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Schizophrenia Causes – External and biological, Risks, Triggers, & Treatment

Visit the We Level Up FL behavioral recovery center & talk with faculty members. Tour the facility and see why we’re an established complex diagnosis treatment center

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that affects how people think, feel, and behave. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which causes significant distress for the individual, their family members, and friends. If left untreated, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be disabling and persistent. However, effective treatments are available. When provided in a timely, sustained, and coordinated manner, therapy, and treatment can help affected individuals to engage in work or school, achieve independence, and enjoy personal relationships [1].

A diagnosis of schizophrenia frequently follows the first episode of psychosis, when someone first displays symptoms of this mental illness. However, gradual mood, thinking, and social functioning changes often begin before the first episode of psychosis, usually starting in mid-adolescence. Schizophrenia can happen in younger children, but it is rare to emerge before late adolescence. Schizophrenia is treatable. Treatment with medicines and psychosocial support is effective.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) [2], research has not identified one single factor that causes schizophrenia. It is thought that interaction between genes and a range of environmental factors may cause this mental disease. Psychosocial factors may also contribute to schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia Causes
People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment. But the earlier treatment begins, the better their chances for recovery and improved quality of life. Medication and therapy can help manage the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia causes affected individuals to view events in their life abnormally. Delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thought are characteristic of this disease. Living with schizophrenia is challenging and demanding, as daily functioning can be severely affected. For several years, researchers have studied the schizophrenia causes, and the mental disease still remains a mystery in many ways.

Research on Schizophrenia Causes

Comprehensive research has been conducted on schizophrenia causes in an effort to identify and improve treatment methods for the disease. For example, a study conducted by Harvard Medical School researchers in 2016 showed a genetic analysis of 65,000 people to identify what causes schizophrenia. It was discovered that the risk of such disease increases when distinct variants in a gene are passed down from one generation to another. In addition, the gene, C4, which has a part connecting to the immune system, has been identified as playing a pivotal role in brain development abnormalities associated with schizophrenia.

A 2014 study led by researchers at the Stanley Center discovered that more than 100 regions in the brain could determine risk factors for schizophrenia. Several of those genes are connected to the regulation of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for motivation, pleasure, and learning.

Integrated research efforts have led to significant breakthroughs in schizophrenic. It suggests that synaptic pruning during adolescence may be responsible for the onset of the mental disorder. Synaptic pruning is the process where the brain naturally eliminates extra neurons and synaptic connections to improve neuronal transmission efficiency. This finding opens doors of hope that future treatments that slow down the synaptic pruning process may decrease the risk of developing schizophrenia. The research also helps to explain why people who have schizophrenia also have a thinner cerebral cortex.

Schizophrenia Causes

The exact schizophrenia causes are still unknown. Research suggests a combination of genetic, psychological, physical, and environmental factors can make an individual more likely to develop the condition. Some individuals may be predisposed to this disease, and an emotional or stressful life event might trigger a psychotic episode. However, it’s not known why some individuals develop symptoms while others do not.

Increased Risk of Schizophrenia


Schizophrenia seems to run in families, but no single gene is thought to be responsible. It’s possible that different varieties of genes make individuals more vulnerable to the condition. However, having these genes does not necessarily indicate you’ll develop schizophrenia.

Proof that the disorder is partly inherited comes from studies of twins. Identical twins share the same genes. In identical twins, if a twin develops schizophrenia, the other twin has a 1 in 2 chance of developing it, too. This is true even if they’re raised separately. 

In non-identical twins, who have different genetic make-ups, when a twin develops the disease, the other only has a 1 in 8 chance of developing the same condition.

While this is higher than in the general population, where the chance is about 1 in 100, it suggests genes are not the only factor influencing the development of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia Causes
Educate yourself and others about schizophrenia. Learning about the illness can encourage you to follow your treatment plan and also help your loved ones be more supportive and compassionate.

Brain development

Studies of individuals with this mental illness have shown there are slight differences in the structure of their brains. These changes are not seen in everyone with schizophrenia and can happen in individuals who do not have a mental illness. But they suggest schizophrenia may partly be a disorder of the brain.


Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages between brain cells. There’s a connection between schizophrenia and neurotransmitters because medications that alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain are known to relieve some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. 

Research suggests schizophrenia may be caused by a change in the level of 2 neurotransmitters: serotonin and dopamine. Some studies reveal an imbalance between the two may be the basis of the issue. Others have found a change in the body’s sensitivity to the neurotransmitters is part of the cause of schizophrenia.

Birth complications and Pregnancy 

Research has shown individuals who develop schizophrenia are more likely to have undergone complications before and during their birth, such as:

  • A low birthweight
  • Premature labor
  • A lack of oxygen (asphyxia) during birth

It may be that these things have a subtle effect on brain development.

Viral Infections

Exposure to viruses is found to be a contributing factor in the development of schizophrenia. There are a variety of traits of viruses that might make this possible. For example, viruses can:

  • Attack certain brain regions and leave others intact
  • Alter specific processes within a brain cell without killing the cell
  • Infect someone and then lay dormant for many years before causing illness
  • Cause minor physical abnormalities, birth complications, and altered fingerprint patterns sometimes found in people with schizophrenia
  • Affect neurotransmitters

It is also important to note that some antipsychotic agents are also antiviral agents, which can support the idea that viral infections can play a role in developing schizophrenic symptoms, particularly psychotic symptoms.

