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Schizophrenia

What Causes Schizophrenia?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 12:50

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Schizophrenia is a complex illness, and no single cause has been found. There are several theories about the causes, which include:

  • Heredity. Schizophrenia runs in some families. A person can inherit a tendency to develop the illness, especially if a parent has the disorder. The risk for inheriting schizophrenia is 10 percent in those who have an immediate family member with the illness, and 40 percent if the illness affect both parents or an identical twin. However, about 60 percent of people with schizophrenia have no close relatives with the illness
  • Brain chemistry. Many researchers believe that people with schizophrenia are either very sensitive to a brain chemical called dopamine, or produce too much of it. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which are substances that allow nerve cells in the brain to send messages to each other. An imbalance of this chemical can affect the way a person's brain reacts to stimuli.
  • An abnormality within the brain. Better imaging technology has allowed researchers to study the brain structure and function in people with schizophrenia. They have concluded that many individuals with the disorder have subtle abnormalities in brain structure. These abnormalities include a slight enlargement of the fluid-filled cavities (ventricles) in the brain, and a slightly smaller size of some areas of the brain. But this is not true in all people with schizophrenia, and such abnormalities also have been identified in people who do not have schizophrenia.
  • Complications during pregnancy and birth. Some researchers believe that an infection or malnutrition during pregnancy, or by complications during birth, may increase the chances of that child developing schizophrenia when he or she is older.

Need To Know:

Schizophrenia is not caused by personal weakness or by poor parenting. It is a myth to assume that if the person really wanted to help himself, he could.

Schizophrenia