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Is Schizophrenia a Genetic Condition?

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a type of chronic mental disorder that causes people to experience distortions of reality, usually in the form of hallucinations or delusions. According to the American Psychiatric Association, it is estimated that schizophrenia affects less than one percent of the population in the United States. (1,2,3)

There are many misconceptions associated with this disorder, and it is common for people to think that schizophrenia gives rise to a split personality in people. However, it should be noted that schizophrenia and split personality are two different disorders. Schizophrenia can develop in men and women both, regardless of their age. While men usually start to develop the symptoms of the disorder in their late teens or early 20s, women start showing the symptoms in their late 20s and early 30s. (4,5,6)

Some of the early symptoms of schizophrenia may include:

  • A change in concentration and focus
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends
  • Suddenly changing social groups or friends
  • Sleep issues
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Having odd ideas
  • Being suspicious about everyday things
  • Facing difficulties with school work or having poor academic performance
  • Feeling different from others

The exact cause of schizophrenia still remains unknown, but medical experts believe that there are environmental, biological, and, most importantly, genetic factors that contribute to the development of this disorder. But is schizophrenia a genetic condition? Let’s take a look.

Is Schizophrenia a Genetic Condition?

Having a first-degree relative in a family with schizophrenia is known to be the biggest risk factor for developing this disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, when it comes to the general population, the risk of developing schizophrenia is only one percent, but having a first-degree relative, meaning a parent or a sibling, with schizophrenia increases this risk to ten percent. (7)

This risk further increases to a whopping 50 percent if both parents have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The risk further goes up to 40 to 65 percent if an identical twin gets diagnosed with the condition. (8) In fact, a 2017 study carried out in Denmark looked at data from over 30,000 twins based throughout the country and found that the heritability rate of schizophrenia was 79 percent. (9) The study established that identical twins were at a 33 percent risk for developing schizophrenia. The study further concluded that the risk of developing this disorder was not entirely based only on genetic factors.

According to the Genetics Home Reference, even though the risk of schizophrenia is significantly higher amongst family members, but most people who have a close relative with schizophrenia do not end up developing the disorder. (10)

What are the other Causes of Schizophrenia?

Apart from genetics, there are several other potential causes of schizophrenia. These include:

  • Environment: Being exposed to certain toxins or viruses or having to experience malnutrition before birth increases the risk of schizophrenia.

  • Substance Abuse: Teenagers and young adults who use psychotropic or psychoactive (mind-altering) drugs are more likely to develop schizophrenia.

  • Brain Chemistry: Some people develop certain problems with brain chemicals, including issues with the neurotransmitters glutamate and dopamine. This is believed to be a potential cause of schizophrenia.

  • Immune System Activation: Schizophrenia is also believed to be associated with prolonged inflammation or autoimmune diseases.


Research has shown that schizophrenia is a hereditary or genetic disorder. Genetics is an essential factor in the development of schizophrenia. Even though the exact cause of schizophrenia is not yet known, people with relatives who have schizophrenia are at a significantly higher risk for developing this complex mental disorder.


  1. 1. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/schizophrenia/what-is-schizophrenia> [Accessed 30 May 2022].
  2. Bellak, L.E., 1958. Schizophrenia: A review of the syndrome.
  3. Gottesman, I.I., 1989. Vital statistics, demography, and schizophrenia: editor’s introduction. Schizophrenia bulletin, 15(1), pp.5-7.
  4. Addington, D., Addington, J. and Patten, S., 1996. Gender and affect in schizophrenia. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie, 41(5), pp.265-268.
  5. Canuso, C.M. and Pandina, G., 2007. Gender and schizophrenia. Psychopharmacol Bull, 40(4), pp.178-190.
  6. Lee, S.H., Kim, E.Y., Kim, S. and Bae, S.M., 2010. Event-related potential patterns and gender effects underlying facial affect processing in schizophrenia patients. Neuroscience research, 67(2), pp.172-180.
  7. Nami.org. 2022. What is Schizophrenia? | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. [online] Available at: <https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Schizophrenia> [Accessed 30 May 2022].
  8. Pnl.bwh.harvard.edu. 2022. Schizophrenia | Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory. [online] Available at: <http://pnl.bwh.harvard.edu/education/what-is/schizophrenia/> [Accessed 30 May 2022].
  9. Hilker, R., Helenius, D., Fagerlund, B., Skytthe, A., Christensen, K., Werge, T.M., Nordentoft, M. and Glenthøj, B., 2018. Heritability of schizophrenia and schizophrenia spectrum based on the nationwide Danish twin register. Biological psychiatry, 83(6), pp.492-498.
  10. Conditions, G., 2022. Schizophrenia: MedlinePlus Genetics. [online] Medlineplus.gov. Available at: <https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/schizophrenia/#inheritance> [Accessed 30 May 2022].
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 6, 2022

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