What can cause schizophrenia?

November 12, 2012

What can cause schizophrenia?

The direct cause of schizophrenia remains unknown but research has revealed that an interaction of factors that are psychological, genetic, physical and environmental can potentially cause schizophrenia.

Due to this combination of factors, it can be very difficult to identify the direct trigger or cause of schizophrenia. There has been some research that has suggested that some individuals are more prone than others to develop the condition but there is also evidence to say that a stressful or traumatic life event could trigger an episode. There is no way of knowing before the condition occurs, whether or not you are going to develop it. Some factors that are uncontrollable and are considered to have the potential to cause schizophrenia include the following:


Although a particular gene has not been identified, genetics are considered to be a factor, as schizophrenia appears to run in the family. It is thought that the likelihood of developing the condition increases with a certain combination of genetics. Having this genetic make-up however does not mean that you will definitely develop schizophrenia. This theory is based on evidence produced from a study of identical twins in comparison to non-identical twins and the general public. When one identical twin developed schizophrenia, there was a 1:2 chance that the other twin would also develop the condition. In non-identical twins, there was a 1:7 chance when one twin developed the condition, the other also would. In normal people there is a 1:100 chance of developing the condition. These results suggest that while genes certainly make the condition more likely, there are also other factors involved that cause schizophrenia.

Brain development

Studies looking into the brain structure of individuals with schizophrenia have produced results showing that there are some very minor differences in the structure or distribution of brain cells. These differences are not always present so this cannot be used to determine whether or not the condition will occur.


Neurotransmitters are chemicals that send messages around the brain. Certain medications alter the levels of these neurotransmitters and this has been found to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. Therefore, there must be some connection between the two. There are two neurotransmitters in particular, that are thought to potentially cause schizophrenia, these are dopamine and serotonin.

Other factors that can cause schizophrenia

  • Complication during pregnancy or chid birth such as bleeding, pre-eclampsia, abnormal growth of the baby in the womb, exposure to virus in the womb and lack of oxygen during birth.

  • Viral infections such as polio and flu have been linked to the development of schizophrenia.

  • Head injuries, although it is not known why, are thought to increase the likelihood of the individual developing schizophrenia.

  • Stress is considered to trigger rather than cause schizophrenia.

  • Drug abuse again is not thought to cause schizophrenia directly but can increase the likelihood of someone developing or trigger the condition in someone who is already prone to it.


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