6 Risk Factors for Developing Schizophrenia

Patient Expert
View as:|
1 of 7

As of yet, no definite cause for schizophrenia has been discovered. A diagnosis is made or ruled out using the seven diagnostic tools reported on in a prior slide show. The following risk factors are linked to schizophrenia.

Genetic Factors

A strong hereditary component exists for schizophrenia, meaning it can run in families. Individuals with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) who has schizophrenia have a 10 percent chance of developing this illness. An identical twin has a 40 to 65 percent chance of developing schizophrenia. Ordinarily, it's 1 percent of the general population.

Environmental Factors

Research links stress, either during pregnancy or later in life, as a possible cause. Stress is thought to trigger schizophrenia by increasing the body's production of cortisol.

Types of stress that may be involved in schizophrenia:

Prenatal exposure to a viral infection.

Low oxygen levels during birth (from prolonged labor or premature birth).

Exposure to a virus during infancy.

Early prenatal loss or separation

Traumatic Experiences

Physical or sexual abuse in childhood is linked to the onset of schizophrenia. One study indicated that children who experienced any type of trauma before age 16 were nearly three times more likely to become psychotic in adulthood, compared to individuals randomly selected from the population. Childhood sexual abuse was linked to hallucinations in this study.

Abnormal Brain Structure

It's thought abnormalities in brain structure may also influence the onset of schizophrenia. Some individuals with schizophrenia have enlarged brain ventricles, linked to a deficit in the volume of brain tissue. Evidence also exists of abnormally low activity in the frontal lobe, the area of the brain responsible for planning, reasoning, and decision-making

Father's Age

Other research indicates that the older the age of the father, there's an increased risk of his children developing schizophrenia or autism. As early as 2012, scientists determined this happens because of random mutations that become more numerous as the father gets older. The figure increased to 65 mutations for offspring of 40-year-old fathers.

Psychosocial Stressors

As early as the DSM-III-R, this bible of psychiatric diagnoses listed that the onset of schizophrenia may be due to a psychosocial stressor in a young person's life, or to the exacerbation of stress. This could take the form of the death of a mother or father or of a beloved grandparent, or any other stress.