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    Can You Prevent Schizophrenia?

    By Kara Mayer Robinson
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD

    Although there is no proven way to prevent schizophrenia, scientists are looking for ways to make it less likely.

    Schizophrenia is a complex illness that may partly involve your genes. But events in your life may also play a role.

    Recommended Related to Schizophrenia

    What Is Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome?

    Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) is a rare reaction to antipsychotic drugs that treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions. It affects the nervous system and causes symptoms like a high fever and muscle stiffness. The condition is serious, but it’s treatable. Most people who get it make a full recovery when it’s found early.

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    The condition can sometimes run in families. But there isn't one specific gene that causes it. And in some people who get schizophrenia, there are no signs of a family history of the illness.

    It's possible that someone has genes linked to schizophrenia and then faces events that make them more likely to develop the disorder, says Julia Samton, MD, the director of Manhattan Neuropsychiatric PC in New York.

    Some of these events are in your control, and some aren't:

    Pregnancy complications . Infection, stress, and complications during pregnancy such as preeclampsia may raise the chance that your child will one day have  schizophrenia. But that’s not certain.

    Depression or other major stressful events during pregnancy may also play a role. "A woman who experiences a death or other tragedy during pregnancy is also more likely to have a child at risk," Samton says.

    Harmful childhood experiencesBrain injury, sexual abuse, and traumatic early experiences may raise the risk.

    "Children who were exposed to any trauma before age 16 were three times more likely to become psychotic," Samton says. If the trauma was severe, children were 50 times more likely.

    Drug abuse. Early and long-term use of marijuana and other illicit drugs may raise the risk.

    What to Do if Schizophrenia Runs in Your Family

    Don't use drugs. This is especially important for teens, because their brains are still developing. Remember, alcohol is a drug, so you should limit or avoid it.

    Avoid abusive or traumatic situations. If you're in an abusive relationship or you're going through trauma, get help. For instance, you can call a doctor, therapist, crisis line, or 911.

    Keep strong social ties. Socializing helps you maintain self-esteem, lower stress, not feel lonely, and keep busy. Teens, especially, should be encouraged to connect with friends and avoid isolation, Samton says.

    Learn how to  manage stress . Ongoing stress and anxiety are bad for your health.

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