There is often a thin line in distinguishing mental health disorders, particularly schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder (DID). According to Dr. Robert T. Muller, a trauma therapy specialist and a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, most people confuse these two because both disorders lack the sense of reality. But how can laypeople quickly tell which is which?
For a professional to fully confirm that an individual has schizophrenia, he or she must display at least two of the following symptoms:
- Hallucinations. Someone might hear, see, or smell things that no else can.
- Abnormal emotional reactions. Individuals with schizophrenia rarely show emotions upon receiving good or bad news. At the same time, they are not capable of interacting with other people for a long time.
- Disorganized speech. Some people display disorganized speech in various ways. These include repeating the same words, mentioning meaningless rhymes, uttering gibberish, or jumping from one topic to another without finishing a conversation.
- Delusions. Delusions include fake or false beliefs. For example, a person might repeatedly say that someone is spying on him at all times, even if there is none. He might also say that an entity from another planet is trying to talk to him through his walkie talkie.
- Catatonic behavior. It refers to the unresponsive behavior of an individual even if he or she is awake.
People with DID, on the other hand, experience an alter in their reality. However, instead of displaying hallucinations or delusions, an alter checks out, and a different personality appears in their place. Moreover, those with DID are also systematic and responsive. In contrast, a person with schizophrenia displays catatonic behavior.
“When you’re working with someone with DID, if you have only seen them in one personality, you will be utterly and completely shocked when you see the person function in a different personality… It’s as if the person has gotten possessed by somebody else. But of course, that’s not the case—it’s that their internal personality organization is different depending on different functions that they have in their life,” Muller shared.
Up to now, experts still have not determined the leading cause of schizophrenia. Some link it to genetics while others say that it is because of exposure to viruses during their mother’s pregnancy. DID, on the other hand, are known to develop due to an extremely traumatic event. It can be memories of physical abuse, military combat, or death of a family member.
Schizophrenia often gets treated through outdoor and community-based activities rather than getting sent to hospitals. For example, it is more effective to expose them to fresh air, live in an open community, or exercise regularly. Social work can also help them address their mental health disorder. Saundra Jain, MA, PsyD said “Mindfulness meditation practices are effective interventions, and sometimes for mild to moderate conditions—depression and anxiety.”
On the other hand, DID banks more on psychotherapy. Since it is on the same spectrum as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), people with DID respond more to therapy. It involves digging deep into the past to pinpoint the specific traumatic event that led to their condition. From here, therapists ask them to face whatever these triggers are and move on from it.
There is still an ongoing stigma on mental health disorders. This stigma led the people to believe that every sickness is the same; however, this is not the case. Schizophrenia and DID are proof of that.
According to Nicole Poell, PsyD, “Psychological flexibility means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in order to move toward chosen values.”