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What is the Difference Between Schizophrenia and Multiple Personality Disorder?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Often, schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder (MPD) are confused, and some people believe they are the same. In reality, they are two distinctly different disorders. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that some people are born with -- it may be inherited, but symptoms don't usually develop for many years. In men, symptoms often develop in late adolescence or the early 20s; for women, symptoms often appear in the 20s or 30s. Sometimes, symptoms do develop during childhood, but this is rare.

When a person has schizophrenia, he experiences hallucinations and delusions, seeing things that aren't there and believing things that are clearly not true. For example, he may see demons sitting next to him at dinner or believe he is the son of God. A person with this condition also suffers from disordered thinking, decreased attention span, and problems with focusing. Typically, those with this disorder withdraw socially. It's also common for those with this condition to appear expressionless and lose their ability to initiate and carry out plans.

Often, a person with schizophrenia will believe the voices that he hears are working to control or harm him. He is likely to be very fearful. He may sit for hours without moving or talking, and he may not make sense when he does speak. However, some people with this disorder exhibit what seems like normal behavior until they start talking and others learn what they are thinking. This disorder is also marked by clumsy, uncoordinated movement and an inability to care for oneself or work a job.

A major difference between multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia is that those with multiple personality disorder aren't born with it. This mental condition is induced by something that happens in life, and it is usually related to a trauma that occurs during childhood, such as physical or sexual abuse. A patient with this disorder develops additional personalities as a way of coping with the traumatic event. To be diagnosed with MPD, a person must have at least one alter personality that controls the person's behavior at times.

A person with MPD may develop as many as 100 personalities, but the average is 10. She may take on alter personalities of the same sex, a different sex, or both sexes at the same time. Sometimes a MPD patient even takes on the physical characteristics of her different personalities, such as a certain way of walking or moving. Additionally, depression and self-mutilation are common.

There are some ways that schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are alike. A person with schizophrenia is likely to have hallucinations, and while hallucinations are not present in all cases of MPD, about one third of patients do experience them. People with MPD may also develop behavioral problem in childhood as well as difficulty concentration on schoolwork. This may cause some to confuse the disorder with schizophrenia, as these issues often develop in child or teenage schizophrenics as well.

The age of onset of the two disorders is a major difference. While schizophrenia is more likely to develop in those who are approaching adulthood or are already in their 20s or 30s, the average age of onset of multiple personality disorder is 5.9. However, people with both conditions are alike in that they are more likely to attempt suicide.

TheHealthBoard 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.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon935146 — On Feb 24, 2014

@anon351723: Your comments are neither welcome nor helpful, whether you are serious or not. Your suggestion that members of the medical profession take a religious approach is ludicrous, pernicious and offensive. You need to understand that not everyone shares your belief system, so stop trying to insist that it be forced on everyone. My personal belief system tells me your position is laughable, that it's based on a childish myth, and if a doctor attempted to treat me in the way you suggest, I would report him to a medical ethics body.

If an individual does wish to undertake religious or spiritual treatment, that is a matter for his/her church/synagogue/mosque/temple/whatever. It is not the responsibility nor the purview of medical professionals.

By anon358643 — On Dec 11, 2013

I would like to point out to Anon260815; One with Dissociative Identity Disorder does not recall many occurrences of each personality. Most also do not know they have the disorder, nor do they know they have alter personas. One with DID also may not recognize their own reflection. So before you say you have it, research it a little further. It is not a joking matter.

Signed X. Your Friendly Neighborhood SN (Student Nurse).

By anon351723 — On Oct 16, 2013

Are these voices not demons or evil spirits? How come during prayers one can hear them complaining as they come out? It's possible this is both spiritual and biological: one feeding on the other with the intended purpose being to haunt, oppress, torture and make life of their host miserable to the extent they fell life not worth it and driving them to suicide. Treatment must be combined with spiritual physiotherapy because demons know and fear Christ our Lord and saviour.

By anon302708 — On Nov 11, 2012

I have a young lady living in the house who shouts and has an argument with a different person. Due to her behavior changes, I believe the second personality is a man as she shouts and slams the doors randomly. The other person is herself. She has been laughed at when she does it in public. She seems to be sweet and soft.

By anon260815 — On Apr 12, 2012

I have MPD and believe me, I have more than two personalities and each alter has its own beliefs and individual personality traits. It is caused by trauma and our voices are on the inside.

When it comes to Hollywood, what I find offensive is how we are portrayed. Yes, we do have many personalities, however, Hollywood portrays us as violent, psycho individuals and that is not so. It is easy to believe when you do not understand what it is like to be MPD.

