As explained by Solli and Barbosa Da Silva (2012), environmental factors include “life events, interactions in social environments, abuse, neglect, trauma, etc.” (p. 287). Although genetic factors mainly impose an individual’s risk of schizophrenia, the actual onset of schizophrenia may be triggered by multiple environmental factors. Solli and Barbosa Da Silva (2012) further explained that environmental exposures may influence the expression of genes by affecting a number of neurotransmitter systems. Environmental factors can also trigger schizophrenic behavior by disturbing brain functions of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the autonomic nervous system, and the immune system.
When a person’s immune system is impaired by environmental conditions, the immune system dysfunction may play a role in the etiology of schizophrenia and cause an incidence of schizophrenia. According to Richard and Brahm (2012), clinical studies on schizophrenic patients showed that genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors are related to immunologic influences on schizophrenia. Therefore, the onset of schizophrenia may be prevented or controlled by manipulation of environmental factors to protect and enhance the immune system for individuals with high risk of this disease.
Among environmental factors, unhealthy communication patterns within family have been thought to contribute to psychological problems and mental disorders. Past researches attempted to make connections between particular communication patterns and pathological outcomes in the case of schizophrenia; however these factors had been over-emphasized. For example, early studies introduced theories that schizophrenic symptoms with a child were caused by a family environment where a cold, authoritarian mother dominated an ineffectual father. It was suggested that schizophrenia could eventually occur when a child’s brain functions were disturbed by inescapable mixed-message commands consistently given by parents in this type of environment. Today, these theories are “neither widely held nor empirically supported, especially as findings regarding the biological factors underlying schizophrenia have been strongly established” ((Pomerantz, 2011, p. 351).
Pomerantz, A. M. (2011). Clinical psychology: Science, practice, and culture (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Richard, M. D., & Brahm, N. C. (2012). Schizophrenia and the immune system: Pathophysiology, prevention, and treatment. American Journal Of Health-System Pharmacy, 69(9), 757-766. doi:10.2146/ajhp110271
Solli, H. M. & Barbosa Da Silva, A.(2012). The Holistic Claims of the Biopsychosocial Conception of WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF): A Conceptual Analysis on the Basis of a Pluralistic–Holistic Ontology and Multidimensional View of.. Journal Of Medicine & Philosophy, 37(3), 277-294.