According to Harvard psychologist, Dr. Richard McNally, the “one size fits all” approach to understanding the etiology of mental illness simply doesn’t float. Dr McNally, author of the 2011 book “What is Mental Illness” states that although structural brain abnormalities can be found for diseases such as autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, in many other disorders, such as depression or anxiety, the biological function is more nebulous. Genetic, biological, and environmental factors become important in these latter cases. The conclusion is that we are a long way from understanding the interplay of these factors.
Most parents who come to me for consultation when their children have been diagnosed as having a disorder are experiencing a full gamut of emotions. Guilt (“Did I do something to cause this?”), Anger (“Who did something to cause this?!”), even Spiritual Strife (“Why would God let me child suffer like this?”) are common emotions. They are searching for answers, for a “reason”, or a justification of their child’s challenges.
Dr. McNally’s findings are a reminder to us that spending too much time trying to understand the why, is most likely (at this point in history) not so useful (albeit very understandable and natural!). Personally I have found that once parent’s energies shift to “problem-solving mode” it is generally the start of positive change. Although we might not ever know the “cause” of their child’s challenges, there are a lot of great interventions we can always try to help soothe the issues at hand.