Causes of Schizophrenia

Woman Sipping Coffee

When a person is diagnosed with schizophrenia, often they or their family wonder “How can this be happening? What did I do?” Over the centuries, the causes of schizophrenia have been debated, and many theories have emerged, most of them wrong.

It appears that there is a combination of things that contribute to schizophrenia, with none of them being the sole cause. For example, if schizophrenia were completely genetic, when a person who is an identical twin has schizophrenia, his or her twin also would, which is not always true. If it were completely environmental, it wouldn’t make sense that schizophrenia runs in some families, across generations and situations.

So what is it? Researchers have found evidence that some people have a genetic susceptibility to developing schizophrenia, but that other things are involved, including life stress, emotional intensity of families, and the mother having a certain virus while pregnant (which virus hasn’t been pinned down yet.)

One theory that has been clearly discredited, however, is the “schizophrenogenic mother,” in which a mother’s parenting style causes schizophrenia. There is nothing any one person can do to cause schizophrenia. Without the genetic and other neurological factors present, schizophrenia doesn’t emerge. So, if you or a loved one has schizophrenia, please don’t blame yourself.

We may not know yet exactly the constellation of causes that come together for schizophrenia, but we know it’s a lot more complicated than just one thing. More helpful is to focus on recovery, there are more answers to recovery than to causes.