Psychosis - Causes
What causes psychosis?
There is no single cause of experiencing psychosis . Researchers believe genetic, biological and environmental factors all play a part.
If you have a relative with psychosis, you are more likely to experience the condition. On average, around 1 in 100 people will experience psychosis. But 15 in 100 people with a parent who has psychosis will experience psychosis. People who have two biological parents with a psychotic illness are even more likely to experience psychosis.
You can find more information in our ‘Does mental illness run in families?’ section.
Scientists have found genes that play a role in experiencing psychosis, but no single gene is responsible.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. This is a chemical that passes information from one brain cell to another. Too much dopamine can lead to hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking. Scientists do not know exactly what causes the increase in dopamine in the first place. It could be due to the other factors, for example, genetics or environment.
There is some evidence that abuse or trauma in childhood can lead to experiencing psychosis at some point in your life. Research has compared people who experience psychosis with people who do not. There was a higher than average rate of abuse in childhood in the people who experience psychosis compared to people who do not. However, many people with psychosis have not experienced abuse in childhood. Not everyone who has experienced abuse develops psychosis.
People who had complications at birth have an increased risk of developing psychotic illnesses. These complications can include, such as being born prematurely or who didn’t get enough oxygen. However, many babies who are born prematurely and have other complications at birth do not develop psychosis. People who had normal births can develop psychosis.
Using street drugs increases the risk of experiencing psychosis. However, this may depend on if you have a certain type of gene that makes you more vulnerable to these effects.
Researchers think that a particular ingredient in cannabis (known as THC) can trigger psychosis. New types of cannabis, like skunk, have a lot more THC.
Using drugs such as amphetamines, crystal meth or cocaine, can increase your chance of developing psychosis.
When you are stressed, your brain releases a chemical called cortisol. This can increase the risk of psychosis. Some people are more likely to develop psychotic symptoms in stressful situations than others.
Inner city living, social migration, social exclusion
You may have a greater risk of experiencing psychosis if you are born and brought up in a city than the countryside. This might be because people in cities are more likely to be isolated or use drugs.
Black people living in England have a higher risk of experiencing psychosis than white people. But black people living in Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados are no more likely to develop psychosis than white people in England. Black people in England may be more likely to be on a low income socially excluded or isolated.
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