This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.


← Depression Defies the Rush to Find an Evolutionary Upside

satan augustine's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by satan augustine

Excellent article that points out the utter absurdity in thinking that depression - and it's clear from the article that's he's talking about clinical depression and not the very transient mild, non-clinical depression that everyone experiences from time to time - is in any way adaptive. And some of the commenters here are clearly misunderstanding much about depression and evolution. The number one misunderstanding about evolution seems to be the assumption that everything, including every aspect of behavior, is adaptive. I should think I wouldn't need to say this here, but: Not every trait an animal possesses is adaptive. And certainly not something that is clearly a pathology.

I've read some of the papers and summaries of the papers that claim depression is an evolutionary adaptation. All of these I found at Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Be sure to read these and Jerry's (unfavorable) take on them. None of them actually deal with even mildly clinically depressed individuals. The manner in which they attempt to induce "depression" would be laughable were it not so offensive to individuals who genuinely suffer from clinical depression.* In short, none of them even study depression at all and the methodology is severely flawed.

I'm not sure how anyone could think that a disease that severely lowers your self confidence, your self esteem, your libido, your energy, your will to live, your ability to experience pleasure, your ability to think straight, to remember, your ability to feel hope, your motivation to do anything, (including get out of bed, take care of basic hygiene, socialize, sometimes even eat), and increases feelings of (irrational) guilt, helplessness, physical pain, makes you suicidal, unattractive to potential mates (or even to friends for that matter - seriously, being around a severely depressed person is depressing and frustrating even to professional therapists), leaves you feeling unbearably sad even though no matter how hard you try you can find no reason for the source of the sadness, and, oh yeah, lasts weeks or months, even years. How could anyone think that's a good plan for reproductive success?

*I'm speaking as someone who has, and has had for the past 27 years, chronic mild clinical depression (dysthymia) and recurrent major depression, has been receiving treatment for 25 years (individual and group therapy, I've tried 8 different antidepressants, currently take 2 of these), has read about depression extensively during the past 25 years and worked for a mental health agency for 18 years (though I worked primarily with schizophrenics, not depressives). I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I just know a lot about depression.

Fri, 20 Jan 2012 01:30:45 UTC | #910030