From what I understand about the physiology of schizophrenia it is thought to be caused by chemical imbalances resulting from genetic factors, fueled by environmental factors. I've garnered that environmental factors can play a large role in how a person reacts to the disease.

As an example: a person with a genetic predisposition towards schizophrenia is raised in an abusive household with his parents yelling everyday, they will definitely become angry and more stressed out, which one might assume would lead to their eventual psychotic break. Is this 100% correct? Another person who might be less stressed out, probably raised in a normal family, could potentially experience troubling symptoms before a complete psychotic break. Is this a valid assumption or observed pattern in those who suffer from the disease?

So, if environmental factors can contribute to the onset of schizophrenia, could the removal of these factors lessen the symptoms? Take for example Jared Loughner, he will be spending life in prison. With time away from society, with the stresses of life removed, and (given the correct medication), could incarcerated schizophrenia patients' symptoms be ameliorated by this change in social situation?

Any info on this?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Schizophrenia covers a wide spectrum of symptoms, so I think this is difficult to answer in the general case. If a patient is delusional, the very notion of "own willpower" becomes a bit cloudy. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2013 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ (so, I think it's a good question as well, but a yes/no answer is going to be difficult to pin down). John Nash is an example of someone who has done battle with the disease for decades, including trying to decrease his own levels of medication (see his synopsis of this at the end of "A Beautiful Mind") with varying degrees of success. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2013 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ It is important to keep in mind that genetic factors are easily exaggerated. For schizophrenia, having a first-degree relative with the disorder raises the risk from below 1% to 6.5% (article), but that still means that the vast, vast majority (93.5%) of people with a first-degree relative who has schizophrenia do not develop it. $\endgroup$
    – Dan M.
    Jul 12, 2013 at 8:39
  • $\begingroup$ oh fwiw i've read that "critical comments" from family members are associated with worse prognosis $\endgroup$
    – user7852
    Apr 21, 2017 at 6:05

1 Answer 1


I think reading about the genain quadruplets should give you a clear idea of the effect of environment on schizophrenia. Basically, the quadruplets had a genetic disposition to this disorder and all 4 siblings were admitted at some point or another to the National Institute of Mental Health as schizophrenic. However, there were differences in the severity of the disorder in all 4 siblings due to the way they were treated by their parents, showing that despite genetic dispositions to a disorder, environmental factors do affect the severity of it.

  • $\begingroup$ The genain quadruplets were not, by any evidence based standard, considered to have a common genetic condition. They were used as poster children to push the idea that schizophrenia is genetic, and we still to this day inherit the assumptions made in this study. If schizophrenia is sought to be caracterised as a genetic condition, we should thoroughly discard this kind of anecdotal (yes... anecdotal) evidence in favour of stronger epidemiological evidence if available with the desired level of proof. $\endgroup$
    – FDIA
    May 12, 2017 at 22:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Now indeed the genain quadruplets were heavily heavily traumatised and abused. So this evidence is nowadays retold as "look! It's trauma! Not genetics!". Such epidemiological historical twists and turns are everywhere in this nature vs nurture debate concerning schizophrenia. We should drop this evidence once and for all and attempt to track specific dissociation or delusional symptoms down to either biological determinants or psychosocial determinants. With care, IMHO, and well defined therapeutical goals at stake. $\endgroup$
    – FDIA
    May 12, 2017 at 22:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.