How we experience ourselves and how we react and respond to our
environment changes with age, life experience, and with shifts in the
environment itself. Developmentally, there are critical times in our
life where changes take place, such as when we learn to walk and talk,
attend school, get married, have children, retire, just to name a few.
In other words, throughout life we are constantly in a state of change
and development, and in order to live the happiest life possible, we
have to adapt new skills and behaviors in order to meet the
ever-changing demands we are faced with.
Behavior is mediated through specific brain function, and over the
past ten years there been great advances made with respect to which
brain areas contribute to what type of behavior. For instance, some of
these neuroscience and experimental psychology-based concepts have
focused on what motivates us to do things and what chemicals in the
brain mediate these processes. Other research has investigated concepts
related to decision making, specifically looking at how input from the
environment triggers brain function and consequent behavior.
If behavior changes over time and is also related to specific brain
functions, then brain function should also be adaptive to some degree.
Important to note is that behavior and brain function are, most
likely, continuously shaped by what we learn and experience in life as
opposed to being set or predetermined. That is, when we experience a
pleasant or unpleasant situation, our brain learns to seek one and avoid
the other, and the next time we come close to the same experience, our
brain may signal to us to react quickly to make the best choice
possible. Thus, although brain function is highly determined by
genetics, learning plays a crucial role in behavior as well.
The idea that behavior most likely determined by both biology and
experience is, in our opinion, not only helpful in order to study how
and why we act a certain way, but it also provides hope in regards to
future treatment developments for problem behavior or mental illness.
We are finding greater evidence that supports the idea that
psychiatric disorders run in families and are, at least to some degree,
related to biologic traits. On the other hand, psychotherapy works for
many people as well. Thus, helping to change behavior and how we think
about things can help us feel better and deal more effectively with
difficult situations we are sensitive or vulnerable to as a result of
Lastly, if one grows up with emotional difficulties, that person will
probably not grow out of them, but rather “grow into them”. In other
words, the problem does not go away. Even though the way one feels and
acts may change over time, without taking steps to alleviate the
problem, they may still feel distressed over the problem and simply
adapt to an unhappy situation. Moreover, the longer one struggles with a
problem, the more likely it is that he/she feels weak, a failure, and
so forth. That is, by not treating a problem – and treatment can be
psychological, pharmacological, social, behavioral, or other – one can
easily lose hope. Such attitudes and beliefs may lead to an entirely
different life path than one would have chosen if such emotional or
other problems had been treated. We believe early identification and
intervention of psychological and psychiatric problems is crucial in
order to help improve lives in the long run.