Is Paranoid Schizophrenia Inherited? Understanding Your Parent’s Diagnosis
When a parent suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, it is understandable to ask if the condition is hereditary. But while there is a definite genetic component, it is not a directly inherited condition. Understanding the environmental factors that exacerbate paranoid schizophrenia can help a person understand their own behaviors and tendencies, and seeking long-term care can help manage the condition if it develops.
What do we inherit from our parents? Eye color? Height? Predisposition toward a bad temper? Love of reading? Heart problems? What do we get from them, what do we develop ourselves, and where do the two intersect? These are complex questions, often without a clear answer, and the question becomes more complex and fraught when a parent is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
A parent’s diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia can in some ways be a relief. If you’ve been dealing with an undiagnosed mental health issue, for example, having a more clear path toward schizophrenia treatment and management is like a new light.
But it can also be frightening. You might be worried about your own mental health and wondering whether a parent’s condition makes it genetically more likely for you to develop the same condition they have. It can make you wonder if certain signs and symptoms are not random, but connected to a genetic disposition.
The truth is that while schizophrenia is influenced by genetics, it isn’t directly inherited. Just because your mother or father is schizophrenic doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to develop it, too—but it can make you more likely to develop symptoms, especially if the underlying genetics are exacerbated by environmental conditions. Understanding these risks can help you evaluate symptoms more closely and seek treatment if and when it’s needed.
Genetic Components of Schizophrenia
There is no one genetic cause of schizophrenia; no one has the “schizophrenia gene.” Rather, there are what the Mayo Clinic calls “a complex group of genetic and other biological vulnerabilities.” A person isn’t born with schizophrenia, but there are certain neurochemical conditions that make them candidates for its development.
Some of these can include unusual dopamine or glutamate levels, lower brain matter in some areas, and abnormalities in the default mode connectivity network. These sound in some ways like a judgment on a person’s brain. They aren’t. They are simply small differences that can make a person vulnerable to schizophrenia.
These conditions are inheritable, though there’s no guarantee they’ll be passed down. One person might inherit one of these and develop schizophrenia; another may get all four and never notice. That’s because there is no on/off switch for schizophrenia. Like any mental health issue, the reality of it is far more complex than that.
Environmental Factors That Exacerbate Schizophrenia
Environmental factors in the development of schizophrenia are just as complex as the genetic ones. A person who is biologically vulnerable to the issue might be greatly affected by any of these, or not at all. But if your parent has been diagnosed, and you know you are vulnerable, these are factors that might have an impact on whether you develop it or not.
- Malnourishment in the womb
- Infection passed down through mother while in the womb
- Early loss of a parent
- Poverty during childhood
- Sexual, emotional, or physical abuse
- Emotional neglect
- Drug use (especially marijuana, amphetamines, or hallucinogens)
This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it a definitive checklist by which you can rate your vulnerability to schizophrenia. Potentially impactful conditions can manifest at any time and for a variety of reasons. If you know that you have a parent with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and that you are vulnerable, however, none of these factors should be ignored. Especially if you’re genetically predisposed and have experienced any of these or similar situations, it is time to look at what could be the symptoms of a developing illness.
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Symptoms of Schizophrenia
One of the dangers of paranoid schizophrenia is that many earlier symptoms could be something else, and may—especially at first—be subtle enough that many people will brush them off as simply part of “having a bad day.”
But if you are genetically vulnerable, and especially if you have had any incidents that might exacerbate those vulnerabilities, pay attention to these potential symptoms of schizophrenia:
- Decreased emotions
- Increased lethargy
- Lack of interest in personal hygiene
- Neglect of personal and professional relationships
- Audio and/or visual hallucinations
- Abnormal physical postures and movements (including catatonia)
- Childlike behavior
- Excessive agitation
- Illogical thinking
- Excessive and irrational grandeur
If you are experiencing these, and know that you have a distinct vulnerability, it’s possible that you may be in the process of developing schizophrenia. However, whether it is schizophrenia or not, know that if you are experiencing a mental health issue, help is available. Healing is possible.
Schizophrenia Treatment for Your Parent—And You
If you have a parent who has paranoid schizophrenia, you should understand that:
- It is not inevitable that you will develop it, too.
- However, there is no “cutoff” for developing schizophrenia, either. Onset can occur at any age and at any time.
- If you are vulnerable, be vigilant in checking in with yourself and taking note of possible symptoms—especially if you have experienced any of the precipitating environmental factors.
- Hope, and help, are available for you both.
Schizophrenia cannot be cured, but there are treatment options that make it manageable. These include medications and psychotherapy. Medications are especially important for balancing out the neurochemical and essentially genetic components of schizophrenia. And the environmental factors are handled with long-term, residential treatment, which may include a variety of treatment modalities including (but not limited to) one-on-one psychotherapy sessions. This psychotherapy, by a certified therapist with experience in schizophrenia, can help you understand the exacerbating incidents that made you move from vulnerable to symptomatic.
A parent with a paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis doesn’t mean that you will develop the symptoms. And even if you develop them, it doesn’t mean you have no hope. Paranoid schizophrenia is treatable and manageable. Finding the right treatment is something you can find for yourself, and something you can pass on to your parent.
BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders, co-occurring substance use disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.