Topic Progress:

Eighteen different maladaptive schemas, which are divided into five common themes or classes, are recognized in Schema Therapy. These are briefly described by the developer of Schema Therapy, Dr. Jeffrey Young as follows:

1. Disconnection/Rejection includes 5 schemas:

  • Abandonment/Instability – perceived instability, unreliability, or unavailability of those who should have offered support.
  • Mistrust/Abuse – constant expectation that others will hurt, abuse, humiliate, cheat, lie, manipulate, or take advantage.
  • Emotional Deprivation – expectation that a normal degree of emotional support will not be adequately met by others in terms of deprivation of nurturance (i.e. absence of attention, affection, warmth, or companionship), empathy (i.e. absence of understanding, listening, self-disclosure, or mutual sharing of feelings from others), and protection (i.e. absence of strength, direction, or guidance from others).
  • Defectiveness/Shame – feeling that one is defective, bad, unwanted, inferior, and unlovable, which may involve hypersensitivity to criticism, rejection, and blame, self-consciousness, and insecurity; the perceived flaws may be private or public.
  • Social Isolation/Alienation – feeling that one is isolated from the rest of the world, different from other people, and/or not part of any group or community.

2. Impaired Autonomy and/or Performance includes 4 schemas:

  • Dependence/Incompetence – belief that one cannot manage everyday responsibilities without considerable help from others, which may present as helplessness.
  • Vulnerability to Harm or Illness – an expectation that catastrophe will strike at any moment and cannot be prevented, in the form of medical, emotional, or external events.
  • Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self – excessive emotional involvement with one or more significant others (e.g. parents, caregiver, or role model) at the expense of normal personality and social development; perceives emptiness and dissatisfaction without their constant support.
  • Failure – a belief that one has failed, will invariably fail, or is fundamentally inadequate relative to one’s peers in areas of achievement, which often involves beliefs that one is stupid, inept, untalented, ignorant, lower in status, or less successful than others.

The remaining three themes or classes of maladaptive schemas are described in the next topic.