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← Depression’s Upside

Depression’s Upside - Comments

get_ben's Avatar Comment 1 by get_ben

Fascinating. The increased prevalence of mental disorders among those considered to be 'high achievers' is well-documented. It's interesting to finaly be exploring the functional usefulness these disorders may provide an individual.(incidentally the suicide rate among these groups is also signifianctly above the mean--watch out posters!)
I look forward to reading more hard data on the subject as neuroimaging techniques become more refined.


Sat, 27 Feb 2010 17:25:00 UTC | #444607

Michael Conrad's Avatar Comment 2 by Michael Conrad

Jonah Lehrer is the author of “How We Decide” and of the blog The Frontal Cortex. This is his first article for the magazine.

And I hope it won't be his last article! Really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to reading his book.

Sat, 27 Feb 2010 18:04:00 UTC | #444615

Bernard Hurley's Avatar Comment 3 by Bernard Hurley

‘I feel so much better. But I’m still married to the same alcoholic son of a bitch. It’s just now he’s tolerable.’

I remember a period of acute depression, when I was hardly able to get anything done. I was put on antidepressants - I still didn't manage to get anything done - it's just that I didn't feel bad about it any more!

Sat, 27 Feb 2010 19:49:00 UTC | #444653

Monkey Man's Avatar Comment 4 by Monkey Man

Evolution explains everything. Relationships, depression, delusion and illness. Discovering the science of evolution as it relates to all of my problems was the greatest breakthrough I ever made.

I've suffered from extreme mental illness, which in the light of recent developments in evolutionary biology and psychology make perfect sense. Other than solving my problems through good thinking and action, my diet and lifestyle changes have done the most for my health. There are a litany of reasons our health and lifestyle relates to these issues, but all I have to say is get as many omega 3's as possible, exercise to your extreme limit and get involved with a healthy community.

Dawkins wrote a bit about Julian Jaynes, a great scientist who has a lot to teach us. Really helped me formulate ideas on why (helped with a previously held set of new age beliefs) I heard commanding voices etc

Sat, 27 Feb 2010 20:20:00 UTC | #444659

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 5 by Cartomancer

Oh well, nine years of depressive unrequited love down, and still no sign of the improved cognitive powers. I should be able to dissolve buildings with my mind by now...

Sat, 27 Feb 2010 21:03:00 UTC | #444670

pipsy's Avatar Comment 6 by pipsy

depression is nine parts of the low, and I should know.

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 02:04:00 UTC | #444736

s.k.graham's Avatar Comment 7 by s.k.graham

An excellent article. But I have to say that I largely agree with the critics of this speculative hypothesis. An excessive tendency to critical analysis may contribute to depression, and some sustained critical analysis of distressing events or failures may have had some evolutionary benefit, but this far from explains depression.

I favor the view that depression is a distinct emotion, not a disease, which has (or had) a naturally selected benefit. But like other emotions, such as anger, some people have trouble managing it, and experience it excessively. To understand depression in evolutionary terms, look at what behaviors it leads to: self-neglect, self-punishment, social withdrawal, and in worst case: self-termination. None of these behaviors is beneficial to the reproductive success of the individual. However, these behaviors may be of benefit to close kin: if you stop eating, for example, they have more to eat. For primitive humans, pre-humans, and other animals, there are certainly circumstances when, due to things like illness, injury, or age, an individual becomes a prolonged burden to the group. I propose that depression is the natural emotion experienced in recognition of the condition of "burdening the tribe" (or kin-group). Refusing to eat and other forms of self-neglect, wandering off to be alone, or even actively killing one's self (in effect saving other tribe-members from making their own altruistic sacrifices on the weak individual's behalf) would be appropriate (kin-based) altruistic actions in response to this emotion. It should be noted that even in its evolutionarily functional form, depression is not kind to the individual -- but may be kind to the individual's genes.

