Causes of Schizophrenia and Treatments to Help

Schizophrenia is a debilitating chronic disorder that severely affects a person's perception of reality. Symptoms can include a variety of abnormal thinking, including delusions, disorientation and hallucinations. Triggering odd behavior and distorted thinking, this mental illness can impair daily activities. There are several causes of the ccondition. However, no matter the origin, it will require a lifetime of treatment.

Causes of Schizophrenia

1.     Genetics

There is not a "single" schizophrenia gene. Actually, researchers have uncovered evidence that it is a multitude of genetic mutations that increase your chances of developing a mental disorder. While having a family member with schizophrenia does not necessarily mean you will develop the disorder, it does increase your risk. For example, if a sibling or parent has it, your risk increases by 10%.

However, bear in mind that some people develop schizophrenia without a family history of the illness. In these cases, chances are there is a change in your genetics. Remember, genes are only one of the potential causes of schizophrenia.

2.     Environmental Triggers

Your risk of developing schizophrenia increases if you came into contact with specific viral infections while in the womb. The same goes if you did not receive enough nutrients from your mother during the first six months you were in her belly.

Research has shown that use of mind-altering drugs like LSD or methamphetamines can trigger schizophrenia. Some studies have found evidence that using marijuana can increase your chances as well. If you start using drugs at a young age, you increase your risk of developing symptoms like delusions, erratic emotions, hallucinations and lack of clarity. Also, the more you use these types of drugs, the greater your chances of suffering from schizophrenia.

3.     Pregnancy and Birth Complications

One of the causes of schizophrenia is complications while in the womb or while being born. Sometimes these complications can have an effect on the brain and mental development. If you suffered from one of the following, your chances of developing the mental illness are greater:

  • Premature labor
  • Low birth weight
  • Asphyxia (lack of oxygen) during birth

4.     Stress

Stressful events can trigger major psychological reactions, including the onset of schizophrenia. While it doesn't necessarily cause the disorder, it can initiate the process of its development, especially if your risk is already high. Types of events include:

  • Divorce
  • Job loss
  • Bereavement
  • Losing a home
  • Mental, emotional, sexual or physical abuse
  • Relationship terminating

5.     Drug Abuse

While drug abuse does not specifically cause schizophrenia, it can raise your chances of developing the mental illness. Some drugs are particularly detrimental to those prone to the disorder. Cocaine, amphetamines, LSD and even marijuana can induce symptoms. If a person suffers from psychosis, further drug use can lead to a relapse of a previous incident.

Significant research has found that regular use of marijuana in teenagers 15 and younger increases adolescents' chances of developing schizophrenia by four times of a non-drug user.

6.     Brain Development

Some individuals with schizophrenia have small differences in their brain structure. However, these differences are not consistent amongst those who have the illness. In fact, individuals can have them and not develop a mental disorder. Studies are still being conducted to confirm the relationship between brain structure and mental illness as one of the possible causes of schizophrenia.

7.     Neurotransmitters

Your brain cells communicate between each other through the use of neurotransmitters. Researchers believe there is a definite connection between schizophrenia and neurotransmitters. This is mainly because when a person is given drugs that affect neurotransmitter levels, the patient can get relief from symptoms related to their mental illness.

When there is an imbalance between the neurotransmitters known as serotonin and dopamine, it can trigger the onset of schizophrenia. Also, sometimes a person's body becomes more sensitive to neurotransmitters, which can be an indication of an increased risk of the mental disorder.

How Can It Be Treated?

Schizophrenia treatment is usually a combination of therapies, which include lifestyle changes, behavioral modification, social support, psychological therapy and medication. Individuals often feel better from therapy and want to stop treatment, but they should not. Stopping treatment can cause a relapse. People who suffer from schizophrenia should be prepared for a lifetime of treatment. It may change over time, but it must be maintained to keep the mental illness under control.


The medication prescribed for schizophrenia is not a cure, only a treatment for the psychotic symptoms. It can be effective in controlling paranoia, hallucinations, illogical thinking and delusions. Medication is less effective if a person suffers from lack of emotions, motivation and social interaction.

Finding the right medication and the proper dosage can take some time. It is a matter of trial and error. It is important to be patient during the discovery phase. If you are worried about your reactions to the medications, speak with your doctor.


Therapy can help you cope with your mental illness. It can teach you how to manage your stress levels, improve your life skills, cope with communication issues and work on relationship conflicts. It can also provide you a social setting through group therapy that allows you to interact with others and gain insight on techniques that have helped them.

Self-Help That Works

1.     Finding Social Support

Going it alone will only make you feel more alienated from society. Family support can help you cope with stress and anxiety. Encouragement from friends allows you to connect with other people in social settings. Co-workers or fellow students give you the setting needed to boost your self-esteem. If you can, join a support group with other members suffering from schizophrenia. It is important to know you are not alone.

2.     Stress Management

When your stress levels are elevated, it can trigger your schizophrenic symptoms. It is believed this happens because in stressful situations, a body produces more cortisol. Give yourself the opportunity to unwind through yoga, meditation and breathing exercises. Even counting to ten and allowing yourself to calm down can help.

3.     Exercise Regularly

By increasing your energy levels and improving your ability to focus, you can give yourself relief from your schizophrenia symptoms. In addition, it is great for your physical and mental health. You should have a goal of at least 30 minutes a day of exercise to get the maximum benefit. Good activities involve rhythmic activities like running, swimming, walking and dancing.

4.     Get Your Zzzz's

The medications you are on to control your symptoms may require you to get more than 8 hours of sleep each evening. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try eliminating caffeine from your diet and doing physical activity to help you unwind.

5.     Don't Do Drugs

Don't do drugs, including drinking alcohol and using nicotine products like cigarettes or chewing tobacco. These substances can trigger a number of possible causes of schizophrenia. Drug and alcohol abuse can worsen your symptoms and cause a mental breakdown. Nicotine can affect the way your body reacts to your medications designed to control your mental illness.

6.     Stay Nourished

Changes in your levels of blood sugar in your system can make your symptoms worse, so make sure to eat regularly. To increase alertness and energy, add food rich in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Good sources include fatty fish like salmon and nuts such as walnuts. You can add fish oil or flaxseed to your meals to improve your mood.

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