Having fairly close relatives with schizophrenia absolutely increases an individual’s risk of developing this mental disorder, though environmental factors must be considered as risk factors too. It may be that this disease is actually a developmental disorder caused by a variety of neurobiological and environmental factors. But symptoms may or may not actually manifest in individuals who seem to fit into a high-risk profile. On the other hand, some individuals develop schizophrenic symptoms in cases that might not have been predicted by models that scientists have today. That might be why scientists still debate whether genetics or environment is the primary risk factor that can help them predict who is likely to become schizophrenic.
Researchers can argue that a higher percentage of individuals who have schizophrenic relatives develop this disease than members of the general population. This seems to lend credence to the theory that schizophrenia is genetic.
Is Schizophrenia Hereditary?
- Over six percent of people with an afflicted first-degree relative develop this disorder.
- An individual who has two schizophrenic parents has a forty-six percent risk of developing symptoms.
- Almost half of identical twins eventually manifest symptoms if the other twin has symptoms.
- The rate of schizophrenia in the general population is about one percent.
- The risk of this disorder if a first cousin or aunt or uncle is afflicted is about two percent.
- The odds of manifesting symptoms decrease as afflicted relatives become more distant, but are still higher than the rate among the general population.
There is little doubt that some hereditary vulnerability must be passed on through an individual’s genes. While researchers have suggested the exact genes that may trigger schizophrenia, no absolutely proven conclusions have yet been offered. But we could conclude that a tendency to develop schizophrenia is heredity.
The true answer may be as elusive as trying to figure out why a nephew seems to have inherited his uncle’s talent for writing or playing basketball. Why did a granddaughter become a good cook or horseback rider like her grandmother? These traits might be passed on because of the genetic lottery, but it must be obvious that some environmental factors are also in play here.
Does Environment Influence The Manifestation Of Schizophrenic Symptoms?
Indeed, scientists have a hard time agreeing if environment or genetics plays a larger role in deciding which individuals will actually ever manifest symptoms. It is true that a negative environment, drug use, and prenatal stress factors can also increase the risk of developing this malady. Some drugs may even trigger psychotic episodes in individuals who do not seem to have any prior risk factors.
There is not one particular parenting style that can be blamed, though children with very supportive parents tend to have better outcomes than children who were raised by very harsh parents. But this may also mean that those supportive parents were much more helpful in assisting their children seek early treatment after early symptoms had already manifested themselves. Early treatment can be correlated with better outcomes.
Researchers do also conclude that poor living conditions and social adversity can contribute to the manifestation of the symptoms of schizophrenia. But again, lots of people with these same risk factors face adversity without ever displaying symptoms of schizophrenia.
A researcher might also wonder if people who enjoy better living conditions seek mental health treatment earlier so they never suffer from a full-blown psychotic episode. The reasons why some people are more vulnerable than others are not clearly understood at this time.
Why Should You Care If Schizophrenia Is Genetic Or Environmental?
It would seem that genetics play a large role in making individuals vulnerable to mental illness. Beyond that, some combination of prenatal factors and environmental stresses increase the risk of affliction. In some cases, drugs or even a single traumatic event can trigger a psychotic episode.
You may think that concerns like these are only discussion topics for researchers and psychiatrists. However, you should keep track of your family tree in case you ever have any concerns about the mental health of yourself or a close family member. This is vital information that a doctor will want to have in order to make a quick and accurate diagnosis so he can begin effective treatment faster. Track this information and pass it on to your children.
Knowing your family’s mental and physical health history can also help doctors determine if you or your child would benefit from health screenings that might not be offered to the general population.
In addition, it may helpful to understand what stresses and environmental factors can trigger symptoms in people who might be at a higher risk for developing this disease. Those conditions could be avoided as much as possible. This knowledge may also make family members and even our society more compassionate to people who do suffer from this disease.