The myth of schizophrenia being contagious may be due to long-held superstitious belief patterns.

A group of friends hugging as they support their friend with schizophrenia. Share on Pinterest
Elizabeth Fernandez/Getty Images

Schizophrenia is a complex mental health condition affecting millions worldwide, yet it remains widely misunderstood and stigmatized.

One oddly persistent and harmful myth surrounding schizophrenia is that it’s contagious, a belief that can fuel fear and prejudice against individuals with the condition.

No, schizophrenia is not contagious.

It’s a complex mental health condition that develops due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors. It develops due to internal factors within the individual’s brain and body, and it’s not transmissible to others through contact.

While some research suggests that prenatal viral/bacterial infections and inflammation may play a role in schizophrenia development, the condition itself isn’t a virus, bacteria, or another infectious agent that one person can transmit to another.

How did ‘contagious’ myths about schizophrenia begin?

The idea that schizophrenia is contagious may be due to long-held superstitious belief patterns. Research suggests that these beliefs may not even be conscious and may be rooted in a historical fear of “madness.”

In medieval times, there was public discussion about the need to limit close contact with the “mad.” People framed this as being good for the perceived health of society and the well-being of those living with mental illness.

Over time, the design and isolation of asylums and psychiatric hospitals cemented this discussion into public perception. People designed these buildings with extreme care given to ventilation, reflecting the widely held idea that fresh air could cleanse “mental impurities.”

And even today, many superstitious (though often unconscious) belief patterns about mental illness haven’t necessarily gone away with scientific knowledge.

Overall, it’s important to challenge harmful myths and misconceptions about mental health conditions, as they can worsen the stigma and further the idea that people with mental illness are separate or somehow “contaminated.”

Learn more about common stigmas against mental health.

Is it safe to live with someone who has schizophrenia?

While every situation is different, it’s generally safe to live with someone with schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia are not inherently dangerous, and many individuals with the condition are nonviolent.

In fact, people with schizophrenia are much more likely to experience violence because of their conditions than commit it.

Learn more about the myth of schizophrenia and violence.

However, living with someone with schizophrenia can present certain challenges, and it’s important to ensure that appropriate support and resources are in place to promote safety and well-being for everyone involved. This may include medication management, therapy, social support, and strategies for managing symptoms and building coping skills.

Was this helpful?

Schizophrenia can affect people of any age, gender, race, or ethnicity. It develops due to a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Some research suggests schizophrenia may not even be one condition ― but rather numerous conditions, each with its own set of symptoms.

Schizophrenia typically emerges in late adolescence or early adulthood but can occur at any age. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that the average age of onset is late teens to early 30s.

Learn more about when schizophrenia symptoms usually appear.

What causes schizophrenia?

Genetic factors play a significant role in the development of schizophrenia. A case report suggests that the lifetime risk of schizophrenia is about 1% in the general population, but this risk increases to about 6.5% in those with a first-degree relative with the condition.

Environmental factors also play a major role in its development. So, even if a person has a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia, the condition may not develop if other environmental factors, such as a prenatal infection or childhood trauma, don’t affect its development.

It’s important to note that not everyone who’s at risk of schizophrenia will develop the condition, and some individuals without any known risk factors may still develop the condition.

Continue your education on schizophrenia

Was this helpful?

Schizophrenia is a severe mental health condition that arises from a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors. Importantly, it’s not an infectious agent that one person can transmit to another.

While the condition can present challenges, individuals with schizophrenia are not inherently dangerous or harmful to others and shouldn’t be stigmatized or feared. In fact, many people can experience remission and fulfillment in their lives.

It’s important to promote accurate and evidence-based information about schizophrenia and to challenge harmful myths and misconceptions.