There doesn’t seem to be an answer to why some people develop symptoms of schizophrenia while others do not. And, due to the differences of opinion about the definition of this illness and its symptoms, it is not easy to identify what the causes are.
However, the general consensus is that it is probably caused by a combination of factors; someone’s genetic make-up could make them more vulnerable, but stressful events or life experiences could trigger the onset of symptoms. I have discovered that the most helpful suggestion is to think about potential causes of schizophrenia in terms of how much evidence there is to support the idea that one particular very stressful event or a train of events can cause this illness. Although nobody can be sure, in our son’s case, it seems as if the stress in the armed forces was the trigger. It does not help us to dwell on this so we have put it behind us. Of course it took a long time to do so.
Although personal accounts as well as studies suggest that extremely stressful or life-changing events may trigger schizophrenia, social isolation has also been known to be linked to schizophrenia and other mental health issues. Being homeless, living in poverty, not finding work, losing someone close to you or being physically or verbally abused or harassed, may also be factors. In one study, significantly more people who heard negative voices felt that sexual or physical abuse was a cause.
Dopamine is one of the chemicals that carry messages between our brain cells and there is evidence that too much dopamine might be involved in the development of schizophrenia. But it is still not clear how a psychiatrist can check whether every person diagnosed with schizophrenia has too much dopamine. Neuroleptic drugs, known as anti-psychotics, which are usually used to treat schizophrenia, target the dopamine system.
Studies have shown that people who have used cannabis or other street drugs may develop symptoms of schizophrenia and if one is diagnosed as having schizophrenia, using cannabis, cocaine and amphetamines can exacerbate the illness. Alcohol and nicotine may also limit the effects of the medication.
There are however, some families that seem to be prone to schizophrenia, suggesting some kind of genetic component to its development. Rather than a ‘schizophrenia gene,’ it is thought that certain genes might make some people more vulnerable to the condition. This does not mean that they will necessarily develop this illness. There is evidence to show that people who have parents with schizophrenia are more likely to develop it themselves. However, most people with this diagnosis have no family history.
Many parents whose children develop schizophrenia blame themselves unnecessarily as the idea that a particular type of family contributes to the development of schizophrenia is generally dismissed. I came across this while running a support group for parents with children with mental illnesses and we were told the following. I would like you all to remember this because so many parents blame themselves and carry the guilt around for the rest of their lives.
N o b o d y c a n c a u s e s c h i z o p h r e n i a.
Every person diagnosed with schizophrenia will have a different experience of the symptoms. Schizophrenia seems to affect roughly the same number of men as women and most are diagnosed with it between the ages of 18 and 35.