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Is Schizophrenia a Hereditary Disease?

Schizophrenia is a complex condition with symptoms that can have a devastating impact on a person’s health and overall well-being. Thankfully, when people who have schizophrenia receive appropriate treatment, their quality of life can improve significantly. As researchers continue to explore more effective treatment approaches for schizophrenia, they are also working to identify the factors that lead to the development of this disease. These efforts include attempts to determine if schizophrenia is hereditary, if it results from external influences, or if both genetics and environment are responsible.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that can negatively impact how a person thinks, communicates, and perceives the world around them. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a person must experience at least two of the following five symptoms for at least one month in order to be accurately diagnosed with schizophrenia:

  • Delusions: Delusions are rigid beliefs that cannot be changed even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. In many cases, delusions clearly have no basis in reality. Examples of delusions include the belief that a famous person is in love with you, that you are being followed or spied on, and that your thoughts are being controlled by some outside force.
  • Hallucinations: People who experience hallucinations will see, hear, or otherwise perceive things that are not there. Among people who have schizophrenia and certain other psychotic disorders, auditory hallucinations are the most common type. A person who has auditory hallucinations will clearly hear voices or other sounds, and they will believe that these sounds are separate from their own thoughts. 
  • Disorganized speech: This can refer to speech patterns that rapidly switch from topic to topic without following any apparent logical progression. It can also refer to speech that is virtually incomprehensible. Disorganized speech represents a diminished capacity for thinking clearly as well as an inability to effectively communicate your thoughts.  
  • Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior: These terms can describe a range of abnormal or problematic actions. In some cases, disorganized behavior may involve unpredictable agitation. In other cases, it can include extremely immature or childlike reactions. Examples of catatonic behaviors include purposeless movement, minimal or nonexistent responses, and stiff posture.
  • Negative symptoms: Two of the more common examples of negative symptoms are a lack of emotional expressiveness and deficient motivation to engage in self-directed activities. People who have negative symptoms may not make eye contact, display emotions via facial expressions, or incorporate inflections into their speech. They may also sit and stare for extended periods, showing no apparent interest in interacting with the world around them.

The DSM-5 notes that a person who has schizophrenia will experience at least one of the first three symptoms listed above (delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized speech), along with at least one other symptom from the full list.

How Many People Have Schizophrenia?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about one of every 300 people will develop schizophrenia. Given the current world population, this suggests that more than 24 million people across the globe have schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is more common among adults than among children and adolescents. WHO notes that about one of every 222 people age 18 and older have or will develop this disorder.  

Although schizophrenia occurs less frequently than many other mental health disorders, those who develop this form of mental illness often experience debilitating symptoms. For example, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has reported the following statistics about the effects of schizophrenia:

  • Schizophrenia is one of the top 15 causes of disability.
  • In the United States, the average life expectancy of people with schizophrenia is 28.5 years shorter than the national average.
  • Experts estimate that about 4.9% of people who have schizophrenia die by suicide. By comparison, the suicide rate among the general U.S. population in 2020 was about 0.01%.
  • About 50% of people who have schizophrenia also have at least one other mental or behavioral health disorder.

The NIMH also reports that the average age at which people begin to experience symptoms of schizophrenia is different among men and women. Males typically begin to show signs of this disorder during their late teens and early 20s. Females usually don’t exhibit signs and symptoms of schizophrenia until their late 20s or early 30s.

Is Schizophrenia Hereditary?

There is no single cause of schizophrenia. As is also the case with most other types of mental illness, a person’s risk for developing schizophrenia can depend on a variety of hereditary and environmental factors.

In a June 2017 article in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience that reviewed decades of research, the authors concluded that “genetics form a strong risk factor for schizophrenia.” However, the authors also noted that considerable research remains to be conducted. Thus it would not be correct to assume that schizophrenia is solely a hereditary condition.

The DSM-5 reports that schizophrenia appears to be more common among people who were born in late winter or early spring in some locations. The DSM-5 also identifies growing up in an urban environment as a risk factor for schizophrenia.

According to the NIMH, living in an impoverished community, being raised in a particularly stressful atmosphere, and having differences in brain size and connections among areas of the brain have been associated with an elevated risk of schizophrenia.

Other sources have identified hereditary factors, certain complications during birth, and some types of substance abuse as factors that can increase the likelihood that a person will develop this schizophrenia.

How is Schizophrenia Treated in Nashville, TN? 

Treatment for schizophrenia often involves a combination of prescription medication and psychotherapy. The medications that are usually used to treat schizophrenia are referred to as antipsychotics. The specific medication that a person receives and the amount of the medication they take can vary depending on a variety of individual factors, including the nature and severity of the symptoms they have been experiencing. 

Medication can ease the severity of certain symptoms. Therapy can help people learn to manage symptoms that cannot be alleviated with medication.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proved to be a beneficial type of therapy for people who have schizophrenia. During CBT sessions, participants learn to identify unhealthy thought and behavior patterns, and then replace them with more productive ways of thinking and acting. CBT may be incorporated into both individual and group therapy sessions.

Family therapy can also be an integral component of treatment for schizophrenia. During family sessions, loved ones can learn how to support someone who has schizophrenia. Family sessions can also help participants process how they have been affected by their loved one’s struggles with schizophrenia.

Depending on the specific needs of the individual, treatment for schizophrenia may involve residential care, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programming, or outpatient services. 

Find Schizophrenia Treatment in Nashville, TN

Arbor Wellness is a safe and welcoming place where adults can receive comprehensive care for schizophrenia and other mental health concerns. At our treatment center in Nashville, Tennessee, experienced professionals offer personalized services in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. If you or someone that you care about can benefit from customized schizophrenia treatment, Arbor Wellness is here for you. Call us or visit our admissions page today to learn how we can help.