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About 1 percent of the world population develops schizophrenia. This is a brain disorder (the word originates from the Greek roots meaning “split” and “mind”) that causes an altered perception of reality of the afflicted person. The latter cannot differentiate between real and unreal life conditions, fails to think logically, to respond adequately to the current events and to conduct appropriately in society. The problem of the causes of one of the most common mental diseases presents much interest as there is no single cause defined. Scientists do not understand to the needed extent the influential factors that cause schizophrenia. The present research is aimed at revealing the complex nature of the causes and finding out the most influential of them. We will try to identify what cause is the most favorable for the aggressive clinical behavior. Reviewing the relevant psychology literature seems to be the most effective way to achieve the goals set.
As it has been mentioned above, schizophrenia is a complex disease; no single cause can be defined. There exist several theories about the causes of schizophrenia, the most convincing of them are: the theory of genetic predispositions, the theory of prenatal or vital antecedents and the theory of social and environmental causes. Let us give some analysis to each of them.
Schizophrenia has a strong genetic component to its occurrence: the genes predispose an individual to the genetic condition. If a parent has a disorder, his or her child can inherit the illness. The statistics states that 10 percent of the mentally diseased have an immediate family member with schizophrenia, 40 percent of them have parents who are both affected or have an identical twin, whereas 60 percent of people do not have close relatives with the disease.
Numerous twin and adoption studies have been conducted to find the evidence of the genes’ influential role on the disease. For example, in the article Genetic Factors in Child Psychiatric Disorders-I. A Review of Research Strategies the authors investigated a correlation between schizophrenia in siblings; they found out that “13% of paternal half-siblings of adopted schizophrenics, compared with only 2% of control half-siblings, were diagnosed as being schizophrenic.” (Rutter, et al., 1990).
One more research conducted by the Thalia C. Eley and others was aimed at establishing the linkage between the depression in adopted children and emotional problems that biological mother had. The scientists concluded that there was no influence for depressive symptoms. (Thalia et al., 1998). Contrary to the twin studies, this research showed the absence of the hereditary connection between relatives.
Prenatal (Viral) Antecedents
Scientists claim that prenatal viral may cause schizophrenia. The research conducted by Torrey and other scientists shows that from 5 to 15 percent of births in winter and early spring are destined to develop the disease. (Torrey et al., 1986). Influenza epidemics typically occur in winter, there is a connection between it and schizophrenia virus. The scientists believe that the prenatal influence is a risk factor for schizophrenia. But the problem remains a rather controversial one because the research was conducted with the following limitations. The studies used data that applied to groups, not to individuals; therefore, it was impossible to know whether the woman had influenza. What was known is whether the woman was in the second trimester of pregnancy when there was a peak of an influenza epidemic. Also, the research failed to present any serological documentation of exposure of influenza among individual pregnancies. Therefore, the connection between the epidemics and schizophrenia virus can be fully accepted when more sophisticated methods are implemented into the research.
Social/ environmental causes of schizophrenia are related to the person’s present life situation and sociocultural and environmental influences. If the person’s life is stressful, he or she is less likely to develop the disease. Possible environmental factors that lead to schizophrenia are stresses or traumas. Stress in its turn may be caused by such events as death in the family, expulsion from the university, loss of a job or even by some pleasant events such as birth of a baby.
As for the social causes, they may are various forms of racism, low employment levels, problems connected with lack of cultural identity. Social isolation also contributes much to the development of the disease.
As we can see, schizophrenia is caused by several causes, none of which can be called the primary one. Scientists believe that social, psychological and genetic factors, to be more precise, their interplay, results in the mental illness under consideration.
Our research showed that the problem of the causes of schizophrenia is a rather controversial one and needs more research in this field to get a clear understanding of the nature of schizophrenia.
- Bentall, R. Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2003.
- Bresnahan, et al. “Race and Risk of Schizophrenia in a US Birth Cohort: another Example of Health Disparity?” Epidemol. 13.2 (2007): 751-758.
- Torrey, E., et al. Schizophrenia and Neuroviruses. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier Science Publishers; 1986.
- Green, M.F. Schizophrenia Revealed: From Neurons to Social Interactions. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001.
- Rutter, M. et al. “Genetic Factors in Child Psychiatric Disorders-I. A Review of Research Strategies.” The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines 31.1 (1990): 39-83.
- Thalia C. et al., “An Adoption Study of Depressive Symptoms in Middle Childhood.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines 13.3 (1998): 337-345.