Q. Can schizophrenia be inherited and pass down to next generation?

Answered by
Dr. Suresh Kumar G D
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vinodhini. J
This is a premium question & answer published on May 01, 2020 and last reviewed on: May 15, 2020

Hello doctor,

I am a 28-year-old male in good health. I have suffered bouts of depression for the past few years along with anxiety and OCD. I am on Zoloft every day and am doing well for the most part. I am staying active and keeping busy. The reason why I ask this is, that on my mother's side there are two stories of people with suspected schizophrenia. My maternal grandmother's mother was said to have been institutionalized for her life because of it, and my maternal aunt (mom's sister) is a paranoid schizophrenic, according to my grandma.

Does this skip generations? Neither of my parents or siblings has this condition. What are the chances of becoming a schizophrenic? Do I have anything to worry about?



Welcome to

Based on the history provided, I see that you do not have any first degree relatives with schizophrenia. So the risk is not high. This condition can run in families, but the risk is more when you have first degree relatives with schizophrenia (like parents, siblings).

Schizophrenia is relatively rare affecting about 1% of the general population. So anyone in the world has a 1 in 100 chance of developing schizophrenia. Your risk will be the same as the general population ( ~1%), possibly marginally higher due to extended family history. You need not worry unnecessarily as the risk is not substantially higher than anybody else in the world.

To give you an idea about the genetic risk of schizophrenia, look at these figures. If there is a first degree relative with schizophrenia, the risk increases to 10 %. If both parents have schizophrenia, the risk increases to 50 %. If there is identical twin, the risk can increase to about 50 to 65%. You do not fall into these categories.

You may be aware that genes play a role in the etiology of schizophrenia but they alone are not responsible. Schizophrenia is caused by a complex interaction between genes, environment, and psychological factors. Environmental factors like illicit drug use and high stress levels play a huge role.

Since there is a possible history of schizophrenia in the extended family, it makes sense to avoid any risk factors like illicit drugs use (weed, cocaine, etc). Continue an active and healthy lifestyle. Continue appropriate treatment for depression, anxiety, and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). If you have any other concerns, you can contact your psychiatrist for a review.

I hope this helps.

Thank you doctor,

I tend to be a worrier and my family was talking about a few relatives so this thought got stuck in my head. I am very active and exercise every day and live a healthy lifestyle. I do not take any drugs, smoke anything, and I drink only once or twice a month. Given my age and healthy lifestyle and undergoing treatment for my other issues, is it safe to say that I should not be worried?



Welcome back to

I think you are doing all the right things. Continue following a healthy lifestyle as you are doing now.

Some of us have an anxious temperament that can make us prone to excessive worries. Probably that has contributed to you developing this particular health anxiety about schizophrenia. But as discussed earlier, your risk is almost similar to that of the general population. There is no objective reason for you to get unduly worried about it.

Remind yourself that following an active and healthy lifestyle will be protective. You may not have control over worrying thoughts occurring in your mind but you can control how you respond to these thoughts. You can gradually learn to observe the unhelpful thought patterns which contribute to your worry. If anxiety is excessive, you can try having CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) which will be helpful. Also, Zoloft (Sertraline) which are you already taking will be beneficial in tackling excessive anxiety.

I hope this helps.

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