I read some amazing news today, which reminded me of an article I wrote years ago about schizophrenia. Well, today scientists announced that they found a genetic cause for schizophrenia, or at least a predisposition for it. That changes some of what I wrote in this article, but I thought it would be interesting to see how scientists knew there was a genetic link to the disease before they discovered it. Click here for news on the discovery. Read on to learn the difference between what we know today and what we knew just a few short years ago.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that presents with a range of symptoms. Only a licensed medical professional can diagnose schizophrenia, but the following are signs to look out for: Difficulty organizing thoughts and speech, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, slow thought process and overall lack of interest and stability. For years, doctors and researchers have struggled to find out what causes schizophrenia and some have concluded that it is, at least minimally, linked to genetics.
It has been shown that people whose parents have schizophrenia are ten times more likely to acquire schizophrenia than people who do not have schizophrenic relatives. Siblings are also more likely to develop schizophrenia symptoms. The risk decreases the more degrees of separation there are between a schizophrenic and his relatives. This obvious imbalance between risk of schizophrenia among schizophrenics' relatives and people who do not have schizophrenic relatives can mean only one thing. Schizophrenia is, at least partially, a genetic disorder.
There is no denying that some people who do not have a close relative who has the disorder can still develop schizophrenia. That means it is not solely genetic. It is more likely that genes can give you a propensity for schizophrenia, but that outside factors can influence it as well. The environment in which a person spends her life can lead to psychosis. The symptoms of schizophrenia seem to be able to arise with no family history of the disorder. Of course, this is not exact science because it is nearly impossible to trace every schizophrenic's family history.
No one gene or genes has been concretely attributed to schizophrenia, as of yet. Therefore, there is no way to indicate more clearly who is at risk for schizophrenia. The only indicators, as mentioned above, are symptoms and relatives with schizophrenia. It is important to note as well that, even if a person has a parent with schizophrenia, there is a 90% chance that she will not develop the disorder.
There may come a day (TODAY) when scientists discover which gene or genes cause schizophrenia. This can give people an idea of who is at risk, but it is unlikely to help with treatment. People who have schizophrenia typically need antipsychotic drugs and therapy to live normal lives. They are prone to suicidal thoughts and self-inflicted isolation. Knowing that it is not their faults and that they were born with the propensity for their problems may help, but probably not much. What is most important now is to find a way to control schizophrenia for its victims.