Splitting: Another Psychological Blanket Term?

Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions that affect an individual’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. By age 40, around 50% of Canadians will have or have had a mental illness. Schizophrenia is a mental illness characterized by delusions, auditory hallucinations, unclear or confused thinking, reduced social engagement, and disorganized behavior. People with schizophrenia may appear “out of touch” with reality. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness characterized by varying moods, self-image, and relationships with others. Individuals may experience mood swings and changes in perception of the world. Individuals with BPD may use splitting as a defense mechanism. Splitting describes a shift in conscious experience that disturbs an individual’s sense of identity, memory, and the experience of the external world. It can also be described as a “loosening” of perception and association of objects. Splitting impacts the semantic memory that stores general information about the world accumulated over an individual’s lifetime.

In this article, researchers examined the relationship between splitting and disturbed brain functions in individuals with either schizophrenia or BPD. The participants included 30 patients with schizophrenia and 35 patients with BPD. Each participant completed a questionnaire called a Splitting Index to self-report their symptoms of splitting. Semantic memory was assessed using a verbal fluency test. The main results showed that the Splitting Index score was significantly higher in individuals with BPD compared to individuals with schizophrenia. By contrast, verbal fluency scores were significantly lower in individuals with schizophrenia compared to individuals with BPD. Mental instability in BPD can manifest in increased mental tension, shifts in emotional object perception and shifts in perception of self and others. Mental fragmentation and splitting in schizophrenia leads to lower mental tension and may also lead to contextual deficits, such as problems with integration of information.

In conclusion, these researchers discovered a significant difference between the manifestations of splitting in BPD and schizophrenia. These findings can be used to create separate treatment plans for splitting in patients with BPD and schizophrenia, and may improve both in- and out- patient care.

Summary written by: Francis Routledge

To read the full article, please click the following link:

Splitting in Schizophrenia and Borderline Personality Disorder

Ondrej Pec, Petr Bob , Jiri Raboch

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