Introduction to Schizophrenia and Dissociative Disorders

What you’ll learn to do: explain symptoms and potential causes of schizophrenic and dissociative disorders

Word salad of various words embroidered on a cloth.

Figure 1. Speaking in word salad, or random words strung together without meaning, is sometimes characteristic of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a severe disorder characterized by a complete breakdown in one’s ability to function in life; it often requires hospitalization. People with schizophrenia experience hallucinations and delusions, and they have extreme difficulty regulating their emotions and behavior. Thinking is incoherent and disorganized, behavior is extremely bizarre, emotions are flat, and motivation to engage in most basic life activities is lacking.

Schizophrenia is not to be confused with multiple personality disorder, which is technically termed dissociative identity disorder. The main characteristic of dissociative disorders is that people become dissociated from their sense of self, resulting in memory and identity disturbances. Dissociative disorders listed in the DSM-5 include dissociative amnesia, depersonalization/derealization disorder, and dissociative identity disorder. A person with dissociative amnesia is unable to recall important personal information, often after a stressful or traumatic experience. In this section, you’ll learn about the differences between schizophrenia and these disorders.

Learning Objectives

  • Categorize and describe the major symptoms of schizophrenia
  • Describe the interplay between genetic, biological, and environmental factors that are associated with the development of schizophrenia
  • Identify and differentiate the symptoms and potential causes of dissociative amnesia, depersonalization/ derealization disorder, and dissociative identity disorder