The Evolutionary Reason for Depression

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Dave

Guest
There is something off about the idea that evolution has a reason. It would assume that evolution has erased all negative traits, or that it only introduces positive traits. As I understand it evolution does not have a reason, but simply weeds out traits not helpful to survival. Depression could just be a small enough problem statistically that it has not been removed.
 

Helen

Member
Sadness helps you make decisions? Erm... what about when you're too depressed to think? Or so full of self-loathing you can't think anything because you're convinced any idea you might have is useless?

Besides which.... a few years ago someone wrote a book about the evolutionary use of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder makes more sense in that it's possible to be lucid but also bubbling over with ideas (before it then spins out of control, of course!). The idea being that bipolar disorder seems to appear most prominently in upper-middle and upper class patients, but that could be phooey of course as how many people from lower income brackets don't get diagnosed?

So who knows.... Next they'll say there's an evolutionary reason for cancer.
 

Mars_Rover

Junior Member
Sorry, but this is b.s. Like Helen said, depression does NOT clarify or enhance your thinking. I've suffered with clinical depression for years (diagnosed 10 years ago, but probably have had it all of my adult and adolescent life), and I can say without equivocation that it seriously hinders one's thinking and problem-solving.

From the article: "Therefore, when you're depressed, your brain kicks into total-focus mode, and sets you into a cycle of rumination on the problem at hand." They say it like it's a good thing, but rumination is not good when it's obsessive and endless, as it is in depression. The word rumination gives you a good indication: ruminant, like a cow chewing its cud.
 

Je Suis Julie

allyouneedismorrissey.com
I guess I'm looking at this from a more abstract perspective.

I'm very familiar with clinical depression in myself and very close family members. It tends to be cyclical and, looking back, I can see patterns of extreme illness followed by periods of creative activity.

Of course,in the midst of it, real depression does you no good. It does the world no good. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. It is self-defeating and you become lost in your own "ruminations" and "cud" chewing, as Mars_Rover so brilliantly describes.

But it is helpful to think that all that suffering may not be for nothing, that it can be used as fuel in some sort of creative outlet when the illness is under control. The "depressed" factor in some of the world's greatest artists is undeniable.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Of course it's evolutionary. I'm depressed because I'm not further evolved.
 

PregnantForTheLastTime

Hideous trait.
So who knows.... Next they'll say there's an evolutionary reason for cancer.
Well, cancer is evolution, in a way. If a spontaneous change conferred an advantage, it would be perpetuated. Cancer is spontaneous genetic change that doesn't confer an advantage, it harms the organism. Errors in cell replication are a constant; normally they are repaired automatically. I've read that postmortem studies often find small sites of "cancer" that were likely never going to harm the person, because the problem would go away on its own instead of growing out of hand. It only becomes Big C Cancer when the normal repair mechanisms don't work. It's likely that you have "cancer" right now. We probably all have sites of cellular errors that are playing out.

I guess I'm looking at this from a more abstract perspective.

I'm very familiar with clinical depression in myself and very close family members. It tends to be cyclical and, looking back, I can see patterns of extreme illness followed by periods of creative activity.

Of course,in the midst of it, real depression does you no good. It does the world no good. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. It is self-defeating and you become lost in your own "ruminations" and "cud" chewing, as Mars_Rover so brilliantly describes.

But it is helpful to think that all that suffering may not be for nothing, that it can be used as fuel in some sort of creative outlet when the illness is under control. The "depressed" factor in some of the world's greatest artists is undeniable.
I've read these studies with interest. The gist of them, as I read them, is that depressed individuals are more attuned to detail and are able to focus. But being "sensitive" can be harmful, too, when it means that you can't switch off your oversensitivity.

Dave was right in pointing out the error in the suggestion that evolution is directed. Change is random. If it confers an advantage that makes the individual more likely to reproduce, it will be perpetuated in the next generation. If it reduces the organism's reproductive fitness, it will probably not be passed on. However, this is largely moot with modern humans, because most people reproduce regardless of how fit for life they are.

The focus of evolution is on reproductive fitness. If an organism survives long enough to reproduce, that's reproductive fitness. Quality of life doesn't have as much to do with it, strictly speaking.
 

Je Suis Julie

allyouneedismorrissey.com
I've read these studies with interest. The gist of them, as I read them, is that depressed individuals are more attuned to detail and are able to focus. But being "sensitive" can be harmful, too, when it means that you can't switch off your oversensitivity.

Dave was right in pointing out the error in the suggestion that evolution is directed. Change is random. If it confers an advantage that makes the individual more likely to reproduce, it will be perpetuated in the next generation. If it reduces the organism's reproductive fitness, it will probably not be passed on. However, this is largely moot with modern humans, because most people reproduce regardless of how fit for life they are.

The focus of evolution is on reproductive fitness. If an organism survives long enough to reproduce, that's reproductive fitness. Quality of life doesn't have as much to do with it, strictly speaking.
My problem is that science is lost on me. I think I understand what you are saying - that life and evolution are far more random than we'd like to believe. And some days I truly believe that's true. Yet, I also sense something more out there, a subtle pull towards a natural order of things. A yin to every yang, etc. I feel there's a spiritual component in suffering, especially.

I once bought "Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain" by Oliver Sacks because I'm very interested in the relationship of music and depression, but I ended up disliking it. It was more of a scientific treatment of the phenomena than I care for, and it was all lost on me. My brain just doesn't go there, no matter how hard I try.
 

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