Multiple Personality Disorder & Schizophrenia: Are They the Same?

Mental health illnesses are very common at present. The majority of the worldwide population is suffering from some mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, and chronic stress are some most common examples. However, the variety of mental health disorders is very wide-ranging. And the bigger problem is that all of them are related or similar to one another. For instance, many diseases share common symptoms which makes them somewhat similar to each other. The biggest example is stress and anxiety. Sometimes, one disease may lead to the other. For example, prolonged stress makes you develop anxiety disorders which in turn, if not treated, causes the major depressive disorder.

Today, we’re going to talk about two of the most mistaken mental health problems called multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia. People confuse the two a lot. Many of them believe that they both are one single condition with other names and others think that they are two stages of one disease. However, this isn’t the case. Although, both of them share common symptoms but are entirely different. Let’s find out how.

What is Multiple Personality Disorder?

What is Multiple Personality Disorder?  Photo by Flora Westbrook from Pexels
What is Multiple Personality Disorder? Photo by Flora Westbrook from Pexels

Multiple personality disorder (MID) is an older name for dissociative identity disorder (DID). It is a complex psychological condition that is triggered by many factors like severe early childhood trauma or extreme physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

DID is a severe form of dissociation. It causes a lack of connection among a person’s;

  • Thoughts
  • Memories
  • Feelings
  • Actions
  • Sense of identity  

Usually, when a person experiences a traumatic event during his/her life, especially early childhood, they adopt the dissociative aspect as a coping mechanism. They dissociate or shut themselves off from a particularly violent or traumatic situation to adapt to their conscious self.     

The peak time for personality development is early childhood. The child imitates whatever he sees and every experience has a strong impact on his mind. Experiences during early childhood help in shaping the lifetime thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and actions of an individual. Therefore, if someone undergoes emotional neglect and abuse during his early childhood, his/her personality is likely to suffer. Moreover, research studies back the fact that dissociative identity disorder is a psychological response to interpersonal and environmental stresses faced by somebody during their childhood. Almost 99% of the people who develop DID report personal histories of life-threatening traumas that took place during their sensitive developmental stages of life.

The word “dissociation” itself indicates that the person disconnects from what happened to him/her and for that he/she develops certain behaviors and emotions that help them escape the consequent torture or turmoil. The greater risks of DID lie among children with frightening and unpredictable parents.

Apart from familial abuse and neglect, other traumatic responses serving as triggers for multiple personality disorder include;

  • Accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Wars
  • Loss of parents or loved ones
  • Prolonged isolation due to illness or education
  • Adult illness
  • Constant and excessive stress

The person doesn’t want to memorize the event and breaks the connection with anything that reminds him of it including the outside world and surroundings. 

What are the symptoms of multiple personality disorders?

If you’re suffering from multiple personality disorders, you’re likely to have two or more different personalities. The usual personality is called core and the alternate ones are called alters. You are likely to experience amnesia when an alter takes control of your behavior.

Every alter has a distinct personality history, individual traits, way of thinking, and a sense of relating to his/her surroundings. There are possible chances that an alter may be of a different gender or name with distinct preferences and manners. Medical conditions like allergies may also be different from an alter from the core person.

The person with dissociative identity disorder may or may not remember the other personality traits and the times when an alter was dominant. Slight stress or a short memory of the trauma can trigger the personality switch.

Mostly, DID cause severe problems with the patient’s personal and professional life. Following symptoms can visibly be noted during the respective mental health disorder;  

  1. Changing levels of functioning i.e. from disturbed to highly effective and vice versa
  2. Extreme headache and body aches
  3. Depersonalization 
  4. Derealization (feeling your surroundings to be unreal)
  5. Depression
  6. Mood swings
  7. Disturbed eating schedule and Irregular sleeping patterns
  8. Problems with sexual activities
  9. Substance abuse
  10. Amnesia, hallucinations, and self-injuries
  11. Suicidal ideation

All of these symptoms are usually common with many other mental health illnesses. They may not serve for recognition and diagnosis of the disease but are visible during it. 

How is Multiple Personality Disorder different from Schizophrenia?

Multiple personality disorder is often confused with schizophrenia. A survey analysis states that almost 65% of the American population believe that schizophrenics have multiple or separate personalities and they act as two different people. However, this isn’t the case. A person with schizophrenia doesn’t have different personalities and rather has false ideas in their mind which causes them to lose touch with reality.

Schizophrenia is like having a disorder with a split mind, not personality. It is a serious mental illness that causes hallucinations and delusions. The person experiences sensations that are not actually true and develops pseudo-beliefs. In addition, he/she has jumbled speech, thoughts, and compromised expressions and emotions. For instance, people with schizophrenia may tell you they talk to a person when actually there is none. They would believe that something has happened in reality when it actually hasn’t.  

In dissociative/multiple identity disorder, one has fragmented or multiple identities. The people see a different part of themselves as a whole new person. They have unexplainable gaps in their memory, forget most of the information, and cannot recall things that they’ve done or said when their alter was dominant. However, in the case of schizophrenia, the person can tell what they’re doing or feeling. In fact, they may explain to you or other people around about how they feel, what they believe, who they see, etc. 

What are the symptoms of Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia involves a wide range of behavioral, emotional, and cognitive problems. The signs and symptoms of the condition vary from person to person. However, the most commonly observed symptoms include;

  1. Delusions
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Disorganized speech
  4. Impaired functioning

Delusions are false beliefs that are way different from reality. For example, if you’re a schizophrenic you may feel that you’re harassed or harmed. There are certain comments and gestures that are directed to you. You have worldwide fame or somebody is in love with you, etc. And there would be nothing like this in the reality. Moving forward hallucinations involve hearing or seeing stuff that doesn’t exist at all.  However, for the schizophrenics, these false talks and sights have a full force or impact on their mind. Hallucinations might occur in other senses as well but hearing voices is the most common one.

Disorganization of thoughts and speech impairs your effective communication. You may not be able to answer questions properly and utter meaningless words. The disease also impairs your functioning and motor behavior. Your behavior may include;

  • Resistance to instructions
  • Inappropriate or bizarre posture
  • Lack of response
  • Useless and excessive movement

Other negative symptoms of the disease are;

  1. Withdrawal from friends and family
  2. A drop in academic or professional performance
  3. Troubled sleep
  4. Irritability
  5. Depressed mood
  6. Lack of motivation

The person may give up on personal hygiene as well. Lack of motivation may alleviate their will to take care of themselves. In addition, they may also be involved in substance abuse like alcohol and drugs, etc.


Schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are two different psychological conditions that are often confused together. Undoubtedly, both share common symptoms but the basic psychological process of both diseases is different. MID or DID accounts for a person suffering from a personality disorder where he/she has two separate personalities with distinct traits. A single person acts like two different people at a different time and doesn’t remember it at all. However, in the case of schizophrenia, the person suffers from delusion and hallucinations. He/she develops cognitive issues and starts living and believing in false realities.

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