Psychiatry is about answering the question, “Why?” Why does depression take hold of a person with a successful career and beautiful family? Why do people experience severe anxiety symptoms, seemingly out of the blue?

It is natural to feel utter disdain for such a mother, but how would our view of this woman change were we to learn that she lost a 2-year-old brother (the same age her son is now) when she was 5?

Brain chemistry and genetics are almost certainly part of the “why,” but I have found, in every person I have treated, that the person’s life history, often reaching back to childhood, holds part of the answer.

It is natural to feel utter disdain for such a mother, but how would our view of this woman change were we to learn that she lost a 2-year-old brother (the same age her son is now) when she was 5?

Some of the “why” questions I seek to answer as a forensic psychiatrist are seemingly more daunting. Why would a man kill someone he has never met, with whom he has not even argued? Why would a person be sexually attracted to a child? Why would someone allow himself to weigh 400 pounds?

It is a particularly rich reward of my 20 years practicing psychiatry to have learned that every “why” question can be answered. Keep your eyes and your heart open, keep digging and the answers will always be revealed. Always. No exceptions.

And know this: Because human beings want the truth, revealing the answers to their mysteries of thought and feeling and experience frees them, in some measure, from their suffering. Every time.

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It would be no different were I to dig deeply into this question: Why did a mother, just days ago, allegedly dangle her 2-year-old son over the cheetah pit at the Cleveland Zoo, and then — by accident or not — drop him in?

I have never examined this woman, so I can offer a glimpse into the way a forensic psychiatrist like me would begin to ponder, even from a distance, the very wide range of potential answers to that “why” question.

Did the mother unconsciously wish her son to die, whether to free herself from the burdens of parenting or because, laboring under a delusion, she believed her son to be the devil?

Was the mother’s thinking compromised by alcohol or drugs?

Was the mother pulling a stunt and making a joke of the danger when things went horribly wrong and she lost her grip?

If so, the “why” questions just keep coming. Why would she demonstrate such horrible judgment? Did she narrowly escape death herself when she was 2-years-old? Does she now unconsciously need to make a mockery of danger?

It is natural to feel utter disdain for such a mother, but how would our view of this woman change were we to learn that she lost a 2-year-old brother (the same age her son is now) when she was 5? What if we were to learn that her family never spoke of the loss again — that they buried it, leaving it to fester underground?

Ultimately, answering the “why” questions for seemingly inexplicable acts by seemingly reprehensible people often humanizes them, because it often shows them not to be bad people, but vulnerable ones stumbling over the partially buried storylines of their own existences.

Nothing anyone does turns out to be beyond human comprehension, nor human empathy, when properly focused.

Here, in this privileged position of listening that psychiatry affords me, the worst, almost unimaginable actions sometimes reveal the almost unimaginable fragility of the human spirit and psyche.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team.