I have always had an interest in behavioural science. Early in my career, I worked in paediatrics before moving into general practice and focussing on adolescent health.
I am regularly asked about the prevalence and cause of mental health-related issues, such as depression and anxiety. Is it more common today? Are people just less resilient? Why is there much more awareness of mental health now than there was 50 years ago?
When my grandparents were born, the diagnostic names we use today (such as major depressive disorder and or anxiety disorder) did not exist. However, this does not mean that the conditions did not exist. In fact, written accounts dating back thousands of years describe what we would now recognise as depressive symptoms, although at the time they may have been attributed to other causes. Behavioural science not only describes the patterns we see in humans but also observes societal and cultural influences that may have impacted on the presentation of these patterns. For example, if a young person living 600 years ago was struggling with low moods, would they have talked about it? Would society have understood it? Before the scientific revolution, behavioural anomalies were often coined as spiritual changes and it would appear that individuals were described as being ‘possessed’ when their behavioural patterns changed inexplicably.
Thankfully, today we have a better understanding of science (yes, demonic possession is rarely diagnosed anymore!) That said, there is still a lot of confusion, misconception and even stigma surrounding mental health. Every day, I work with young people struggling to cope with challenges in their life. I’m often approached by parents who are worried about their children, specifically their behaviour and or mental health.
I am writing this blog series to explain the foundations upon which human behaviour can be better understood. Over the following 8 weeks, I will cover several topics relating to mental health and the science behind it. We will explore theories of child development, learning and behaviour and how these theories underpin modern-day psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Feel free to share, follow or comment along the way!