What causes undifferentiated schizophrenia?

Researchers are still investigating the causes of schizophrenia, but it is a disease with a physical basis. Tests such as MRIs and CT scans show clear differences between the brains of people who have schizophrenia and those of people who do not. Both environmental and genetic factors are linked to developing schizophrenia: having an older father; having a family history of schizophrenia; being exposed to toxic chemicals or certain viruses like the flu before you were born; other prenatal problems such as a lack of oxygen or poor maternal nutrition; taking certain illegal drugs as a teen or young adult; and stress are all risk factors for this disease. Researchers also think that certain brain chemicals play a role in developing schizophrenia, including glutamate and dopamine. In people who are genetically vulnerable to schizophrenia, stress may also trigger the first symptoms of the condition.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Experts wish they could answer this question as decisively as a two-year-old tells you his name, but no one knows yet what specifically causes schizophrenia or why some people get it and others do not. Scientists believe that undifferentiated schizophrenia shares the same cause as other subtypes of schizophrenia. Despite not knowing specific causes, there are risk factors that can increase the likelihood that you will develop schizophrenia. For example, if a parent or sibling has schizophrenia or a delusional disorder, you have a higher risk. Research indicates that if your mother was malnourished, had a viral infection, or took certain types of medicines while she was pregnant with you, you may have a higher risk as well. Finally, researchers have theories that your brain’s messengers (neurotransmitters) do not work properly in people with schizophrenia, which may cause them to develop the disorder. Keep in mind, though, that just because you have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia does not guarantee you actually will.

Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
The causes of undifferentiated schizophrenia include genetics -- in other words, your family history -- as well as changes in brain function and environmental factors. Stressful life situations can trigger undifferentiated schizophrenia symptoms. Talk to your doctor about additional causes and triggers of undifferentiated schizophrenia.

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