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Understanding the Jekyll and Hyde Personality: A Deep Dive into Dual Identities

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Updated Mar 03, 2024
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What Is a Jekyll and Hyde Personality?

The term "Jekyll and Hyde personality" evokes the classic literary figure with a dual nature: one benign, the other malevolent. This metaphor is often used to describe individuals who exhibit dramatically opposing behaviors, akin to a split personality. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, borderline personality disorder (BPD) affects approximately 1.4% of adults in the United States, and these individuals may display traits that seem Jekyll-and-Hyde-like. Similarly, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance reports that bipolar disorder impacts about 2.8% of the U.S. population, with mood swings that can be perceived as a form of dual personality. Understanding these complex conditions is crucial, as it fosters empathy and promotes informed support for those affected.

While people who are moody and volatile are often referred to as having a Jekyll and Hyde personality, some may be unfamiliar with the origin of the names Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. These fictional characters were created by famed Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson sometime during the late 1800s. Stevenson's story was based on his own vivid recurring nightmares of living two contrasting lives.

The writer told a story of a scientist who developed a borderline personality after consuming a concoction he created. Stevenson depicted Dr. Jekyll as congenial and moral, while his alter-ego, Mr. Hyde, was wicked and immoral. The novel was later made into a movie in 1931, which became a classic. The characters' names became synonymous with a split personality, with one one side good and the other evil.

People with psychopathic tendencies often are described as having a Jekyll and Hyde personality. The side of Dr. Jekyll manifests as a kindhearted individual who lives an honest and respectable life. The dark side of Mr. Hyde is an explosive character who unleashes evil. Psychopaths who commit violent crimes often are described as being this type of person.

Not all people who are labeled in this way are psychopaths or violent. This syndrome can also refer to someone who changes from friendly and kind to cold and uncaring. People with bipolar disorder, which is characterized by mood swings ranging from elation to depression, are also likened to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Some with anger management issues may also display such characteristics.

People with a metabolic disorder or a significant increase in blood glucose levels may also exhibit a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Physical changes can alter a patient's personality, making him irritable, hostile, or aggressive. When the physical stress is alleviated, the person may take on a more tranquil and agreeable demeanor. This type of personality may also be attributed to substance abuse.

Do People with Dissociative Identity Disorder Have a Jekyll and Hyde Personality?

People also associate Jekyll and Hyde personalities with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously called Multiple Personality Disorder. Those with this disorder experience changes from one identity or personality to another, with accompanying breaks in memory and consciousness. During these shifts, their behavior also changes, sometimes unrecognizably. 

These different personalities are ‘alters’ to the primary personality, the original one before the break in psychosis. These alters can appear to have different names, knowledge, behavior, and memories than the main personality. Sometimes the self-reported age and gender of the person vary between personalities. 

In most cases, people with DID are not violent, although they may have a more aggressive alter. Usually, people with DID suffer a break in their psychosis due to childhood trauma. Alters are formed as a coping mechanism to distance themselves from the trauma. 

People with DID may appear to have a Jekyll and Hyde personality at times because their alters could seem altogether different from their main personality. In some cases, an alter is less moral than the main personality, as Hyde is in comparison to Jekyll. 

However, referring to Dissociative Identity Disorder as a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome might be a simplification, as each person with the disorder has their own experience. 

Do Abusers Have a Jekyll and Hyde Personality?

Some perpetrators of intimate partner violence appear to have a Jekyll and Hyde personality. At the beginning of their relationships, they may seem kind and gentle. They may be particularly effusive with their affection. This “good” side of them is comparable to Jekyll. 

But as time passes, they show signs of anger management issues. They can become controlling, dismissive, and violent. This “bad” side is comparable to Hyde. Perhaps after an argument, their Jekyll side reemerges and asks for forgiveness.

Sometimes, their partners stay in the relationship because they know their abusers are, at times, compassionate or moral.

In behavioral treatment, male abusers often initially deny that their behavior toward their partners was abusive. They seem self-assured. But clinicians seek to understand the true personality of the abuser behind this mask. In reality, an abuser can feel insecure or codependent, which causes his aggression. This duality draws further comparison to Jekyll and Hyde.

If the abuser learns healthy coping mechanisms, they can stop their aggressive behavior. Their split personality is not predetermined. 

