Causes of Schizophrenia

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First of all there isn’t a single identifiable cause of Schizophrenia. Instead, the research conducted to date indicates that there would appear to be multiple triggers implicated in the development of schizophrenia. These triggers include genetics, brain chemistry and brain abnormalities, psychological and social factors, developmental problems and even infection. However, why schizophrenia develops in some individuals and not in others remains a mystery.

Genetic Factors

If you have a close relative with schizophrenia then you have an increased chance of developing it yourself so there would appear to be a strong genetic element involved. For example, if one identical twin has the condition then the other one has a 50% chance of developing it too whereas only 1% of the general population are likely to develop schizophrenia. Scientists are continuing to look at the specific genetic factors that might be involved.

Brain Chemistry

Imbalances in the levels of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin might have a role to play in schizophrenia but the exact reasons why are not known. Also, people with schizophrenia and other conditions affecting mental health often have low levels of essential fatty acids in their brains indicating that a deficiency of these fatty acids can increase the risk of mental illness.

Brain Abnormalities

Technological developments such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) have allowed scientists to study living brains as opposed to brains in a laboratory. Imaging scans have revealed abnormalities in the brains of some people with schizophrenia both in the structure of the brain and in how the brain functions. However, not everyone with these abnormalities has schizophrenia and not everyone with schizophrenia has the abnormalities so a definite conclusion cannot be made.

Psychological/Social Factors

Some evidence indicates that stressful life events such as bereavement, redundancy, divorce or becoming a parent, homelessness, unemployment, or social isolation can play a part in developing schizophrenia although they are not causes of schizophrenia in themselves.

Other possible triggers

Other factors that have been implicated in schizophrenia include viral infections, abnormal foetal growth and complications during delivery.


Although research continues to be conducted into the possible triggers and causes of schizophrenia, a definitive cause of this distressing condition has yet to be identified.

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