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The Causes of Schizophrenia


Brain disease

-(primary cause)

The evidence for brain diseases as the cause of schizophrenia rests on research findings during the past ten years. Comparison of the brains and cerebro-spinal fluid of normal controls and of people with schizophrenia through autopsy, EEGs, CT, radio-active tracing of brain arteries, and spinal taps reveals structural, functional, and chemical abnormalities. The current body of clinical data provides further reason to destigmatize schizophrenia. It is an illness for which no one is to blame.

The Limbic System

-(the site of pathology in most cases)

There is strong clinical evidence that the limbic system is the site of pathology for some, if not most, cases of schizophrenia.

The limbic system is now known to be the gate through which all incoming stimuli must pass-it correlates all sorts of internal and external perceptions. It selects, integrates, and unifies stimuli and experiences into organized reality and coherent activity.

As one patient described her episode of schizophrenia: "What had happened to me...was a breakdown in the filter, and a hodge-podge of unrelated stimuli were distracting me from things which shoud have had my undivided attention."


Postulated causes:

  • genetic theories: the oldest and most tested, however, genetic transmission has yet to be proved, even though schizophrenia runs in some families.
  • Familial predisposition/incidence:
    • 10% chance in children with one schizophrenic parent
    • 39% chance in children with two schizophrenic parents
    • 10-15% chance in nonidentical twin of a schizophrenic twin
    • 35-50% chance in identical twin of a schizophrenic twin
  • biochemical theories: excess or deficit of neurotransmitters, or their change into toxins.
  • nutritional theories: vitamin deficiencies, metabolic disturbances.
  • infectious disease: a theory for which there is as yet no conclusive evidence, although several viruses have an affinity for the limbic system and some cause changes in the limbic system.
  • psychoanalytic and family interaction theories: there are no supporting data for these theories and considerable data which refute them. This approach not only fails to improve the schizophrenic patient, it may even be detrimental.
  • stress: no supporting data to date.
  • drug abuse: there is no evidence that mind-altering drugs per se cause schizophrenia.

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