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Is schizophrenia hereditary?

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Schizophrenia is a psychiatric condition that can result in hallucinations and delusions. While the exact cause is unknown, genetics can be a likely risk factor.
Medically reviewed by Yalda Safai, MD, MPH
Written by Anisha Mansuri
Updated on

Schizophrenia is a complex condition that can affect the way someone thinks or feels. It can result in symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, or impaired function. Schizophrenia can also cause other psychiatric conditions, such as psychosis.

According to a 2016 National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, around 1% of the population has schizophrenia. The study also mentions that as much as 90% of diagnoses are hereditary. While family history can play a vital role in whether you’ll develop schizophrenia, there’s no particular gene that could raise your risk of schizophrenia.

Symptoms of schizophrenia can be different for everyone and may develop slowly. This is why it’s important to identify any early signs (also known as prodromal schizophrenia) so you can start treatment as soon as possible.


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There’s no clear cause of schizophrenia. But researchers believe that family history can often contribute toward a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

The 2016 NIH study also identified 22 genes that could potentially put you at risk of developing schizophrenia. Out of all the genes studied, only one gene scored the highest when it came to genetic influence. This gene is known as complement component 4 (C4).

However, further research is still needed to verify whether a particular gene could increase the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Several other factors could also put you at risk of developing schizophrenia. These include:

  • Complications during pregnancy or after childbirth: The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) mentions that people with schizophrenia are more likely to have experienced complications before and during their birth.
  • Substance misuse: This could increase the risk of developing symptoms related to psychosis.

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

The typical age at which most people receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia is 16–30 years old.

While there isn’t a specific test that can help diagnose schizophrenia, a healthcare professional will usually consider several factors to determine whether an individual has the condition.

They may ask you about:

  • your family medical history
  • your medical history
  • any symptoms you’ve been experiencing that can help rule out other similar conditions

Healthcare professionals use the following criteria to determine whether someone requires a diagnosis of schizophrenia:

  • They should have at least two of the following five symptoms:
    • delusions
    • hallucinations
    • catatonic behavior, a state where an individual moves very little and does not respond to instructions
    • disorganized speech
    • negative symptoms, such as a reduction in the number of words spoken
  • Their symptoms must occur for a minimum of 1 month.
  • The condition must impact their day-to-day life, such as maintaining relationships and going to work.

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. Receiving treatment for schizophrenia early on improves the chances of recovery.


To help you manage symptoms of schizophrenia, several treatment methods are available, including prescription medication and behavioral therapies. A healthcare professional can help you understand which treatment option may be best for you.


Antipsychotics are usually the first line of treatment for schizophrenia. They include medications such as risperidone (Risperdal) and haloperidol (Haldol). A doctor may prescribe other medications if a co-occurring mood disorder is present. These medications include:

Antipsychotics can help you manage symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. According to the NHS, these medications may not show immediate effects and might take several days or weeks to help relieve symptoms. A doctor may also prescribe them long term to prevent another episode from happening again.

Examples of antipsychotics include:

It’s important to know that antipsychotics can cause side effects such as:

If you’re concerned about any side effects from taking antipsychotics, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can help you identify the best treatment plan.

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Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be beneficial for people with schizophrenia. It can help reduce positive symptoms. Examples include:

  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • confusion
  • unusual behavioral changes

A 2021 study found that CBT could help eliminate or reduce the distress experienced by individuals with psychosis-related symptoms. Researchers also found that CBT could be beneficial in managing symptoms that antipsychotics were unable to help with.


Schizophrenia is a neurological condition that can cause symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.

While the exact cause is currently unknown, your family history can play a vital role in determining whether you’ll develop the condition.

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can help you identify the best treatment plan.

Starting treatment early can be beneficial for people with schizophrenia. It may help some people avoid relapsing or experiencing future acute schizophrenic episodes.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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