Can purely psychological factors cause schizophrenic symptoms?

Psychiatry, Psychosomatics & Psychotherapy

How schizophrenia develops has not yet been conclusively clarified. A combination of different factors (genetics, environmental factors, biographical factors and many more) is assumed in the development and persistence of the disease. People with schizophrenia are likely to be more sensitive to internal and external stimuli. Even before the onset of the disease, they have a lower tolerance towards emotional, physical and biographical stress factors. This particular vulnerability plays a role in triggering and maintaining the disorder. Other possible risk factors / causes include:

Genetic predisposition

People with relatives who have schizophrenia have been shown to have a higher risk of developing the disease. About 50% of the children of people suffering from schizophrenia show psychological abnormalities and 12% develop schizophrenia (compared to a lifetime risk of illness of approx. 0.5 to 1% in the general population). Heredity does not play an exclusive role, however, because 80% of schizophrenia occur in patients without any further illnesses in the family.

Biochemical causes & altered brain structure

The brain consists of billions of nerve cells that are connected to one another through complicated metabolic processes. A number of chemical substances (messenger substances) are involved in these metabolic processes. An imbalance in these messenger substances and the associated disruptions in information processing, together with other factors, presumably cause the symptoms of schizophrenia. One of the most important chemicals in relation to schizophrenic diseases is dopamine. Recent research indicates that other messenger substances (especially glutamate) are also involved in the disease. The unbalanced metabolic process in the brain is also the starting point for drug treatment.
In addition to these metabolic disorders in the brain, those affected also have altered brain structures (e.g. abnormalities in the limbic system, which is responsible, among other things, for emotional behavior and a lower number of neurons that transmit stimuli / impulses in the brain) compared to healthy people. This is proven by numerous studies with a wide variety of imaging examinations of the brain (e.g. computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance tomography (MRT), positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)).

Family, social factors & influence of stressful life events

In the past, certain relationship and communication patterns in the family, upbringing styles and stressful life events were also discussed as possible causes of schizophrenia. However, the involvement of family and social factors in the causation of schizophrenic diseases has not been scientifically proven. So one cannot blame a wrong upbringing for the disease. What is certain, however, is that the type of communication within the family can influence the course of the disease. It is also important that the observed peculiarities are not the cause, but the result of the illness of a family member. Overprotective treatment can be explained by the fact that parents perceive the child's psychological vulnerability and susceptibility to illness at an early stage and react accordingly in a protective manner. Critical life events (change of location, new partnership / separation, job change / job loss) are not among the actual risk factors, but they can increase the schizophrenic signs or encourage relapse.