“Acting is not that far from mental disease: An actor works on splitting his character into others. It is like a kind of schizophrenia.” –Vittorio Gassman
Most people erroneously believe that schizophrenia is the mental disorder characterized by alter egos, or multiple personalities. This is probably because of simple linguistic confusion, mixed with the recurring mistakes we see in popular culture and online. I just want to set the record straight, because it’s important not to perpetuate misinformation.
“Schizophrenia beats dining alone.” –Oscar Levant
Schizophrenia is characterized by symptoms such as emotional numbness, auditory hallucinations, paranoid or grandiose delusions, and disorganized thoughts and speech. People with schizophrenia have a diminished sense of reality – a completely different experience than multiple personalities.
“Never get into an argument with a schizophrenic person and say, ‘Who do you think you are?'” –Ray Combs
In fact, the terms multiple personalities, split personalities, or alter egos are all outdated. Dissociative Identity Disorder is the current name for this disorder.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m schizophrenic, and so am I.” –Oscar Levant
So where did the confusion come from? It may have been from the translation of the Greek words “skhizein” and “phren,” from which “schizophrenia” is derived. The former means “split,” and the latter means “mind,” but the word was intended to mean that the functions of the mind were split.
“The idea of stardom was difficult to grasp. It was like being schizophrenic; there was her, the woman on television, and the real me.” –Jessica Savitch
And nowadays, people use the word “schizophrenic” colloquially, which makes even less sense. For example:
“I’m really schizophrenic about that, because on the one hand I would say, yes there is, there’s something inherently, even violent about it, it’s wild and raw and all this.” –Lester Bangs
“I feel a little schizophrenic because my life is so totally different from here, obviously. And the French values are so different from American values.” –Adrian Lyne
“In Poland, my audience is all women between 18 and 30. At U.S. conventions, you have the fantasy and science fiction crowd. At Harvard you have an entirely different audience. It’s so schizophrenic.” –Jonathan Carroll
As Ann Kring – clinical psychology professor at University of California at Berkeley – says, it’s a little bit like saying “Oh, quit being so diabetic about it.” It makes no sense. Furthermore, Kring says that we should not label people as schizophrenics, but “people with schizophrenia.” Dehumanizing someone with a stigmatic label should obviously be avoided, just as using schizophrenia incorrectly should. As HealthyPlace aptly puts it, Dissociative Identity Disorder and schizophrenia “are not even remotely the same thing. Continuing to treat them as such perpetuates gross misunderstandings that isolate people with both of these disorders.”
“There’s a fine line between the Method actor and the schizophrenic.” –Nicolas Cage
For some reason, I feel like if I end my post saying “Well, that was a really schizophrenic article, wasn’t it?” it would somehow make sense to everyone.
But it shouldn’t.