In the modern world, with it's myriad overlapping group-identities, conflicting and ill-defined loyalties, technology that seems to render our abilities superfluous, and a media-supplied over-abundance of unrealistic ideals against which to compare and find ourselves lacking, it is not particularly surprising that depression runs amok.

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 03:07:00 UTC | #444742

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 8 by Enlightenme..

"Darwin, of course, was wrong.."

Did he get anything right?


Sun, 28 Feb 2010 04:59:00 UTC | #444749

mmurray's Avatar Comment 9 by mmurray

Their evolutionary perspective, however — they see the mind as a fine-tuned machine that is not prone to pointless programming bugs — led them to wonder if rumination had a purpose.

Too much of a ache in my fine-tuned machine to read this all through now but surely this is wrong. All that evolution suggests is that pointless programming bugs that interfere with reproduction and which are also genetically transmitted will be selected out. As for the mind being fine-tuned evolution might just as easily produce a complicated messy patchwork that just happens to work sufficiently well.


Sun, 28 Feb 2010 05:47:00 UTC | #444755

huyzer's Avatar Comment 10 by huyzer

Jebus! That was a great article!

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 10:07:00 UTC | #444775

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 11 by SaintStephen

I agree. I found this article fascinating.

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 11:50:00 UTC | #444794

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 12 by Stafford Gordon

What a bloody marvellous article; it's cheered me up no end!

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 13:36:00 UTC | #444811

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 13 by prolibertas

Cartomancer: "Oh well, nine years of depressive unrequited love down, and still no sign of the improved cognitive powers. I should be able to dissolve buildings with my mind by now..."

I echo this sentiment.

Just wanted to say, this article is bang on about drugs. They only heal the effect, not the cause.

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 21:34:00 UTC | #445001

Labyrinthos's Avatar Comment 14 by Labyrinthos

This article makes me feel good about feeling bad, which is self-defeating since then I start feeling bad about losing cognitive powers and soon I find myself in an accelerating cycle of emotional hot&cold showers!

Mon, 01 Mar 2010 13:19:00 UTC | #445350

jameshogg's Avatar Comment 15 by jameshogg

To me, a big reason why I stopped feeling bad about most things was when I stopped trying to deliberately 'do brain work' on myself and starting taking an approach of learning brand new things in a rational way. My approach to making decisions now comes from a blend of Psychology and Skepticism - the idea behind it all being that I can predict where I'm probably thinking incorrectly from the general rules of behaviour we all have. (Sometimes I call it Psycho-Skepticism for short, but the term most likely doesn't exist lol).

I'm generally quite happy as a person, but this is down to realistic-happy thinking as opposed to what we might cynically say as 'optimistic' happy thinking on occasion. I have these principles in my mind, for example:

- Nobody is right all the time. And chances are my opinion is just another opinion, so I don't have to take it so seriously.

- There's no need to declare war on myself in order to get rid of any negative feelings. Feelings are there for a reason, and I recognize that to some extent, the vast majority of the time I agree with the 'truthfulness' of whatever I'm feeling sad about. Then I can ask more questions to challenge the assumption, recognizing that I could be wrong. (After all, it's pretty hard to be depressed over something I don't believe is true.)

- Nobody can make me do anything. Only I can possibly be behind my own actions. And unless someone can hook into my brain and move my limbs against my will, the things that are in my control are what I can loosely say as 'my choice'. I could indeed choose to eat chocolate all day, but knowledge that it will make me sick is more than enough to stop me from doing so. I often like saying 'You may choose to do something (that is in your control) because you've got no other options, but remember this: it's still a choice.'

It's kind of like recognizing that I can do all of the things I would normally do without having the bad feelings as some sort of necessity. Generally, whatever I can do with a clouded mind, I can do better with a clear mind. But at the same time when I do feel bad, I don't deny that I do. Again, sometimes I try to understand that whatever I feel bad about, I to an extent think that's genuinely true, and there I can practice some skeptical/rational thinking.

Fri, 30 Apr 2010 15:24:00 UTC | #464336