Abnormal Psychology: Mental Health and Mental Illness

Major Mental Illnesses

Is split personality the same as schizophrenia?

The popular understanding of psychiatric terminology is often quite different from the technical meaning of the terms. The term “split personality” is is often confused with schizophrenia. Split personality more accurately refers to dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder. While schizophrenia is a diagnosis of psychotic symptoms, DID is classified under the category of dissociative disorders. DID generally develops in childhood as a means of coping with extreme traumatic experiences, such as ongoing sexual or physical abuse. People manage the overwhelming emotions occasioned by the trauma by splitting their conscious experience into multiple identities. There may be the cute little girl, the responsible young man, and the rebellious teenager. Outside of their sense of their own identities, however, people with DID are not typically psychotic. In contrast, people with schizophrenia generally have a consistent sense of their own identity, but have ongoing struggles with psychosis.


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