It is not possible to predict exactly who may develop schizophrenia. There are several risk factors, and they can be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), risk factors for a person developing schizophrenia may include family members with a diagnosis, environmental factors such as living in poverty or stressful and dangerous surroundings, or nutritional issues at birth.

This article explores the risk factors for schizophrenia.

It also details the treatment, symptoms, and when to see a doctor.

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It is important to know that not everyone with a risk of developing schizophrenia will get the condition. Some people develop schizophrenia without any risk factors.

There are some factors that appear to increase a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia.

Learn more about schizophrenia here.


A person with a family history of schizophrenia has an increased risk of developing the condition. Around 10–14% of people with schizophrenia have a family member with it.

There is also a connection between schizophrenia and other mental health conditions. People with schizophrenia are more likely to have a family member with bipolar disorder or another mental health diagnosis.

Childhood ADHD

Research suggests that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a greater risk of schizophrenia, although the connection is not entirely clear. One study suggested that children with ADHD were 4.3 times as likely to develop schizophrenia compared to those without ADHD.

Both conditions involve changes in how the brain uses dopamine. This may explain part of the connection. There is no link between the use of medications to treat ADHD and the development of schizophrenia.

Life stressors

Researchers have found links between major life stressors and an increase in the risk of schizophrenia. This risk is more significant for people with a family history of schizophrenia.

Stressors include:

  • living in poverty
  • emotional neglect or isolation
  • family violence
  • trauma

Some research suggests that babies born preterm or at a low birth weight have a greater risk of developing schizophrenia.

Smoking and cannabis use

There are associations between schizophrenia and tobacco use. It is not clear if cigarette smoking actually increases the risk of schizophrenia. It is also possible that people with schizophrenia are more likely to smoke as a way to self-medicate.

There may also be a link between cannabis use and schizophrenia. Research has suggested that cannabis might trigger schizophrenia in some people and worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Psychosis is twice as likely to occur in someone with schizophrenia who also uses cannabis regularly compared to someone who does not use cannabis.

Around one in four people with schizophrenia also live with cannabis use disorder.

Some research suggests that preventing or treating cannabis use disorder can prevent up to one-fifth of cases of schizophrenia in young men.

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition. It affects a person’s perception of the world.

Symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • hallucinations
  • difficulty organizing thoughts and speech
  • repetitive, unusual body movements
  • illogical thoughts
  • loss of interest in doing things
  • trouble with memory and concentration

A person can manage their schizophrenia well. With proper treatment, these symptoms may improve or resolve.

People with schizophrenia mostly receive a diagnosis between the ages of 16 and 30 years. A person may have some signs and symptoms before diagnosis, but it is usually an episode of psychosis that leads to a person receiving a diagnosis.

It is important for anyone with schizophrenia to be in regular contact with their healthcare team. Over time, medication needs may change.

The main treatment for schizophrenia is medication in injection form or taken orally. Many people with schizophrenia will take medications known as antipsychotics, helping to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. These also help to prevent symptoms from getting worse.

A person with schizophrenia may also work with a mental health professional. Psychotherapy can support people to cope with symptoms and to improve their ability to function in daily life.

A person can manage schizophrenia well with the right treatments. Ongoing follow-up with a mental health professional is important to monitor for changes in symptoms and ensure that the treatment plan is working.

People with schizophrenia are more likely to develop substance use disorder. One study compared people with schizophrenia to the general population. Over a lifetime, about 16 in 100 people will experience illegal substances or alcohol addiction.

Among those with schizophrenia, about 47 in 100 people may have problems with drugs or alcohol. People with schizophrenia who misuse alcohol or illegal substances tend to have more severe symptoms. They may also have greater difficulty with following treatment plans and undergo more hospitalizations.

There is no way to predict who will develop schizophrenia. There are some known risk factors that may increase the likelihood that a person will develop the condition.

Genetics plays a part, and there are several environmental factors. Once diagnosis occurs, there are treatments to help people manage the symptoms of schizophrenia.

If a person is at risk of developing schizophrenia for any reason, they can monitor for signs and symptoms. Early treatment is always best.