Difference between Schizophrenia and Multiple Personality Disorder

Schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are perhaps the most common subjects of confusion for a common population. People with schizophrenia are labelled as having “many personalities,” and vice versa. We will discuss both mental illnesses and will clarify some misconceptions regarding them further in this article.


Schizophrenia vs Multiple Personality Disorder
An imaging captured with fMRI showing two levels of the brain; areas in orange were more active in healthy controls than in medicated people with schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that is characterized by false sensations that happen while the stimulus for such sensations is absent. These sensations are sometimes referred to as hallucinations and include hearing “voices” somehow “commenting” on the behavior of the patient, and “seeing” horrific images. Medical reports show that most frequent modes that “voices” operate include warnings, orders to do certain things and curses. Visual hallucinations include images of God or the Devil, sometimes combined. Another frequent application of schizophrenia is the experience of delusions, or false beliefs not shared in society in general. Those include delusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution. Delusions of grandeur manifest themselves in the person’s belief that one is a figure of the utmost importance and is endowed with a special power. Schizophrenics often believe that they are “Napoleon”, “Adolf Hitler”, “Julius Caesar” and other real historic personages famous or infamous for their unlimited power. Delusions of persecution manifest themselves in the honest belief that some individual, either real or unreal, or group of individuals is looking for a schizophrenic person in order to punish him or otherwise bring harm. Psychologists divide schizophrenia symptoms into positive and negative. Positive symptoms of schizophrenia:

  • Inappropriate affect.  For example, laughing when hearing bad news
  • Derailment. For example, shifting erratically from one line of thought to another
  • Repetitive senseless movements
  • Catatonic state which is characterized by the long lasting absence of any movements at all and unresponsiveness to the outside world

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Impaired sense of time
  • Difficulties in apprehending information
  • Poor attention
  • Poor memory
  • Inability to solve even the simplest problems
Multiple personality disorder
The English author Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is canonic for its portrayal of a split personality and has become synonymous with multiple personality disorder

Multiple personality disorder is a rare mental illness which is characterized by the presence of several personalities “inside” one individual. While it is normal to have different modes of behavior for a single individual, having completely different personalities co-existing in one single human being is considered abnormal. Each of these personalities has distinct social relationships, agenda and most importantly, memories. That is, when one “personality” is in action, it doesn’t know that there is also another “personality,” hence the inability to remember actions and decisions made while the other personality was active. Multiple personality disorder is described best in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” which is considered by psychologists as a very accurate account of the multiple personality case. Multiple personality disorder, or dissociative personality disorder, as it called among specialists, is still a subject of many diagnostic controversies due to such factors as unreliable interviews of patients being under the influence of medical specialist’s suggestions. Known signs and symptoms of multiple personality disorder include:

  • Poor or absent sense of time
  • Inability to provide fundamental information about oneself, such as place of birth and date of birth
  • Difficulties in communication

Comparison chart

Schizophrenia Multiple Personality Disorder
Schizophrenia is not a creative condition. On the contrary, it suppresses creativity Creative ability is not damaged in people with multiple personality disorder
Men are more frequently diagnosed with schizophrenia than are women Women are more frequently diagnosed with multiple personality disorder than are men
Schizophrenia doesn’t mean that a person with it has two identities People with multiple personality disorder actually have two or more identities
Schizophrenics exhibit both negative symptoms and positive symptoms The symptoms of multiple personality disorder do not include negative ones
People with schizophrenia have cognitive impairments People with multiple personality disorder do not have any  cognitive impairments

Schizophrenia vs Multiple Personality Disorder

What is the difference between Schizophrenia and Multiple Personality Disorder?

  • Sometimes artistic people are called “schizophrenics” because of their unusual creative powers and their ability to produce fresh ideas or apply innovative approaches. However, as far as psychiatry is concerned, they are not schizophrenics. On the contrary, creative powers, if they were present, become impaired among schizophrenics to the point that  schizophrenic artists are not able to produce even the simplest objects of art. In the case of multiple personality disorder, on the other hand, creative powers are not impaired and sometimes they may even be fostered by multiple personality disorder. It happens when the creative identity takes place of a the primal “common” identity of a person.
  • Men are diagnosed with schizophrenia more frequently than women. On the other hand, there are more known multiple personality disorder cases among women than among men.
  • Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not a split-personality disorder. It is rather a damaged personality disorder. Schizophrenics “hear” voices and “see” images that do not exist. Multiple personality disorder, on the other hand, if diagnosed, necessarily means that there is a split-personality case. The voices the patients hear and respond to are their own voices; they do exist, albeit belonging to the different identities.
  • Individuals suffering from schizophrenia exhibit both negative (self-harmful and potentially dangerous or antisocial) and positive symptoms, while those with multiple personalities exhibit only positive symptoms. Multiple personality sufferers have rarely hurt or bothered anyone because of their mental state.
  • Schizophrenics sometimes have serious cognitive impairments. FMRI scans of people with schizophrenia show abnormalities in the brain regions responsible for the proper functioning of the cognitive processes. On the other hand, people with multiple personality disorder have normally functioning regions of the brain responsible for cognitive skills, such as attention or language. They do, though, have a fundamental problem with memory. One may even say that there are two or more brains at the same time in the brain of a multiple personality sufferer, which, unfortunately, was not designed by Nature.


In this video psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman explains the difference between Schizophrenia and Multiple Personality Disorder: