Is Schizophrenia Inherited?

Affecting about 1 in every 100 people, schizophrenia is a mental illness that generally affects more men than women.

Most schizophrenics begin to show symptoms in their late teens to late twenties, but the condition may manifest earlier or later, depending on the individual. Studies have shown that early predictors for the disease can be seen in some people at a young age, but other children may not shown signs of the condition at all.

Mental illness in the family

People who have a history of mental illness in the family are more likely to develop schizophrenia. Studies have shown that some types of genetic mutations that are passed on from parents to offspring may increase the child's risk of mental illness, but the ability to target these genes for manipulation in order to prevent or slow the progression of the disease is still a distant goal. Researchers say that the more gene variations a person has - there are about 10 known variants linked to schizophrenia - the greater the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Environment

Newer studies are beginning to show that environment and upbringing may also play a significant role in the onset of schziophrenia. Experiences like bullying, having a parent who is emotionally unstable or other early-life stressors may contribute to the development of the disease. It appears that stress actually alters the way genes function, which can set young people up for different brain chemistry.

Pregnancy factors

Some research has pointed to the idea that schizophrenia might be preventable through precautions taken while children are in utero. One study on choline supplements revealed that infants who were exposed to this essential nutrient during pregnancy showed better sensory processing abilities than babies that had not been exposed to choline.

Preventing schizophrenia

Scientists agree that there is not one stand-alone factor that will cause the development of schizophrenia, but that several genetic and environmental components are usually involved. Prevention, therefore, is not entirely possible. However, getting routine mental health exams for children and adolescents may reveal early warning signs that can be addressed sooner, rather than later. In some cases, this may help slow or prevent the progression of disease.

Source: NIMH

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