Understanding Dissociative identity disorder (DID) and how it is different from schizophrenia

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Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is the disruption of identity characterized by two or more personality states. Some classify it as feeling possessed and it is usually brought on by traumatic experiences in a person’s life, such as psychological or physical trauma.

People with dissociative identity disorder can consistently experience lapses in memory, gaps in recalling everyday events or important life occurrences. The physical manifestations of the symptoms will highly depend on the stressors in people’s lives. Those afflicted tend to hear perceptions of voices of children, women or even spiritual beings. These symptoms can often cause patients to feel as if they are discovering a new sense of self, power and control. However, losing a sense of self or feelings of being taken over can also occur.

Other specified dissociative disorder symptoms cause distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning, but don’t meet the full criteria for dissociative identity disorder (DSM-5).

Risk factors for DID include childhood trauma, physical or sexual abuse, childhood medical procedures and environmental factors. There are some diagnostic issues that are met in regards to environmental and culture-related settings. For instance, certain religious organizations in the United States and Europe believe in fragmented identities such as prophets, spirits, mythical figures and demons. Determining whether the identity disorder is related to expected behavior on the part of the religious organization or if it’s classified as DID plays an important factor.

Much like any other disorder it is important that an individual can understand and identify the symptoms of DID. Additional symptoms of dissociative identity disorder can include:

  • Recurrent gaps in recalling everyday events
  • Recurrent gaps in recalling personal life events and family stories
  • Repeating stories, forgetting what one has discussed
  • A belief that the person is a prophet or a god
  • A sense of being possessed
  • Non-epileptic seizures
  • Polar opposite change in behavior and personality

Schizophrenia vs. DID

Schizophrenia symptoms are very similar to DID symptoms, as “schizo” means to split, “phrenia” means the mind. Many people will believe that DID and schizophrenia disorder are the same thing due to a continued lack of understanding of one or both of the disorders. However, there are apparent differences in the two disorders.

DID is an established set of two personalities, as described by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). In contrast, schizophrenia is a splitting of one personality. It’s not necessarily the case that one disorder precedes the other or that they are related in any way; the fact is that they are two entirely different disorders.

Similarities and differences

Probably one of the best ways to understand both of these disorders is to understand their similarities and their differences between the two. The similarities between both conditions are few but they are some very noticeable issues includes delusions, auditory hallucinations (hearing voices) and paranoia.

Besides these three traits there are more differences between schizophrenia and DID than commonalities. These differences themselves in the following ways:


  • Hear voices outside of their heads
  • Think that the FBI, military or someone else is out to get them
  • Delusions that lead them to believe that they are a god, a prophet or somebody with power

Those with dissociative identity disorder

  • Hear voices inside their heads
  • Take on a different personality of a person, demon or prophet
  • Paranoia is interpersonal, between them and others in their environment

For more information on either schizophrenia or DID or if you would like help finding treatment for these disorders, you can call the Mental Health Helpline at 855-653-8178.

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