What Causes Schizophrenia?

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that causes many scary experiences for affected people. It is a very difficult disorder to cope with on a daily basis.

Schizophrenia affects many areas of a person’s life. Day to day activities and interpersonal relationships are negatively impacted by symptoms.

Common symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Depressed mood
  • Poor information processing skills
  • Poor decision making skills
  • Learning and memory impairments
  • Impulsivity
  • Impaired motor function
  • Dysfunctional patterns of thinking
  • Restlessness or unusual mannerisms
  • Flat affect
  • Limited communication
  • Low interest in activities or interacting with others
  • Distractibility

It is important to know if you are at risk for schizophrenia if you are experiencing symptoms. Typically, a person with the disorder will begin to show symptoms around age 19-25. However, there are cases of people showing symptoms as late as age 35 and even as early as 5 years old.

Causes of Schizophrenia

Professionals have identified several different causes for the onset of schizophrenia. There are genetic, biological, environmental, and neurological components that may cause the disorder.

The following are possible causes for the onset of schizophrenia:

1. Abnormal Brain Structure and Chemistry

Professionals have found that people with schizophrenia have different brain structure and chemistry.

The abnormalities found in the brain of someone with schizophrenia include:

  • An Enlarged Ventricle. An enlarged ventricle causes other areas of the brain to be compromised. This serves as a contributing factor to the psychotic features of the disorder.
  • A Compromised Thalamus. The thalamus is responsible for receiving and interpreting sensory information. It is smaller in the brain of a schizophrenic as a result of the enlarged ventricle. This serves as a contributing factor to the psychotic features of schizophrenia.
  • An Imbalance of Dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that is responsible for motivation. In cases of schizophrenia, there is a dopamine imbalance. The imbalance causes too much dopamine to be released into the brain. This results in psychotic symptoms.
  • Reduced Memory Function. Professionals have found that people with schizophrenia have reduced memory function. This reduced memory function contributes to how the affected person experiences symptoms.

2. Birth Complications

Birth complications are risk factors for schizophrenia. The following are common complications that have occurred with people with schizophrenia:

  • Exposure to infection during the prenatal stages or early infancy
  • Head trauma during birth or in early infancy
  • Low oxygen levels at birth
  • Abuse or neglect during infancy and/or childhood

3. Genetics

There is a genetic component to the onset of schizophrenia. It has been found that there is a hereditary predisposition to schizophrenia. This means that you are at risk for having schizophrenia if you have a direct family member who has it as well.

Parents, grandparents, and siblings are considered direct family members. A person is 10% more likely to have schizophrenia if they have a direct family member who is also diagnosed.

4. Substance Abuse

It has been found that the recreational use of recreational drugs puts a person at risk. Recreational drugs affect a person’s thoughts and emotions. They affect how the world is perceived and interpreted. Recreational drugs that may contribute to a person being diagnosed with schizophrenia include:

  • LSD
  • cocaine
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • amphetamines
  • marijuana

5. Upbringing

History of abuse during childhood can increase the risk of schizophrenia. Studies suggest that children who suffered abuse before 16 years old are more likely to suffer from schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia can develop as the result of neglect during infancy and childhood years. According to to research, the following increases risk of schizophrenia:

  • Not receiving unconditional love from parents
  • Malnutrition
  • Not feeling secure or protected at home
  • Lack of guidance from parents
  • An unsafe or chaotic home environment

6. Trauma During Childhood

Severely traumatized children are at high risk of suffering from schizophrenia. Research has found that trauma in children can be linked to schizophrenia. Studies support that prolonged trauma before 16 years old may cause schizophrenia. This is especially true with untreated cases of trauma before 16 y.o.

Traumatic situations include:

  • Sexual abuse or assault
  • Abusive home environment
  • Near death experience
  • Bullying
  • Untreated mental illness
  • Grief and traumatic loss
  • Prolonged abuse and neglect

Evidence supports that each of these situations can cause paranoia, hallucinations and delusions. This contributes to the development of psychosis and schizophrenia.

Why Treatment Of Schizophrenia Is Important

There are many contributing factors for the onset of schizophrenia. It is a scary diagnosis, and it takes courage to come to terms with the need to address symptoms.

If left untreated, schizophrenia can cause major life complications. It could even cause the affected person to de-compensate, or lose touch with reality.

It is important that you seek professional help if you are experiencing symptoms. A professional can help you understand the warning signs of schizophrenia. With treatment, schizophrenia can be managed. If left untreated, schizophrenia has serious consequences on your health.

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