Alison did not know she was schizophrenic until she was nineteen years old. She was depressed as a teenager but did not experience any psychotic tendencies until later. Alison began to live in her own fantasy world. She began sleeping all the time and skipping classes. Eventually a friend suggested she go and speak with a psychiatrist; he did not diagnose her. Her life continued to progress negatively as she became discouraged and suicidal. When she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, the medicines that she was prescribed only worked a short time before the symptoms returned.
It was difficult to pinpoint the cause of why Alison had developed schizophrenia (“Alison’s Story”). Schizophrenia is a mental disease that interferes with brain function. This disease has a major impact on the life of the person it affects, the impact is often negative. There are different types of schizophrenia, meaning not all schizophrenics have the same symptoms or side effects (“Schizophrenia,” National Institute of Mental Health). Over twenty-one million people are affected by the disease, twelve million of the affected people are men and nine million are women (“Schizophrenia,” World Health Organization).
Most people develop schizophrenia early in life, with males typically experiencing symptoms earlier than women. Men usually see symptoms from their teenage years to early twenties, whereas women usually start to experience symptoms in their late twenties to thirties (Gejman et al). There are many people who have and will be diagnosed with schizophrenia. While the exact cause is unknown, factors such as inheritance, the environment, and developmental issues seem to have a major role in the development of the disease and its effects.
One factor of the development of schizophrenia is inheritability. It was stated that, “The lifetime morbid risk (MR) of schizophrenia is about 1% in the general population, but approximately 10 times that in the siblings or offspring of patients with schizophrenia” (Kendler and Eaves 96). This shows that the chances of one developing schizophrenia are greatly increased when one of his or her first-degree family members has the illness. Even those with more distant relatives, such as an aunt or uncle, suffering from schizophrenia tend to be more likely to develop it.
While the chances of contracting schizophrenia are higher when a family member has it and the genetic relationships are great, it does not mean that if one family member has schizophrenia that any other person in the family will develop it. Many scientists have come to the conclusion that no single gene attributes to schizophrenia. Through testings, it has been found that people with schizophrenia have a high number of gene mutations (“Schizophrenia,” National Institute of Mental Health). Each of these mutations is caused by deletions or duplications of genes.
According to researchers, “Microdeletions and microduplications have been found to be three times more common in individuals with schizophrenia, compared to controls” (“Schizophrenia,” National Center for Biotechnology Information). The majority of the gene mutations occur in over expressed pathways that are involved in the development of the brain. The inheritance of these genes may be one factor that leads to the development of schizophrenia. There was a study conducted that compared the genomes of people with schizophrenia to people without it.
From this study it was found that one hundred and eight single-nucleotide polymorphisms are related to schizophrenia (“Schizophrenia,” National Center for Biotechnology Information). Many of the single-nucleotide polymorphisms occurred in genes that are expressed in the brain. According to scientists, “The SNPs included a gene that encodes the dopamine D2 receptor, DRD2 (the target of antipsychotic drugs), and many genes involved in glutamine neurotransmitter pathways and synaptic plasticity” (“Schizophrenia,” National Center for Biotechnology Information).
These changes in these receptors causes an unbalanced activity in neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamine. This activity has been shown to cause the brain cells not to communicate properly. If brain cells are not communicating as normal, there is an increased risk for mental problems such as schizophrenia (Brisch et al). There have also been studies of twins conducted to test their shared genetic material to find the outcome and likelihood of both twins developing schizophrenia. Identical twins and fraternal twins were both part of these studies.
Any differences in the genetics of identical twins were attributed to the environment. Differences in fraternal twins were attributed to the environment and heredity. Based upon these studies, it was found that the chances of one twin developing the disorder when the other suffers from it was between forty and eighty percent. Identical twins seemed to have between a forty to fifty percent chance, whereas fraternal twins had an eighty percent chance of developing schizophrenia (Gejman et al). From studies, they have found that the onset of schizophrenia can be impacted by environmental factors.
Most times these factors occur before birth or during the younger years of one’s life. This is because during the beginning years of one’s life, there is the most development taking place. The brain is developing and younger people are more susceptible to changes due to stressful events. Schizophrenia can, however be triggered later in life as well (“The Causes of Schizophrenia”). During pregnancy, there are many factors that can increase the risk of the development of schizophrenia before a human is even born.
Each factor contributes to complications with the pregnancy and birth, which can lead to a higher risk of the development of schizophrenia. Malnourishment, and stress of the mother all have seemed to have an impact on the child and increased his or her likelihood to be afflicted with the disorder. Malnourished mothers are unhealthy and would not have healthy babies. By a mother becoming malnourished, her unborn baby is more susceptible to disease. Also, when a mother is stressed her baby is also at a higher risk of schizophrenia.
This stress can be caused by the father of the fetus leaving before it’s birth, or other things such as work straining or depressing the mother. It is also thought that if a mother does not want the child she carries, chances of schizophrenia are increased (“The Prenatal Causes of Schizophrenia”). Another pre-birth schizophrenia risk factor is rhesus incompatibility. Rhesus incompatibility is when the mother has Rh-postive blood and the child she carries has Rh-negative blood with Rh being a protein in the red blood cells (“What is Rh Incompatibility? ”).
This incompatibility can cause complications with the birth which can lead to birth complications. Other birth complications such as hypoxia, which is low oxygen levels at birth, and pre-eclampsia can also play a role in raising the risk for one to develop schizophrenia (“The Prenatal Causes of Schizophrenia”). Lastly, the introduction of the fetus to infections and viruses increase the risk of schizophrenia. Reproductive infections including sexually transmitted diseases that are contracted around the time the female becomes pregnant increase the risk of schizophrenia by five times (“The Causes of Schizophrenia”).
Respiratory infections such as influenza and tuberculosis greatly impact the health of the mother and her child. In a study done in 1990s, it was found that in mothers who showed strains of influenza in the first trimester, their babies were at a much larger risk of contracting schizophrenia than mothers who showed strains of influenza in the third trimester. This shows the correlation between the early introduction of influenza during a pregnancy and the development of schizophrenia (“The Prenatal Causes of Schizophrenia”).