I’ve been reading How Dysfunctional Families Spur Mental Disorders: A Balanced Approach to Resolve Problems and Reconcile Relationships by Dr. David M. Allen, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Dr. Allen asserts that drug companies and the rise of managed care have helped nurture the “brain disease” model for many disorders. Whereas autism, schizophrenia, and depression are clearly physical illnesses, disorders such as borderline personality are not, in Dr. Allen’s view. Personality disorders are traceable, he feels, to families–a natural outgrowth of abuse, neglect, and dysfunctional relationships in childhood. It has served the powers-that-be, however, to define these disorders as medical instead of psychological, and to treat them with medication rather than intense, time-consuming talk therapy and family counseling.
After reading my manuscript, Dr. Allen provided a thoughtful hypothesis explaining how my grandmother’s ambivalence may have contributed to my mother’s later depression and BPD symptoms. I have, heretofore, subscribed to the “biosocial” model, which assumes a significant biological propensity to the disorder, exacerbated by problems in the family.
I appreciate Dr. Allen’s maverick, uncompromising approach to assessing the causes of BPD and other disorders. I’m rethinking what I thought I knew about my mom and her parents. (I posted about this previously, here.) Reimagining your mother’s life, comprehending her childhood relationships and experience of her own parents, is a challenging matter. The difficulty helps me appreciate the courage and genius of novelists and playwrights–say, Eugene O’Neil in Long Day’s Journey into Night–who set out to portray their parents’ and grandparents’ lives.
Can you imagine your parents’ lives, especially before you came on the scene? What do you think you know for sure, and what remains a mystery?