• Advika Prasad

Schizophrenia & Dissociative Identity Disorder; Two wildly misunderstood disorders

Updated: Jan 31

Schizo means split, and phrenia, in this case, refers to the mind. Even though schizophrenia can be interpreted to mean “splitting of the mind”, it refers to a scattered or fragmented pattern of thinking, rather than a ‘split personality’ as some media sources portray. The term refers instead to what is known as a ‘split from reality’. Dissociative Identity Disorder, however, is a completely different condition, falling under the bracket of dissociative disorders which are often shrouded with misconceptions. This article will explore the differences between the two disorders and try to shed light on the reality of them.

Even though schizophrenia is likely the more well-known of the two mental illnesses, it is still widely misunderstood. A schizophrenic individual experiences delusion, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and grossly disordered or catatonic behavior. On the other hand, a person diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder displays distinct behaviors, body representations, perceptions, emotions, and so forth based on the identity/personality they are portraying.

A key part of DID is dissociation—feeling detached from the world around you. People who experience DID may have many unexplainable gaps in their memory, forget information they've already learned, or have difficulties recalling things they have said or done. Unlike portrayals of DID on TV or in movies, the disorder may not be obvious to others, and it can actually be very difficult to recognize and diagnose. The media portrayal of the disorder misleads us in understanding the gravity of the illness and what one with DID may feel like, it tends to get glamourized or used for an ‘interesting and exciting plot’.

Often the symptoms of DID get confused with those of schizophrenia and vice versa since many people with schizophrenia identify with cognitive deficits, such as memory problems and slower processing speeds. This not only makes it difficult to work or complete daily living tasks but also is very closely related to people with DID having difficulties with recalling events or having unexplainable gaps in their memory.

Another instance of when schizophrenics are easily confused with people who have DID is when schizophrenics display a large array of emotions when misunderstood. This is often confused with the violent outbursts of emotions people with DID may experience and hence causes more confusion and misconceptions in the diagnosis as well as the perception of the two illness.

Additionally, people with DID typically have more symptoms that overlap with the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, especially the ones that involve altered perceptions, reality, and thinking.

In conclusion, there are many reasons as to why these disorders may get confused with one another as explored above. The important thing is to be empathetic towards others and inform ourselves in order to try and help people living with these disorders feel more comfortable and understood.

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