Causes, Signs, & Effects of Schizophrenia

Are you concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with schizophrenia? Learn about the causes, signs, and effects to identify whether professional treatment may be necessary.

Understanding Schizophrenia

Learn about schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that is marked by symptoms including disruptions in thinking, delusions, and hallucinations. This mental health concern is a potentially devastating condition that can significantly impact an individual’s life and can also affect the lives of those who care about and/or depend upon him or her. Completing common everyday tasks can become difficult or impossible for those with schizophrenia.

Often starting in early adulthood, schizophrenia interrupts an individual’s thoughts and overall concentration. He or she might feel that current events are not real, or he or she might feel a strong disconnect from his or her body. This can gravely impact an individual’s daily routine, career goals, and social life.

Schizophrenia is not a condition that will go away on its own. It is a complex mental health condition that requires intense treatment and therapy. Inpatient treatment is often an excellent means of treatment for an individual who has developed schizophrenia. With effective schizophrenia treatment, an individual can learn to manage his or her symptoms and experience an improved quality of life.

Statistics

Schizophrenia statistics

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that, in general, men are more likely than women are to receive a diagnosis for schizophrenia. Women, however, are more likely to suffer from schizophrenia later in life than men are. Within the United States, approximately 0.3% to 0.7% of the population has received a schizophrenia diagnosis. Those with schizophrenia suffer from an increased risk of suicide. About 20% of people with schizophrenia make suicide attempts, and about 6% end their lives via suicide.

Causes & Risk Factors

Learn what is known about the causes of schizophrenia

Research shows that genetics and environment can play significant roles in determining an individual’s risk for schizophrenia:

Genetic: Heredity influences a person’s susceptibility to the development of schizophrenia. However, some individuals who are diagnosed with schizophrenia have little or no history of schizophrenia spectrum disorders within their family. One hypothesis suggests that this mental health condition is linked to recessive genes that are connected to other mental disorders as well.

Environmental: Genetics and heredity are viewed as main players in the development of schizophrenia. However, environmental influences also impact one’s risk of developing this mental illness. For example, studies show that those who lived the majority of their lives in urban areas are more likely to develop schizophrenia, however researchers are unsure why. More research needs to be done to uncover a clear cause and effect between schizophrenia and life experiences.

Risk Factors:

  • Individuals who were undernourished when in the womb
  • A history of other personality disorders such as schizotypal or paranoid personality disorders
  • Distress during birth (for example, lack of oxygen at childbirth)
  • Individuals with older fathers
  • A history of mental illness in the family, especially immediate family
  • Mother experiencing stress, diabetes, or infections during pregnancy

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia

Someone who has schizophrenia might display varying symptoms. Similar to other mental illnesses, symptoms can be unique and different to each individual. Typically, schizophrenia symptoms are placed into three categories:

Positive symptoms: An individual develops a behavior that is excessive of what is considered normal, such as:

  • Having delusions or improbable beliefs
  • Irrational methods of talking or speech
  • Unusual behaviors
  • Having hallucinations, or feeling, hearing, seeing, or smelling things that are not real

Negative symptoms: An individual will cease regular behaviors or no longer display specific normal behaviors. This includes:

  • Lack of communication or inability to form speech
  • Lack of movements and/or being immobile
  • Foregoing hygiene and cleanliness
  • Ignoring regular tasks and activities
  • No expression of emotions, or no emotions at all
  • Incapable of experiencing or feeling pleasure

Cognitive symptoms: Cognitive symptoms are those that impact one’s ability to plan, think, and make decisions, such as:

  • Having difficulty concentrating, or being unable to concentrate at all
  • Problems with memory, being forgetful
  • Having difficulty making decisions and planning
  • Inability to remember common tasks and items

Effects

Effects of schizophrenia

If an individual does not obtain immediate treatment, it can lead to dangerous results that can impact the individual and those around him or her. Some of the potential effects of untreated schizophrenia include:

  • Inability to handle and control finances
  • Loss of home and basic necessities
  • Failure to maintain work or look for work
  • Loss of income
  • Depression, fear, and anxiety
  • Substance use or substance abuse
  • Disregard for family and friends
  • Disregard for medical needs
  • Dangerous behavior that can harm either the individual or others
  • Inability to socialize
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Conflict in personal relationships with others

Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizophrenia and co-occurring disorders

An individual suffering from schizophrenia can still develop other mental health conditions, according to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Many mental conditions might already be present during the development of schizophrenia, while others might develop while an individual is suffering from schizophrenia. Substance abuse, for example, is a common condition that occurs when an individual attempts to self-medicate. Other mental health disorders that co-occur with schizophrenia include:

  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizotypal disorder
  • Anxiety disorders that may include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias
  • Substance use disorder