Schizophrenia is a serious and disabling brain disorder, which contrary to belief does not cause the sufferer to have multiple personalities. Symptoms include a wide array of abnormal behaviours including delusions, a lack of pleasure in life, disorganised thinking or speaking, poor motivation and social skills, hallucinations as well as an absence of facial expressions and of typical emotional responses. These symptoms usually cause extreme disturbance to the sufferers life.
Symptoms are often identified during late teens or early adulthood. The exact cause of the mental illness schizophrenia is unknown, however it is believed that both genetic and environmental factors are involved. As a lifelong condition schizophrenia sufferers generally need ongoing medical support and seeing a trained therapist can play a crucial part of an overall treatment plan.
Causes of schizophrenia
Despite not knowing the exact causes of schizophrenia research has uncovered a range of factors related to a person’s genetics, their psychological and environmental situation which may lead to a higher risk of developing the condition. It is indicated that certain people may have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia, and that a stressful lifestyle or emotional event could set off a psychotic episode.
Factors possibly increasing the risk of schizophrenia developing are:
Schizophrenia may run within the genetics of a family due to studies showing identical twins sharing the same genes and suffering both suffering schizophrenia. There has been no identification of any single gene responsible. It is thought that various genes may be involved and make individuals higher risk to the condition. Studies of individuals with schizophrenia have shown there are subtle differences in brain structure related to their brain development. Neurotransmitters, chemicals messages within the brain, and the level a person has is connected to schizophrenia as drugs that alter neurotransmitters levels have been seen to relieve symptoms. It is thought that schizophrenia could be caused by altered in the levels of dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters. A change in the balance of, or sensitivity to, dopamine and serotonin may be part of the cause of schizophrenia. Complications during pregnancy and child birth could increase the risk of this disorder. Issues may include premature birth, with low birth weight, or a shortage of oxygen (asphyxia) during birth.
There are certain triggers thought to increase the likelihood of schizophrenia developing in people at risk which include stressful life events, such as bereavement, being made redundant/ fired your or losing your home, divorce and the end of a relationship as well as any kind of abuse.
Schizophrenia – drugs, cannabis, skunk and amphetamines
Drug abuse and misuse has been seen in study to increases the risk of developing schizophrenia (particularly cannabis, cocaine, LSD or amphetamines). Using amphetamines or cocaine may cause psychosis. Three major studies have shown teenagers under 15 who frequently use cannabis, especially “skunk”, as being four times more likely to develop schizophrenia by the age of 26.