Do Narcissists Have a Jekyll and Hyde Personality?

Narcissists, or those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, have two sides: one they display to the people around them, and another that emerges when they are alone, which is why some describe narcissists as having a Jekyll and Hyde personality. 

On the outside, narcissists appear charismatic, confident, and erudite. They may have a flair for extravagant or ostentatious behavior.

But internally, narcissists feel jealous of others and insecure about their self-worth. They may struggle to see events objectively. Other indicators of narcissism include forgetfulness, frequent boredom, and difficulty loving others. As a result, their relationships tend to suffer. 

In this way, narcissists have two different personas, like Jekyll and Hyde. But it is important to remember that others will rarely, if ever, see their anxious, doubtful persona. 

Do Schizophrenics Have a Jekyll and Hyde Personality?

Research indicates those with Schizophrenia do not have the typical split personality. However, the prefix “schizo” indeed translates to “split.” But in this disorder, personalities are not split. Instead, people with Schizophrenia experience a split between their experienced emotions and their ability to express those emotions.

A person with Schizophrenia may feel depressed at the same level a person without Schizophrenia would, but the person with Schizophrenia may appear catatonic. People with Schizophrenia often involuntarily display blank facial expressions, even as they feel extreme emotions. 

Like Dissociative Identity Disorder, Schizophrenia entails a break from reality. People with Schizophrenia have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what they imagine. They may be subject to auditory and visual hallucinations. 

Excessive paranoia accompanies this disorder. People with Schizophrenia may also dress eccentrically and have strange speech patterns. For example, they may create words of their own or confuse words without realizing it. Indeed, they are typically unaware of the strangeness of their overall behavior.

Since they possess an inaccurate understanding of reality, people with Schizophrenia usually have trouble maintaining relationships and jobs throughout their lives. 

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Discussion Comments

By anon1003879 — On Sep 28, 2020

I have had a tough time after a divorce. I relocated back to the area I grew up in and had to find a job, place to live, etc. Emotionally struggling as well as I was grieving. Without knowing anyone except old friends, I went back to some old behaviors like drinking. Long story short, sometimes life is tough and we make poor choices which negatively affects our moods. Best thing for me was to buy a house, settle down and get rid of the partiers and my mood stabilized.

By anon994611 — On Feb 23, 2016

I don't have any of the mentioned disorders. I'm just me and the type of personality I have is Jekyll and Hyde personality, simple as that. I always hear people going on about having jekyll and hyde personality means you do have a disorder. Full of crap, I say.

By anon929228 — On Jan 30, 2014

Neurotic people can have tendencies of being having a split personality. Even just having a different justification for your own life on how you see someone else's represents a split of opinions in your mind.

Occasionally, you show the morals you expect for yourself or other times you express the morals you allow other people to have. I think I have this problem and its allowed me to genuinely see things from a point of view which is outside from myself.

By KoiwiGal — On Jan 12, 2014

@pastanaga - It might be possible that the boss happens to have a mental illness though. It's actually quite common, and so are medical disorders of other sorts that can make people short tempered.

I think it might depend on whether or not people have read the original story as to whether they think of the label in terms of the good and evil dichotomy or as just an example of a personality change.

If you've read the story, labeling someone as Mr. Hyde is a fairly extreme thing to do, because he's quite chilling as an antagonist and not a nice person at all.

By pastanaga — On Jan 12, 2014

@Ana1234 - I think most people use the expression to mean that someone's personality changes radically from one day to the next, rather than to make a statement about which part of their personality they like the most.

I've actually only rarely heard the expression used to describe people with mental illness. Usually it is used to describe a fickle boss or someone like that.

By Ana1234 — On Jan 11, 2014

I think that you need to be careful when using this term around people who do happen to have bipolar disorder. Some of them will appreciate it, because it is an appropriate metaphor for some people, but other people might get offended.

Especially because Mr. Hyde was basically portrayed as evil, rather than simply wild or sullen. The good and bad parts of the character's personality were split clearly, but there is rarely a split that clear in someone who has bipolar disorder.

Being depressed or on a downer might seem like the Mr. Hyde, especially to the person suffering from it, but to others it might seem more like the mania is the evil part, as people in the grip of it can do some crazy and dangerous things.

It does make sense as an analogy, but just be careful not to simplify things too much.

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