There is no sure way to prevent schizophrenia — but there are ways to prevent or reduce symptoms, such as taking medication, avoiding substance use, and receiving therapy.
Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that involves recurrent episodes of psychosis (a loss of contact with reality). There is no cure but various treatments can help you manage your symptoms.
Researchers are still investigating what causes schizophrenia. While some possible causes are not under your control — like your genetics and birth complications — others are controllable, like avoiding recreational drug use and getting mental health support early.
Many people can prevent or reduce the severity of psychotic episodes by engaging with schizophrenia treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve your long-term outcomes and quality of life.
There is no certain way to prevent schizophrenia. This is because not all of its causes are under your control.
Researchers have uncovered several possible schizophrenia causes. These include:
- genetics (a family history)
- environmental factors (such as trauma, cannabis use, and social factors)
- brain structure and function
Though there is a genetic component to schizophrenia, having a family member with schizophrenia does not automatically mean you will get it too. There are many other risk factors — as well as protective factors — that can affect your likelihood of developing the condition.
Your genes are considered the strongest risk factor for schizophrenia. However, the relationship is complicated, and not everyone with a family history will develop the condition.
Environmental and lifestyle factors don’t directly cause schizophrenia but may increase its likelihood of developing.
Environmental factors that may contribute to schizophrenia include:
- complications during pregnancy (bleeding, gestational diabetes, emergency cesarean delivery)
- birth complications (premature birth, low weight, lack of oxygen)
- early life trauma (abuse, neglect, accidents)
- social factors (social isolation, lack of income, social support)
- high potency cannabis use (especially at early ages)
- methamphetamine misuse
- exposure to certain viruses
Some of these factors are under your control. For example, avoiding heavy cannabis and methamphetamine use may reduce your risk of developing schizophrenia.
High stress levels can increase a person’s risk of having a psychotic episode. If you have experienced trauma or extreme stress — whether as a child or later in life — getting mental health support early may act as a protective factor against schizophrenia episodes.
Brain structure and functioning
It’s unclear how these brain structures and connections relate to schizophrenia. Some of these differences likely develop before birth.
More research is needed, but some studies suggest that early interventions may help to prevent or reduce the symptoms or complications associated with schizophrenia.
Preventing a first episode of psychosis
A 2013 review looked at 15 studies on schizophrenia prevention, including antipsychotic medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
The authors concluded that, in people with an “ultra-high risk” of developing psychosis, early detection and intervention may prevent or delay the first episode of psychosis. The interventions reduced the risk of schizophrenia by over 50% after 12 months.
Early intervention after a first episode of psychosis
Research shows that early intervention after a first episode of psychosis can improve a person’s outcomes.
Looking at data from 16 years of research, a 2018 study reported that people who used early psychosis intervention (EPI) services had lower mortality rates after 2 years and overall better health outcomes.
Many methods can help you reduce or manage your schizophrenia symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Atypical antipsychotic medications are effective in reducing schizophrenia symptoms. They can relieve active symptoms and prevent symptoms from recurring. They do not prevent schizophrenia from occurring in the first place.
Common atypical antipsychotics for schizophrenia include:
- aripiprazole (Abilify, Aristada)
- clozapine (Clozaril)
- lurasidone (Latuda)
- quetiapine (Seroquel)
- risperidone (Perseris, Risperdal)
CBT is a standard treatment for many mental health conditions. Research suggests it can be supportive for people living with schizophrenia.
CBT for schizophrenia focuses on helping you identify your symptoms, develop coping methods, and discover support resources. It can also help you develop supportive responses to everyday stressors.
Want to learn more about starting therapy? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.
Complementary treatments include lifestyle changes that support your mental well-being and overall health. They are not meant to replace formal treatment methods but can be helpful when used alongside your usual treatments.
The following complementary approaches may help:
Schizophrenia is not entirely preventable but various protective factors — such as social support, mental health interventions, and avoiding substance use — may help to reduce your risk of developing the condition.
Risk factors cannot determine for sure whether or not someone will develop schizophrenia. That said, people with more risk factors are more likely to develop the condition. Knowing your risk factors earlier can help you access interventions earlier.
Schizophrenia treatment includes therapy and medications. These treatments can reduce your symptoms and may prevent symptoms from recurring.
Earlier detection can slow the progression of schizophrenia and prevent psychosis episodes. If you suspect you or someone you love may be experiencing early symptoms of schizophrenia, consider speaking with a doctor about what you’re noticing.
If you need help finding support, you can check out some of these resources:
- American Psychiatric Association’s Find a Psychiatrist tool
- American Psychological Association’s Find a Psychologist tool
- Asian Mental Health Collective’s therapist directory
- Association of Black Psychologists’ Find a Psychologist tool
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Helplines and Support Tools
National Institute of Mental Health’s Helpline Directory
- National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network
- Inclusive Therapists