In psychology, it is very easy to confuse concepts, because often the categories used to classify mental phenomena have fuzzy limits. Also, if you don’t have too much training in this area of science, it’s easy to end up with doubts about what a definition of role models means, something abstract.
In this article we will see what they are the differences between bipolarity, schizophrenia and dissociative personality (Or dissociative personality disorder), words that do not mean the same thing but refer to some kind of division between the psychological elements of a person.
Definition of each psychological concept
To understand how we can distinguish these concepts used in clinical psychology and psychiatry, we must first have a definition (although basic) of these terms. Let’s do this.
What is bipolar and bipolar disorder?
Bipolarity is a broad and unofficial concept of reference to bipolar disorder, Official diagnostic label for inclusion in major mental health diagnostic manuals.
In summary, we can say that bipolar disorder is a mood disorder in which without the person trying or controlling it, stages of depression occur, on the one hand, and the stages of mania in which the mood rises sharply and becomes expansive.
Although there are different types of bipolar disorder, the purer concept of it refers to what happens to a person who for several days in a row is deeply demotivated, very sad and even unable to feel pain. pleasure, then suddenly it happens to be several days in a row feeling a very intense kind of euphoria and the belief that any goal can be achieved (almost literally, and with all the dangers that entails).
Bipolar disorder is severe deterioration in mental health in which there is a high risk of suicide attempts or exposure to very dangerous situations, as well as often drastic mood swings can appear alongside distortions in the perception of things, such as delusions and even hallucinations .
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a clinical concept related to severe alterations in the most basic mental processes, and it is linked to psychotic symptoms characterized by a serious deterioration of the perception and the accomplishment of abnormal behaviors and which often suppose to be exposed to dangers.
The ways in which schizophrenia is expressed are so varied that even it has been debated whether it is really a single clinical entity or several with little relation to each other as to its causes.
For example, in some cases delusions and hallucinations appear alongside an inability to communicate in an organized manner, other times psychotic symptoms of perception are combined with catatonic stupor and loss of consciousness, and in many cases. in many cases this is all combined in a strange way. expressing emotions (sometimes you don’t seem to have emotions, sometimes the emotions don’t match what’s going on).
What is the dissociative personality?
Dissociative personality refers to what is called dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder.
It is a diagnostic category that carries a lot of controversy because there are very few documented cases about it and therefore it has not been able to be studied much, and moreover its symptoms have not been described too consistently. .
Generally speaking, dissociative identity disorder is associated with symptoms such as inability to remember certain experiences at times but not at others, The feeling of decomposition of his own personality and the passage of time.
Additionally, dissociative identity disorder often appears in people who have had traumatic experiences, which has fueled the idea that it is part of a way of dealing with memories that cannot be accepted or experienced without. a lot of suffering. But it’s only an hypothesis.
Differences between schizophrenia, bipolarity and dissociative personality
From what we’ve been able to see so far, we can now begin to understand what the differences are between dissociative personality, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
1. Bipolar disorder is based on emotions
While bipolar disorder can go hand in hand with hallucinations and delusions, what characterizes it are the alternations between very extreme moods, And that is why it falls under the category of mood disorders.
In contrast, in most cases, people with bipolar disorder they have no problem communicating consistently (Although they can sometimes choose not to speak due to the lack of motivation and energy inherent in the depressive phase).
2. In dissociative identity, the key is memory
In definitions of dissociative identity disorder, alterations in the experience of memories are central.
This means that in most cases an inability to remember events is described, and sometimes even a “compartmentalized” memory is mentioned, As if in the same body there were several people able to access memories that no one else can access.
Of course, in reality, this absolute division between the memorized content does not exist as such and is only apparent.
3. Schizophrenia isn’t just about emotions or memory
Another difference between schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and dissociative identity disorder is that the former has a much greater variety of symptom types that go beyond emotional and memory blockages.
4. In each case, the “division” of psychological processes is different
In these last concepts appears the idea that there is a division between the psychological processes.
In bipolar disorder, this division occurs with the qualitative change from one emotional state to another.
In dissociative identity, changes occur when certain memories become blocked and others become accessible.
And in schizophrenia, it seems that it is the psychological processes themselves that are separated from each other, and not their content: The emotional part sometimes does not correspond to the processes of perception of the environment, these do not correspond to the functioning of the senses, etc.
On the other hand, it is not typical for schizophrenia to go through stages in which symptoms appear together for several days in a row, and then move on to another stage in which another group of completely different symptoms. emerges, as in the case of bipolar disorder.
- Ali, A. (2016). Schizophrenia, symptoms, types, causes and treatment. OnHealth
- Lilienfeld, SO and Lynn, SJ (2014). Dissociative Identity Disorder: A Contemporary Scientific Perspective. Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology, 2nd ed., Ed. SO Lilienfeld, SJ Lynn and JM Lohr. New York: Guilford Press).