Q. I am 22 years old. I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 14 due to compulsive hand washing and checking I am adopted and have had a pretty good childhood growing up. I just recently looked in my adoption papers and found out that my biological father had drug induced schizophrenia due to drug use in the late 70′s. He was also a compulsive gambler, a trait i have inherited i also have a gambling addiction. I am terrified I am going to become schizophrenic simply due to the fact that he was. I don’t ever want it to happen and if it does I am terrified that I will never be able to lead a productive life.
A. It is true that individuals who have a parent or relative with schizophrenia have an increased chance of developing the disease. But it is highly unlikely that you would develop the disease simply because your father has it. There are many other factors that can contribute to the development of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia has a strong psychological component. That is, in almost every recorded case of schizophrenia, a major event has preceded the initial psychotic break. In your father’s case, it may have been possible that if your father had never used drugs, he may never have developed schizophrenia. I know of plenty of cases where someone has used drugs and subsequently developed schizophrenia. Is there a connection between drug use and schizophrenia? Yes. Does drug use cause schizophrenia? No one knows the answer to this question since researchers yet to determine the true cause of schizophrenia. The bottom line is this; there is no way to predict if you will develop schizophrenia. It is highly unlikely that you would develop the disease simply because you have a relative who had it. It does increase your chances since schizophrenia has a biological component, but it is more complicated than that. The environment you grew up in matters, as does your current environment, and many other factors. I hope I have reduced your worries about this issue, at least a little. Take care.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Nov 2006
Randle, K. (2006). Worried about becoming schizophrenic. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 20, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/11/12/worried-about-becoming-schizophrenic/