What Is The Most Likely Cause Of Schizophrenia?

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Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness characterised by hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thought processes. It affects around one percent of the population across the world and currently, there is no cure.

As there isn’t a single cause of schizophrenia that can be clearly identified, most researchers now agree that several different factors are involved and have called this interplay of factors the bio-psycho-social model.

What is the Bio-Psycho-Social Model of Schizophrenia?

A simple way to explain The Bio-Psycho-Social Model of Schizophrenia is that a when a combination of biological (including genetics), psychological and social factors are present in an individual, together they can result in the mental illness schizophrenia.

Although genetics plays a strong role in whether someone will develop schizophrenia or not, there isn’t enough evidence to class it as a definite cause by itself. Yes, if you have a family history of schizophrenia you are at higher risk of developing schizophrenia yourself but not everyone with a close relative who has the condition will develop it. Take identical twins as an example, if one twin develops schizophrenia the other only has a 50% chance of developing it too and yet they have the same genes.

There is some evidence that maternal stress during pregnancy can result in changes to the unborn child’s brain which can then increase the risk of that child developing schizophrenia when they reach young adulthood.  Again, this cannot be identified as a single cause of schizophrenia by itself.

People who have suffered neglect or abuse during their childhood, or those living in poor social housing or that come from dysfunctional families, are experiencing stress or are vulnerable in some other way and who are also genetically predisposed towards schizophrenia seem to be more likely to develop schizophrenia than those who are genetically disposed but who have a more secure and stable foundation with very little stress.

On the other hand, someone with no genetic disposition might still develop schizophrenia as a result of another combination of factors such as stress during pregnancy, social stress or environmental stress during childhood. What is known is that people with schizophrenia or who at risk of developing schizophrenia are much more susceptible to the effects of any kind of stress.

No one can yet explain exactly how all these factors interplay to result in schizophrenia in one person and not in another as the risk factors are not the same for everyone. However, progress is being made all the time.

Just recently, scientists from Edinburgh University discovered that they could detect changes in the grey matter of the brains of high risk individuals even before they showed any symptoms of schizophrenia which in the future might help predict who will develop schizophrenia and who won’t.

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