One of the most commonly asked questions about schizophrenia is if it is hereditary. As mentioned before, genetics is just one possible factor for your risk of developing schizophrenia, but depending on your family history, it may be an important one.
Research has been done among families with a history of schizophrenia, and the results are very alarming.1
Having a Relative Diagnosed With Schizophrenia Can Increase Your Risk for Developing It
The general population has a 1 percent chance of developing schizophrenia, but your chances are higher if you have a schizophrenic relative. If you have a schizophrenic sibling, there's an 8 percent chance you may get it.
The risk goes up to 12 percent if you have a schizophrenic parent, and 14 percent if you have a schizophrenic fraternal twin.
What’s shocking is that if both of your parents have schizophrenia, the risk increases to 39 percent. The risk goes even higher if you have a schizophrenic identical twin, which is estimated to be at 47 percent.2
These findings strongly indicate the role of genes in developing schizophrenia, but they are not the only cause, because you may still get it even if you don’t have a schizophrenic relative.3
Research Is Slowly Unravelling the Role of Genes in the Development of Schizophrenia
Researchers believe that several genes are responsible for increasing your risk of developing schizophrenia, but simply having those genes doesn't automatically make you a schizophrenic. It is believed that only when certain schizophrenia-linked genes begin to malfunction would symptoms appear.4
In a 2002 research by Dr. Daniel Weinberger of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), he discovered that an abnormal COMT gene on chromosome 22 increases your risk of schizophrenia by depleting your frontal lobes of dopamine. As a result, hallucinations may form.5
In more recent news, a 2014 study involving 300 scientists from 35 countries, dubbed as the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, identified 128 genes linked to schizophrenia, 83 of which have never been linked to the disease before.6
The Consortium compared the genomes of 37,000 schizophrenics against 113,000 people without the disorder using a genome-wide association study (GWAS). Through GWAS, the researchers were able to accurately verify which genes were linked to schizophrenia by tallying which molecular pairs that make up genes had mutations.
Despite the results, the research still can't point out which genes are exactly responsible for causing schizophrenia, but there were a couple of optimistic findings.
First, the research was able to identify the genes that may increase your risk of schizophrenia, which can help future researchers continue and improve on future studies. The second one is discovering the role of glutamate-related genes in schizophrenia,7 a neurotransmitter responsible for sending signals throughout your nervous system that help with learning and memory.8
Thanks to this discovery, doctors may be able to create treatments that target these glutamate-related genes to help schizophrenics manage their condition better. In any case, it’s important to study your family’s history for any mental diseases. If there's someone diagnosed with schizophrenia, you should make the necessary lifestyle changes to lower your risk of developing it.