By anon223902 — On Oct 21, 2011

There is no such thing as developing 100 personalities. That is hollywood and fear. It would be more like two or three, and they are not distinct personalities, but aspects of that person. That person has segmented their brain to pretend the abuse has not happened to them, which is the same thing that cheating men often say they do on purpose.

Anyway, the existence of both diseases has been questioned as both are over diagnosed and confused with things such as allergies and lack of nutrition.

By anon201240 — On Jul 30, 2011

MPD is "usually related to a trauma that occurs during childhood, such as physical or sexual abuse."

Not true. From what I've heard, that is only said because mostly traumatized MPD patients seek help, so it messes up the official statistics.

By Emauk — On Jun 26, 2011

I have recently started seeing someone who has MPD and schizophrenia. We have been seeing each other for about three months now, and he had his first episode that I have seen, the other night. I have two small children from a previous relationship, so I am trying to find as much help and advice as possible, because one of his personalities is quite aggressive. He didn't physically touch me, but he was shouting and slamming doors and getting very mad at everything. He seems to think that the alcohol was what triggered the episode.

Also, he is under a lot of stress at the minute too. He can't take medication because he has an adrenaline issue which is hereditary, and I just want to know what I can do to help him. I have never come across this condition before, and to be honest, I was a bit confused and worried. He is a very big, strong man, and I'm just trying to figure what I can do to minimize risks and things like that. Thank you in advance.

Oh also, is it usual to not remember what you did or said while in a different personality? He told me he hated me and that I am a bleep, then about 15mins later when I was mad at him, and I told him what he had said (I didn't realize he was having an episode at the time), he said that he had no recollection of saying any of those things, and was quite upset with himself.

By anon167397 — On Apr 12, 2011

Can people with MPD become catatonic?

By anon127026 — On Nov 14, 2010

I didn't read every post, but anon79719, i happen to have schizophrenia AND mpd (now called DID/DPD i believe?) Although I've been told by a lot of doctors that they're not supposed to be able to happen at the same time, none of them have been able to deny me having both.

To answer your question, i frequently hear voices outside of my head, as if i was overhearing a conversation, or someone was talking to me. At the same time, i can hear the voices of my alternate personalities in my head, none of which i have control over.

I'm not sure if this is the case with everyone, but from my experience the answer to your question is yes. I haven't heard the voice of one of my personalities outside, and i haven't heard a hallucination inside.

By Sunny27 — On Aug 14, 2010

Cafe41- People with schizophrenia can lead happy productive lives as long as they continue therapy and take their medication daily.

The medications will allow a person afflicted with paranoia schizophrenia to have and maintain a job which will reduce the risk of poverty and homelessness that often prevails with this disorder.

By cafe41 — On Aug 14, 2010

Subway11- I totally agree that the family has to be involved when treating this disorder. But I understand that medication is essential for treating this disorder.

Antipsychotic medication stabilizes the biochemistry system and blocks delusions and hallucinations from forming.

The problem with these medications is that they cause an array of side effects that cause many to go off the medication.

Some common side effects are constipation, dry mouth, blurred vision, and dizziness, and drowsiness, trouble with muscle control, tremors, facial ticks, and panting.

By subway11 — On Aug 14, 2010

SurfNturf- I totally agree. A schizophrenia treatment plan really needs to involve effective drug medication along with the culmination of psychotherapy and group and family therapy.

Usually people suffering from schizophrenia often have difficulty grooming or cooking on their own. Psychotherapy can provide modeling behavior in order to teach those afflicted with schizophrenia how to perform these routine tasks.

In addition supportive family therapy is very effective in controlling the disorder. A 90% success rate occurs with supportive family therapy in which the family is involved in therapy sessions. When the family is not involved in the therapy sessions, the success rate falls to about 40 to 50%.

By surfNturf — On Aug 14, 2010

Anon79719- I don’t know the answer to your question. However, I do know that people suffering from paranoid schizophrenia not only suffer from delusions and what appear to be voices that they hear, but they are also at highest risk of suicide.

People with schizophrenia disorder have a high level of anxiety and need to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Many times people suffering from this disorder can develop catatonic schizophrenia in which they are silent for hours upon hours at a time. Many doctors believe that this is caused by the continual voices that the person hears which renders them silent for the moment.

Many people with schizophrenia symptoms like these often lead reclusive lives. This isolation tendency promotes the high risk of suicide which makes it very important that anyone suffering from schizophrenia delusions seek help immediately.

By anon79719 — On Apr 24, 2010

Voices heard by schizophrenics are usu like real voices outside of the head. I have heard that mpd results more in voices heard inside the head. Is this true?

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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