How can I have a mental health difficulty if I had the perfect childhood?
It is commonly known that adversity in childhood is associated with, but not solely the cause of, the development of mental health difficulties. I’ve had many patients who wondered how it is possible to develop a mental health condition if they had experienced a good childhood?
To begin with, people have only experienced one childhood, so whatever they have experienced it is for them “normal”. Consequently, it is challenging to objectively appraise how one's childhood has actually been. Furthermore, even though an individual may believe that she/he had a good childhood, it is possible that they have perceived things in a way that affected them significantly. For instance, a woman may have experienced that her parents favoured and/or even liked her brother or sister more than her, even if her parents didn’t feel that way or never intended to do that. Thus, people are affected by how they perceived their environment, regardless of whether that perception is accurate or not. Furthermore, people may repress painful material, so they may not be conscious of how things affected them.
Childhood is a fundamental stage in shaping who we are and therefore, everything that we have experienced at that time affects us in one way or another. Additionally, some people are more sensitive than others and this contributes to how an individual may have experienced things. Consequently, the answer to the question of this article could be that people may not be fully aware about how things may have affected them as children and how those elements may have contributed to the development of their problems. It is therefore up to us, therapists, to help people identify and specially assimilate the root of such difficulties.