What Causes Schizophrenia?

what causes schizophrenia

Help Is Available in San Diego

If you’re wondering what causes schizophrenia, the exact causes are unknown. However, researchers and doctors have found a combination of physical, genetic, psychological, and environmental factors can lead to the development of the condition. It is a lifelong condition, but Alter Health offers mental health help in San Diego. Mental health services can provide the therapy and medication management needed to manage symptoms and signs of schizophrenia.

Alter Mental Health is a crisis stabilization unit offering a more comfortable and private alternative to inpatient hospitalization. Schizophrenia can lead to mental health crises which can cause people to be unable to care for themselves or at risk of hurting themselves or others. Round-the-clock supervision and treatment can help patients regain control of their mental health in a safe and secure environment. Short-term programs can also help people build a plan and get on the path toward long-term care to live a full, productive life. Continued treatment can help improve schizophrenia’s negative symptoms and reduce the likelihood of experiencing future mental health crises. Our team is available 24/7 to admit you and stabilize your condition quickly.

Click here to contact Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095 to learn about using our short-term crisis stabilization unit for individuals struggling with an acute mental health crisis.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition involving people interpreting reality abnormally. They can experience delusions and hallucinations where people do not know whether what they see, hear, experience, or feel is real or not. People with schizophrenia can also have unusual behavior and disorganized thinking and speech. It is common to have paranoid thoughts or hear voices. For example, a psychotic episode may have someone believe their mind is being controlled or is going to be harmed, which can be frightening, confusing, and isolating.

How Common Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe brain disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to manage emotions, think clearly, make decisions, and relate to others. This potentially debilitating disorder affects barely 1% of the population. In 2020, 1.1% of the population, or approximately 2.8 million adults in the U.S. aged 18 or older were diagnosed with the disease. However, an estimated 40% of people with the condition went untreated. Schizophrenia that goes untreated may worsen symptoms or even cause a mental health crisis.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

It’s still not precisely known what causes schizophrenia. Some of the theories include a combination of genetics, biology (abnormalities in brain chemistry or structure, and environmental factors. Some people may be prone to schizophrenia which is brought out during a stressful or emotional life event. It is not known why some people develop symptoms while others do not.

One of the biggest questions about the condition is if schizophrenia is genetic. While no single gene is thought to be responsible, the disorder does tend to run in families. It is more likely that a combination of genes makes people more vulnerable to the condition. However, having these combinations of genes does not necessarily mean they’ll develop schizophrenia. Studies on people with schizophrenia have also shown there are subtle differences in the structure of the brain. Doctors have also found there may be different amounts of certain neurotransmitters in the brains of people with schizophrenia. Medicine that lowers certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, has helped with symptoms in some people suggesting neurotransmitters play a role.

Certain triggers cause people who are at risk to develop schizophrenia. One of the main psychological triggers is stressful life events such as losing a job or home, divorce, and physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Studies have also shown that drug use, especially cocaine, cannabis, LSD, and amphetamines, increases the risk of developing schizophrenia and psychosis. However, it is unclear whether these drugs directly cause symptoms to develop or whether people with schizophrenia are more likely to use drugs.

Click here to contact Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095 to learn about using our short-term crisis stabilization unit for individuals struggling with an acute mental health crisis.

4 Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Symptoms of schizophrenia vary widely from person to person and can also change over time. Some people may only experience one psychotic episode in their lifetime, while others may have many. Active symptoms may come and go in cycles. Some people may be “in remission” for years before they experience any symptoms again. Symptoms may also develop slowly over months or years or appear abruptly.

