The exact causes of schizophrenia are unknown. Research suggests a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors can make a person more likely to develop the condition.
Some people may be prone to schizophrenia, and a stressful or emotional life event might trigger a psychotic episode. However, it's not known why some people develop symptoms while others don't.
Things that increase the chances of schizophrenia developing include:
Schizophrenia tends to run in families, but nosingle gene is thought to be responsible.
It's more likelythat different combinations of genes make people more vulnerable to the condition. However, having these genes doesn't necessarily mean you'll develop schizophrenia.
Evidence that the disorder is partly inherited comes from studies of twins. Identical twins share the same genes.
Inidentical twins, if one twin develops schizophrenia, the other twin has a one in two chance of developing it, too. This is true even if they're raised separately.
In non-identical twins, who have different genetic make-ups, when one twin develops schizophrenia, the other only has a one in seven chance of developing the condition.
While this is higher than in the general population, where the chance is about 1 in 100, it suggests genes aren't the only factor influencing the development of schizophrenia.
Studies of people with schizophrenia have shown there are subtle differences in the structure of their brains.
These changes aren't seen in everyone with schizophrenia andcan occur in people who don't have a mental illness. But they suggest schizophrenia may partly be a disorder of the brain.
Neurotransmittersare chemicals that carry messages between brain cells.
There's a connection between neurotransmitters and schizophrenia because drugs that alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain are known to relieve some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Research suggestsschizophrenia may be caused by a change in the level of two neurotransmitters: dopamine and serotonin.
Some studies indicatean imbalance between the two may be the basis of the problem. Others have found a change in the body's sensitivity to the neurotransmitters is part of the cause of schizophrenia.
Research has shown people who develop schizophrenia are more likely to have experienced complications before and during their birth, such as:
It may be that these things have a subtle effect on brain development.
Triggers are things that can cause schizophrenia to develop in people who are at risk.
The main psychological triggers of schizophrenia are stressful life events, such as:
These kinds of experiences, although stressful, don't cause schizophrenia. However, they can trigger its development in someone already vulnerable to it.
Drugs don't directly cause schizophrenia, but studies have shown drug misuse increases the risk of developing schizophrenia or a similar illness.
Certain drugs, particularly cannabis, cocaine, LSDor amphetamines, may trigger symptoms of schizophrenia in people who are susceptible.
Using amphetamines or cocaine can lead to psychosis, and can cause a relapse in people recovering from an earlier episode.
Three major studies have shown teenagers under 15 who use cannabis regularly, especially "skunk" and other more potent forms of the drug, are up to four times more likely to develop schizophrenia by the age of 26.
Read about schizophrenia, a long-term mental health condition that causes a range of different psychological symptoms.
Read about symptoms of schizophrenia, including hallucinations, delusions, confused thoughts and changes in behaviour.
Read about the causes of schizophrenia. The exact causes of schizophrenia are unknown, but research suggests a combination of factors are responsible.
Read about diagnosing schizophrenia. There's no single test and the condition is usually diagnosed after assessment by a mental health specialist.
Read about treating schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is usually treated with an individually tailored combination of therapy and medication.
Read about living with schizophrenia. Most people with schizophrenia make a recovery, although many experience the occasional return of symptoms (relapses).