The ultimate guide to schizophrenia

The ultimate guide to schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder characterized by persistent cognitive deficits, frequent hallucinations and/or delusions, and social withdrawal. Here's what you need to know.
Written by Orchid Team

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder characterized by persistent cognitive deficits, frequent hallucinations and/or delusions, and social withdrawal. Importantly, these symptoms must not be caused by recreational drug use (such as methamphetamine) or a medication, and must affect someone severely for at least 6 months

What are the risk factors for schizophrenia?

  • genetics
  • environment

How does genetics influence risk of schizophrenia?

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown but a study conducted on 31,524 twin pairs  estimated the disease to be about 65.1 to 88.2% heritable. The genetic variants identified to date are concentrated in brain neurons and brain imaging studies seem to find reductions in brain volume in specific areas, though this is still poorly understood.

How does the environment influence the risk of schizophrenia?

There may be a connection between traumatic childhood events and schizophrenia and so reducing childhood trauma may reduce the risk of schizophrenia, but there is no firm evidence for this. Other environmental risk factors include influenza exposure or pregnancy complications during fetal development and heavy cannabis use during adolescence. However, these associations may not be causal, and should be viewed with caution.

At what age is schizophrenia usually diagnosed?

 About 0.45% of the American population have schizophrenia, which is typically diagnosed in the mid-early 20s for males, and the mid-early 30s for females.

How is it diagnosed? 

Schizophrenia can be challenging to distinguish from other psychiatric disorders. A psychiatrist will want to know the duration and type of symptoms. Patients with schizophrenia often have disorganized speech and behavior, so observing them is also important. A medical workup to check for drugs or medical conditions that may be causing psychosis may also be performed.  

What are some complications of schizophrenia?

People with schizophrenia have a lifespan that is 10 years shorter on average and in 2001, schizophrenia was the 8th leading cause of DALY’s (a measure of disability that quantifies the years of healthy life lost) for young adults (15-44 years). The cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia are especially predictive of later function, and are also the least responsive to treatment.

Is there anything I can do to reduce my child’s genetic risk?

As explained in the schizophrenia whitepaper, genetics plays an important role in determining the risk of schizophrenia. Using Orchid’s embryo scoring, you can prioritize the embryo with the lowest genetic risk for schizophrenia and reduce their risk. 

Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk of schizophrenia?

Intervening to prevent schizophrenia in at-risk individuals is an active area of research with no firm evidence yet, though avoiding drugs that can trigger psychosis, such as amphetamines, cannabis, and psychedelics, is recommended.

How is schizophrenia treated?

Once someone has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, there are medical and social interventions to manage symptoms and improve functioning. 

Treatment of schizophrenia is complicated and varies somewhat between different official guidelines, but generally consists of acute treatment for psychosis and relapse prevention, as well as maintenance therapy after positive symptoms (hallucinations and delusions) have resolved. The main medications used are antipsychotics, which vary in effectiveness and side effects.

Psychotherapy is also recommended. People with schizophrenia should also be connected with community support programs.


  1. People with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations, cognitive deficits, and withdraw socially, all of which has a severe impact on them.
  2. Sustained psychiatric treatment and social support can help them but many will still struggle.
  3. There are no proven ways to prevent schizophrenia in those at-risk, but there are theories that early intervention may reduce the risk.

Where can I learn more?

  1. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) has resources.

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