Here are some symptoms and signs of schizophrenia:

  1. Delusions: Beliefs that are not reality-based, such as believing someone is spying on them or they are someone famous or a religious figure.
  2. Hallucinations: Seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or feeling something that is not there. The most common hallucination in schizophrenia is hearing imaginary voices that give comments or commands to the person.
  3. Disordered thinking and speech: Schizophrenia can make it difficult to concentrate or maintain a train of thought which can cause the person to move from one topic to another in a nonsensical fashion, speak incoherently, respond to questions with unrelated answers, or say illogical things. They may also make up their own words or sounds, rhyme in a way that doesn’t make sense, or repeat ideas and words.
  4. Schizophrenia negative symptoms: These involve capabilities that are lost from the person’s personality such as:
  • Deteriorating hygiene and appearance.
  • Deteriorating academic or work performance.
  • Changes in personality.
  • Withdrawing from social situations.
  • Inability to sleep or concentrate.

How Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?

Schizophrenia is diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, who will perform a series of tests and evaluations to determine whether the person has schizophrenia or another mental health disorder. There is no single test for schizophrenia. A mental health specialist or doctor will perform a psychological evaluation and complete medical exams, such as blood tests and CT scans, to rule out other conditions such as bipolar disorder, substance abuse, or a medical disease that may be causing the signs of schizophrenia.

Psychological evaluations include asking about thoughts, moods, hallucinations, substance abuse, delusions, and potential for self-harm, violence, or suicide and observing appearance and demeanor. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) outlines diagnostic criteria a medical professional will use to determine the diagnosis. Two or more of the following symptoms should be present during a 1-month period (or less if successfully treated):

  • Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior.
  • Disorganized speech.
  • Delusions.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Negative symptoms (such as diminished emotional expression or withdrawal from social situations).

At least one of the symptoms needs to be delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech. Symptoms also impair one of the major areas of functioning: work, interpersonal relations, or self-care. Some of the signs of schizophrenia must last for a continuous period of at least 6 months, which must include at least one month of active symptoms and may include periods where only negative symptoms are present.

schizophrenia causes, side effects and help

Can Schizophrenia Be Treated?

While schizophrenia is a chronic, lifelong disorder, it can be successfully treated. The best course of treatment is a combination of medication management, psychotherapy, and self-care techniques. Many people who receive treatment go on to live seemingly normal lives and can engage in school or work successfully. However, some people don’t get the help they need because they may not know anything wrong with them or are in denial. They can also be ashamed of being labeled with a serious mental illness.

Medications include antipsychotics which can make psychotic symptoms less intense and less frequent. They are usually taken every day in a pill or liquid form. These medications can have some side effects such as restlessness, drowsiness, dry mouth, and weight gain which may go away over time. The positive effects also outweigh the side effects.

Psychotherapy can also help patients find solutions to everyday challenges and manage symptoms. Some forms of therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. Through psychotherapy, people can learn positive coping skills, how to test their reality and ignore voices. They can also learn better social and problem-solving skills which can reduce symptom severity and reduce the risk of relapse. They can also learn self-care techniques and find the motivation to keep up with treatment. Patients can also participate in peer support groups which may be led by a trained therapist and include education on the disease and how to manage symptoms. Peer support groups also help people feel less alone in their diagnosis and to learn from one another.

Hospitalization may be needed during a psychotic episode to ensure safety, proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, and other reasons. Crisis stabilization units can offer recovery and safety planning to help the person regain control of their mental health. Once patients are stabilized, they can return home and continue treatment through outpatient options.

Click here to contact Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095 to learn about using our short-term crisis stabilization unit for individuals struggling with an acute mental health crisis.

Alter Mental Health Can Help People Living With Schizophrenia

While there still aren’t concrete answers to what causes schizophrenia, Alter Mental Health can help people living with schizophrenia get the treatment they need in a secure, safe environment. Psychosis episodes can be frightening and overwhelming. Our crisis stabilization unit can correctly diagnose schizophrenia and other mental health disorders so clients can receive personalized treatment plans that work. Clinicians will use medication management, various therapies, and holistic practices to stabilize clients and get them on their way toward long-term treatment. Before being discharged, clients will receive referrals for ongoing services to continue working towards recovery as they return to home life.

If you or someone you love is struggling with schizophrenia or is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call us today at 657-218-5095 to talk to one of our assessment counselors. Our helpline is available 24/7 and can quickly get you admitted in times of crisis.