Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects about one out of every hundred people. There are many popular myths and misunderstandings about it. That makes it all the more important to get the facts straight. This blog is for anyone who has Schizophrenia or who has a friend or relative with Schizophrenia. Here you will find:
What it is like to have Schizophrenia
What may cause Schizophrenia
What can be done
What Causes The Symptoms?
Schizophrenia symptoms happen when clinical messengers in the brain are out of balance. This means that the messages within the brain are not properly processed, resulting to confusion often exhibited as unusual thoughts, sensations, and behavior. The only way to relieve these symptoms is to remedy the imbalance.
We don't know for sure what causes the chemical imbalance in the brain leading to Schizophrenia. It is likely to be a combination of several different factors, which may be different for different people.
As previously stated, Schizophrenia is a medical illness. No single cause has been identified but a number of factors are known to contribute to the development of the illness.
1. Genetic Predisposition
- Schizophrenia is known to run in families. About one in ten people with Schizophrenia has a parent with the illness. If a parent has Schizophrenia, the child has 10% chance of developing the condition. (This is almost the same risk for diabetes.) But if neither of the parents has Schizophrenia, a person's chance of developing it is more likely just one in a hundred. This difference is probably caused by heredity (genes), not upbringing.
For example, identical twins have exactly the same genetic makeup as each other, down to the last molecule of DNA. If one identical twin has Schizophrenia, the brother or sister has about a 50:50 chance of having it too, even if they are brought up in different families.
Non-identical twins don't have the same genetic makeup as each other. If one of them has Schizophrenia, the risk to the other twin is just slightly greater than for any other brother or sister.
Research suggests that heredity provides just about half the explanation of the illness. We have not yet discovered the gene, or combination of genes, responsible for Schizophrenia.
2. Biochemical Factor
- Several studies have established certain biochemical substances in the brain, called neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin and dopamine, that are associated with the development of the symptoms of Schizophrenia.
3. Brain Damage
- New ways of producing pictures of the brain show that some people with Schizophrenia have larger spaces in the brain than people who don't suffer from the illness. This suggests that some parts of the brain may not have developed quite normally. Problems during birth might be responsible - these can affect the supply of oxygen to the baby's brain. It is also possible that, during the early months of pregnancy, virus infections can cause subtle brain damage.
- Stress often seems to happen shortly before an episode of Schizophrenia. This could be a sudden event like a car accident, bereavement, or moving home. It can be part of everyday problems, such as difficulty with work or studies. Stress in not the cause of Schizophrenia, but it may help to bring it on in someone who is vulnerable. Long-term stress, such as family tensions, can also make it worse.
5. Psychodynamic / Psychosocial Factor
- Disturbed family interaction and life events have been extensively studied and have been shown to have strong association with the onset of the illness and relapse. At one time it was fashionable to believe that Schizophrenia was caused by problems within the family. There is no evidence to support this idea. However, if the person already has Schizophrenia, family tensions can make it worse. These days family intervention schemes can help.
6. Street Drugs and Alcohol
- Sometimes the use of street drugs like ecstasy (e), LSD (acid), metamphetamines (shabu), and cannabis (marijuana) seems to bring on symptoms just like those of Schizophrenia. We know that amphetamines can bring on symptoms just like those of Schizophrenia, but they usually stop when you stop taking the amphetamines. We don't know whether these drugs can trigger off a long-term illness, but they may do in someone with a predisposition. It does seem that using street drugs and alcohol can make matters worse in some people who already suffer from the illness. Many people use street drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms or, sometimes, the side effects of anti-psychotic medication, as a form of self-medication.
Next: Schizophrenia Effects