If you are seeking therapy, you may also be asking yourself “Why is this happening to me?” Mental illness is a complicated matter and it can be as confusing as it is frustrating. If you have ever found yourself wondering what may be causing your mental health issues, keep reading.

When we ask, “Why is this happening to me?,” unfortunately there often isn’t a simple cause-and-effect relationship. Many factors can predispose a person to mental illness, or more generally, to struggles with mental wellness. In 1962, Dr. George Engel acknowledged these factors and published “The need for a new medical model: a challenge for biomedicine.” His revolutionary Biopsychosocial Model opposed the tradition of looking at mental illness from a reductive perspective, instead taking circumstances and complex etiology (causes) into account.

Engel proposed that there are three main causes at the root of mental health conditions:

  • Biological- This piece of the model essentially accounts for our biology; the genes and brain chemistry that predispose us to mental illness. Oftentimes, we can “inherit” genes that are linked to anxiety or ADHD, much in the same way that we can inherit red hair or brown eyes.
  • Psychological- This refers to the way in which our brains take in information and understand it. Thoughts, beliefs, and values all comprise this section of the model. For example, a tendency to think negatively or fixate on how other people see us can increase our tendency to develop depression.
  • Social- This part of the model accounts for our social circumstances in all stages of our lives from childhood to present. For example, when a child adopts their parents’ phobias or when college freshmen experience difficulty making friends, it impacts their mental state and can lead to future difficulties. This can even extend to geographical area, such as the impact of the tech industry, gentrification, and normalization of high levels of work pressure on mental health in the Bay Area.

When considering “Why is this happening to me?” it is crucial to weave together all three causes, as chances are, your mental condition is not caused by a single thing, but by many threads weaving in tandem. 

It may be overwhelming to realize that the root of your problems is so convoluted, but the good news is that you do not have to untangle the threads alone. A good therapist will not only pay attention to all these factors, but will help you to identify them in order to create a treatment plan that will work for you. A thoughtful therapist will consider all areas of your life and acknowledge the effect of each one as you work towards healing.

If you find yourself wondering “Why is this happening to me?” and you’re ready to see change in your life, sign up for sessions here!

1 Engel, George. “The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine.” Dimensions of Behavior (1978): 3–21.