Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Depression Evolved as a Survival Tool?

Psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson Jr seems to think so. He sees depression, not so much as a disease, but something that has evolved as a "way of eliciting support from family and friends."

Evolutionary psychology

"sees the mind as a set of evolved mechanisms, or adaptations, that have promoted survival and reproduction. Evolutionary psychopathology — abnormal psychology through an evolutionary lens — looks at what has gone wrong."
Evolutionary psychology questions the recurrence of mental disorders throughout our evolutionary history. What is the reason many of these disorders were not eliminated during the natural selection process?

Matthew C. Keller, a postdoctoral fellow at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, theorizes that medicating symptoms of mental illness could be blocking the healing process when he says,
"If we're blocking the depressive symptoms — through medication for example — we could be hamstringing the body's defenses."
Evolutionary psychology is very new field. The article in the LA Times summarizes the theoretical debate and some of the therapies that have evolved from the research.

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