Who Is at Risk Developing Schizophrenia?

Last Editorial Review: 10/17/2017

Ask the experts

My uncle has schizophrenia. I've heard it's hereditary. What are the chances for developing schizophrenia?

Doctor's Response

To answer your question, I would like first to say that schizophrenia is not directly pasted genetically from one generation to another; there is no specific cause for this illness. Because your uncle has been diagnosed with it does not mean that you will get the disease. It is thought that genetic and other biological factors as well as psychological environmental risk factors play a role in developing schizophrenia. The chances for you developing schizophrenia currently is based on risk factors you may have. Your chance for developing schizophrenia is higher if you have some of these following risk factors:

  • Father that is of advanced age
  • genetic factors such as abnormal dopamine levels
  • malnourished mother
  • mother with infections during pregnancy
  • childhood difficulties (such as loss of a parent, poverty, bullying, witnessing domestic violence, the victim of emotional, sexual or physical abuse)
  • illegal drug usage (marijuana, amphetamines and/or hallucinogens)
  • ethnic minority (discrimination)

Schizophrenia affects about 1% of the population and effects men about 1.5 times more commonly than women. Schizophrenia be diagnosed in children as young as six years old.

The symptoms of schizophrenia vary quite a bit from individual to individual. However, delusions or failure to recognize what is real is characteristic of schizophrenia. Delusions can cause hallucinations. Hallucinations can be visual, auditory and/or touch; confused with disordered thoughts I also be present along with disorganized speech.

There is no one test that definitively diagnosis the patient with schizophrenia. The diagnosis is made by the patient's history, physical exam and symptoms along with some tests that rule out other causes for patient symptoms; this is usually done by a consultant like a psychiatrist and/or help from a mental health care professional.

Most patients diagnosed with schizophrenia may benefit from first and second generation antipsychotic drugs, by psychosocial interventions and by other methods such as cognitive meditation and other social therapies.

For more information, read our full medical article about schizophrenia signs, symptoms, treatment, and prognosis.

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