Predictors of Violence as Related to Schizophrenia

The most common type of violence associated with schizophrenia is violence to oneself - usually in the form of suicide. But violence to others is also not uncommon when a person is severely delusional and has a past history of violence.

To quote from Dr. E. Fuller Torrey - a well known researcher, psychiatrist and author in this field, - From his recently published book "Out of the Shadows - Confronting America's Mental Illness Crisis" - page 49:

"There appear to be three primary predictors of violence and three other less well-defined predictors. The most important one is a history of past violence; this is the most significant predictor of violence no matter whether a person is mentally ill or not. In trying to predict future violent behaviour, the person's history is the single most critical piece of information.

The second important predictor is drug and alcohol abuse, and this is also valid whether the person is mentally ill or not. In 1994, Jeanette Smith and Stephen Hucker reviewed studies of substance abuse in persons with schizophrenia and noted "a growing body of research suggesting a significant link between schizophrenia, substance abuse, and violence"

The third important predictor is the failure to take medication... Those who do not take prescribed medication appear to be much more likely to commit violent acts."

...Another factor that may have predictive value is the specific type of delusions, a common symptom in people with severe mental illnesses. Professionals have long assumed, based on common sense that paranoid delusions are likely to predispose to violence. An example of this is the man who, while walking down a crowded street, suddenly turned and struck a woman behind him because he believed she had a laser beam aimed at his testicles and was making him sterile.

Emerging studies, however, suggest that the association between paranoid delusions and violence may be less straightforward. Pamela Taylor, Burce Link, et al have reported studies that: Strong predictors of violence in the mentally ill are the feeling that others are out to harm them and a feeling that their mind is dominated by forces beyond their control or that thoughts are being put into their head"

The final factor that may predict violence is the specific type of hallucinat-ions. Command hallucinations, in which voices tell the person what to do, may be compelling predictors of violence"

Source:, a non-profit web community providing in-depth information, support and education related to schizophrenia. (2004)

Go Back