Is schizophrenia hereditary? Experts believe that although there are definitely schizophrenia hereditary factors involved in the development of schizophrenia, a biological predisposition is not enough to increase your chances of developing the disorder and environmental factors also play a significant role.
Like many other mental health disorders, cases of schizophrenia can sometimes run in the family and if a parent has been diagnosed with the disorder, first generation relatives have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. But what are the schizophrenia hereditary risk factors linked to familial relationships with schizophrenia patients?
Hereditary Factors and Risks
Schizophrenia hereditary statistics indicate that the closeness of a family relationship makes a big difference to your chances of developing schizophrenia, or in other words, the closer your family link is to a person with schizophrenia, the more likely you are to subsequently be diagnosed with schizophrenia yourself.
Those with one parent diagnosed with schizophrenia are around five times as likely to develop schizophrenia, and if both parents have the disorder, this rises to around a 40% risk factor. Having a brother or sister with the disorder gives you a 10% risk factor, but having a sibling AND a parent with schizophrenia almost doubles your risk. Those most at risk of developing schizophrenia are identical twins: when one twin has the illness, the other twin is 48% at risk. The risk factor associated with having a second or third degree relative diagnosed with schizophrenia is a lot less, but it is still higher than that of the general population.
Is the Hereditary Link the Only Factor?
Although the evidence linking cases of schizophrenia with hereditary factors is pretty compelling, it is clearly not the only factor, and as is the case with other diseases such as diabetes, genetics and environmental factors each have their role to play in whether a person will one day be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Many people with a biological predisposition to schizophrenia will never develop the illness unless they are exposed to some kind of trigger factor, for example extreme stress or a dysfunctional childhood, and since many studies have indicated that there is a strong link between a dysfunctional upbringing and cases of mental health disorders later in life, it is obvious that environmental factors are important.
Indeed, it could be argued that the hereditary link between familial cases of schizophrenia is not as clear cut as simply having genetic material in common: a parent with schizophrenia is unlikely to be able to offer a stable and happy home life for their children, so genetics aside, the dysfunctional family environment is just as likely to cause schizophrenia in the next generation.
If you are concerned about the schizophrenia hereditary factors in your family, it is important is to take all things into consideration. Whilst your risk of developing schizophrenia is undoubtedly higher than the general population, you will not necessarily inherit the disorder yourself. But if you feel anxious and fearful about your schizophrenia hereditary risk, talk to a mental health professional and they should be able to offer plenty of helpful advice.