of uncomfortableness. This type of thinking can lead to the ostracization of their coworkers and lower productivity. A study found that “initial reluctance to seek help may result in decreased productivity, which may lead to confirmation of stereotypes and additional stigma by co-workers resulting in further reluctance to seek help” (Knaak et al., 2017).
To combat this, there should be more awareness about mental health in the workplace in general. Workshops, where mental health disorders are taught and discussed to de-stigmatize and educate, should be mandated. Hopefully, in the future, there will be a type of legislation that will protect people living with mental illnesses from prejudice and discrimination in the workplace.
Evans, A. (2017, September 19). Metro News. Why are so few people with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder employed? Supporting mental health must begin in the workplace Retrieved from https://metro.co.uk/2017/09/19/why-are-so-few-people-with-schizophrenia-and-schizoaffective-disorder-employed-supporting-mental-health-must-begin-in-the-workplace-6937626
Kaurin, A., Funder, D., & Sauerberger, K. (2018). Associations between informant ratings of personality disorder traits, self‐reports of personality, and directly observed behavior. Journal of Personality, 86(6), 1078-1101. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jopy.12376
Knaak, S., Mantler, E., & Szeto, A. (2017). Mental illness-related stigma in healthcare: Barriers to access and care and evidence-based solutions. Healthcare management forum, 30(2), 111-116. doi: 10.1177/0840470416679413
Burton, N. (2018). The 10 Personality Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201205/the-10-personality-disorders
Quide, Y., Cohen-Woods, S., O’Reilly, N., Carr, V., Elzinga, B., & Green, M. (2018). Childhood trauma is associated with social cognition and schizotypal personality traits in psychotic and healthy populations. (PDF). Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a831/9902945603d45387df8502fd085c80feb679.pdf
Whiteman, H. (2014, October 10). MedicalNewsToday. Schizophrenia: shattering the stigma. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283776.php