Schizophrenia Triggers

Because researchers don’t completely understand schizophrenia causes, there’s no sure way to prevent it. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with this mental disorder, following your treatment plan can lessen the probability of relapse or aggravating symptoms.

Also, if you know that you’re at an increased risk for the mental disorder — such as by a genetic tie — you can avoid potential triggers or things that can cause symptoms of the disorder. Triggers are things that can cause schizophrenia to develop in individuals who are at risk. These include:

Triggers are things that can cause schizophrenia to develop in individuals who are at risk. These include:


The main psychological triggers of schizophrenia are stressful life events, such as:

  • Bereavement (death of a loved one)
  • Losing your job or home
  • Divorce
  • The end of a relationship
  • Physical, sexual or emotional abuse

These types of experiences, although stressful, do not cause schizophrenia. However, they can trigger its development in someone already vulnerable to it.

Schizophrenia Causes
Know your warning signs. Have a plan in place to deal with symptoms as they arise so you can get the right help as soon as possible

These types of experiences, although stressful, do not cause schizophrenia. However, they can trigger its development in someone already vulnerable to it.

Drug abuse

Drugs do not directly cause schizophrenia, but studies have shown drug misuse increases the risk of developing the disease or a similar illness.

Certain drugs, particularly marijuana, cocaine, LSD or amphetamines, may trigger symptoms of schizophrenia in people who are at risk.

Using illegal stimulants like cocaine and crystal meth can lead to psychosis and can cause a relapse in individuals recovering from an earlier episode. 

Childhood trauma

Childhood trauma is also thought to be a contributing factor in developing schizophrenia. Some individuals with schizophrenia experience hallucinations related to abuse or neglect they experienced as children.

People are also more likely to develop schizophrenia if as children they experienced the death or permanent separation of one or both parents.

This kind of trauma is tied to a variety of other adverse early experiences, so it’s still unclear if this trauma is a cause of schizophrenia or just associated with the condition.

Exposure to Toxins

Being exposed to harmful toxins is suggested to play a role in developing schizophrenia, even as early as during fetal development. Toxins that have been researched to show possible influence include alcohol and lead.

Exposure to lead during fetal development has been shown to greatly influence the likelihood of the development of schizophrenia and psychosis. Lead can be found in things such as:

  • Gasoline
  • Paint
  • Tap water
  • Children’s toys

Although measures have been taken in more recent years to remove lead from the things we come in contact with every day, it is crucial to be aware that the chemical lead can still be in our environment. For example, if a home was painted with lead paint before 1978, it can still release this toxin.


Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition, but effective treatment can help a person manage the symptoms, prevent relapses, and avoid hospitalization.

Each person’s experience will be different, and a doctor will tailor the treatment to suit the individual.

Some potential treatment options include:

  • Antipsychotic drugs. These can be for daily use or for less frequent use if the person opts for injectable medications, which can last up to 3 months between injections (depending on the medication) [3].
  • Counseling. This can help a person develop coping skills and pursue their life goals.
  • Coordinated special care. This integrates medication, family involvement, and education services in a holistic approach.

Some common medications for schizophrenia include:  

  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Ziprasidone (Geodon)
  • Clozapine (Clozaril)
  • Haloperidol (Haldol)

That said, many of these drugs have adverse effects, including neurological symptoms and weight gain. Newer medications may have less severe side effects, however.

It is essential for a person to continue with their treatment plan, even if the symptoms improve. If a person stops taking medication, the symptoms may return [4].

How We Can Help

Whether this is your first and last treatment program, or even if you invested years of your time in and out of other therapy programs, we can lead you to feel at peace again. The We Level Up FL Behavriaol Center is unique in offering unparalleled evidence-based programs. Along with ultra modern therapeutic modalities to advance mental health treatment outcomes. Moreover, the We Level Up FL Mental Health Center also offers:

— Quick intake appointments. And in some cases, where warranted, same-day admissions.

— Comfortable & safe settings with attentive staff in modern facilities with amenities to promote recovery.

— In-house Teams of specialists trained to deal with complex multi-diagnosis mental illness and its corresponding underlying triggers.

— Complimentary critical family and alumni programs so that you’ll have support while in treatment and beyond. Even after you leave.

— We accept most insurance and offer free benefits verification without any obligation – ever.

— Secondary co-occurring dual diagnosis treatment programs.

— Intensive residential inpatient treatment.

Visit the We Level Up FL behavioral recovery center & talk with faculty members. Tour the facility and see why we’re an established complex diagnosis treatment center. Visit patient community areas and lounges. There you can find outdoor areas for patients to recuperate and rebound. Witness for yourself how you too can feel at home at We Level Up FL’s behavioral center. The answers to your recovery, in large part, should include locating a reputed and well-qualified therapy program for your treatment.

If you have questions regarding your diagnosis or want licensed guidance or therapy for the schizophrenia causes, please contact us.

Schizophrenia causes
Fort Lauderdale Treatment Center

[1] NIMH –

[2] WHO –

[3] NCBI –

[4] SAMHSA -