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Re: the evolutionary role of depression

Posted by skeptic on April 3, 2004, at 21:46:19

In reply to the evolutionary role of depression, posted by octopusprime on April 3, 2004, at 8:17:56

I listened to the radio program that octopusprime directed us to and I found it very fascinating.

As a fairly recent graduate of one of this nation's top research-based academic institutions, what the guests on this program were saying fit more with what I was taught in school than the view that seems to have rapidly permeated our entire society---thanks, IMHO, primarily to fantastic marketing strategies employed by the drug companies.

I was taught about the importance of variability in temperament and personality to the survival of the species (which, by the way, Kay Jamison still emphasizes). I was taught about emotions as complex adaptive programs needed to solve the very complex problems of social life. I was taught that many "maladaptive" traits may have been advantageous in the unique niches in which our individual ancestors may have lived. I was taught that our modern lives are so vastly different from that of early humans, who lived in close-knit communities where they were surrounded by family and friends, where the choices (e.g. lifestyle, mating, making a living) were not quite as vast, and in which true physical isolation was hard to come by.

I believe that people need meaning in their lives, and I think our highly competitive, work-centered society has made it difficult for many of us to find this meaning.

That said, I don't mean to minimize human suffering. From personal experience, I can attest that severe depression can be very very painful. I can also attest that medication can be beneficial. But I also think that our society needs to start allowing for more flexible work and school environments and I think we each need to remind ourselves (and perhaps our family members) that there is no "normal" in human behavior.




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