What Causes Schizophrenia?

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that causes many scary experiences for patients. People with schizophrenia will have many different symptoms, like:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Depression

Schizophrenia is a very difficult disorder to cope with on a daily basis. It affects many areas of the patient’s life. Day to day activities and interpersonal relationships are negatively affected by symptoms. It is important to know if you are at risk for schizophrenia if you are experiencing symptoms. Typically, a person with schizophrenia will begin to show symptoms around age 19-25. However, there are cases of people showing symptoms as late as age 35 and as early as 5 years old. Professionals have identified several different causes for the onset of schizophrenia. There are genetic, biological, environmental, and neurological components to consider for diagnosis.

Brain Structure and Chemistry

Research has found evidence that the brain structure and chemistry is different in a person with schizophrenia. The differences found between a typical brain and a brain of a schizophrenic include:

  • An Enlarged Ventricle causes other areas of the brain to be compromised. This serves as a contributing factor to the psychotic features of schizophrenia.
For example

The thalamus is typically smaller as a result of the enlarged ventricle. The thalamus is responsible for receiving and interpreting sensory information.

  • An Imbalance of Dopamine – There is a dopamine imbalance that causes too much dopamine to be released. This results in psychotic symptoms.
  • Reduced Memory Function – Research has indicated that people with schizophrenia have reduced function of the memory centers of the brain. This reduced memory function contributes to the symptoms experienced by a schizophrenic patient.

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


There is also a genetic component to 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 diagnosed.

Substance Abuse

It has been found that the recreational use of illegal psychotropic drugs puts a person at risk. Psychotropic drugs affect thoughts and emotions. It also affects how the world is perceived and interpreted. Psychotropic drugs include:

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

There are many contributing factors for the onset of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a scary diagnosis. It takes courage to come to terms with the need to address symptoms. However, if left untreated schizophrenia can cause major life complications. It could even cause the patient to de-compensate, or lose touch with reality. It is important that you seek professional attention if you feel you may be suffering from schizophrenia. With treatment schizophrenia can be managed. If left untreated it could have serious consequences on your overall mental and physical health.


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