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NYTimes interesting depression coverage...

Posted by dj on February 22, 2000, at 17:29:31

I stumbled across the following article by Erica Goode in the Globe and Mail (one of Canada's national newspapers) today which was excerpted from an NY Times article by Erica Goode. In trying to narrow down the depression references and find this specific article I put a search in for "Erica Goode" and depression which yieled 19 articles, all which look to be very good.

Here's a brief excerpt from the article I was searching for on-line:

February 1, 2000

Viewing Depression as Tool for Survival

he case, Dr. Randolph M. Nesse said, does not fit tidily with the view that depression is only a matter of disordered brain chemicals:

A woman sought help from a psychiatric clinic because she was desperately depressed. She had dedicated five years to becoming a professional musician, despite her teachers' admonitions that she lacked the talent to succeed. She persisted, the woman said, because it was her mother's dream for her.


Fitting life's impossible dreams into the scheme of evolution.


The psychiatrists at the clinic treated her with a variety of antidepressant medications and with psychotherapy. Nothing helped. But when, one day, the woman reached a decision, giving up music in favor of a career more suited to her abilities, her depression lifted.

Dr. Nesse, director of the Evolution and Human Adaptation program at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, collects many such cases (the details are altered to protect patients' identities) because he believes they offer clues to a deeper understanding of depression.

In a recent article in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, Dr. Nesse argued that while some forms of depression were clearly a result of genetic vulnerability and brain abnormality, others might have their roots in evolutionary history.

Darwinian theory holds that evolution selects for fitness: organisms with traits that promote survival or reproduction pass on their genes; organisms without such traits die off.

Depression may have developed, Dr. Nesse suggested, as a useful response to situations in which a desired goal is unattainable, or, as he has put it, "when one of life's path peters out into the woods."

Locked in pursuit of the impossible, it makes sense for an animal to hunker down, take stock and figure out what to do next, Dr. Nesse said. In some cases, depression may help a person disengage from what has proved a hopeless effort; in other cases, it may protect the person from jumping ship too rashly, perhaps landing in even less hospitable seas.

"If I had to put my position in a nutshell," he said, "I'd say that mood exists to regulate investment strategies, so that we spend more time on things that work, and less time on things that don't."

In some respects, Dr. Nesse's conception echoes that of the psychoanalyst Dr. Emmy Gut. In a 1989 book "Productive and Unproductive Depression" (Basic Books), Dr. Gut described:..."

For more on this or other articles of Ms. Goodes check out:

Time to shut this system down for the rest of the day and concentrate on my immediate priorities, like re-organizing my paper piles and life, etc...




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