Schizophrenia

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Schizophrenia Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideSchizophrenia Pictures Slideshow: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Schizophrenia Pictures Slideshow: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

How common is schizophrenia in children?

Although there have been fewer studies on schizophrenia in children compared to adults, researchers are finding that children as young as 6 years of age can be found to have all the symptoms of their adult counterparts and to continue to have those symptoms into adulthood.

What is the history of schizophrenia?

Though the word schizophrenia has only been in use since 1911. It was deemed a separate mental illness in 1887 by Emil Kraepelin. Despite that relatively recent history, it has been described throughout written history. Ancient Egyptian, Hindu, Chinese, Greek, and Roman writings described symptoms similar to the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. During medieval times, schizophrenia, like other illnesses, was often viewed as evidence of the sufferer being possessed by spirits or having evil powers.

A number of accomplished individuals suffer from schizophrenia. The film A Beautiful Mind describes the life of John Nash, a noted scientist, and his struggles with what was previously called paranoid schizophrenia. The film The Soloist explores the challenges faced by Juilliard-trained musician Nathaniel Ayers as a result of schizophrenia. Despite those prominent portrayals of people with schizophrenia, this condition, like most mental illnesses, usually remains shrouded in secrecy and shame that goes beyond maintaining privacy.

What are schizophrenia causes? Is schizophrenia hereditary?

One frequently asked question about schizophrenia is if it is hereditary. As with most other mental disorders, schizophrenia is not directly passed from one generation to another genetically, and there is no single specific cause for this illness. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of genetic and other biological vulnerabilities, as well as psychological and environmental risk factors. Biologically, it is thought that people who have abnormalities in the brain neurochemical dopamine are at higher risk for developing the condition. Other brain issues that are thought to predispose people to developing schizophrenia include abnormalities in the connections between different areas of the brain, called default mode network connectivity. Research is emerging that implicates potential abnormalities in the transmission of the brain neurochemical glutamate as a risk factor for having schizophrenia.

Genetically, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have much in common, in that the two disorders share a number of the same risk genes. However, the fact is that both illnesses also have some genetic factors that are unique. There are some genetic commonalities with schizophrenia and epilepsy, as well.

Environmentally, the risks of developing schizophrenia can even occur before birth. For example, the risk of schizophrenia is increased in individuals whose father is of advanced age or whose mother was malnourished or had one of certain infections during pregnancy. Difficult life circumstances during childhood, like the early loss of a parent, parental poverty, bullying, witnessing domestic violence; being the victim of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse or of physical or emotional neglect; and insecure attachment have been associated with increased risks of developing this illness. Even factors like how well represented an ethnic group is in a neighborhood can be a risk or protective factor for developing schizophrenia. For example, some research indicates that ethnic minorities may be more at risk for developing this disorder if there are fewer members of the ethnic group to which the individual belongs in their neighborhood.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/2/2016

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