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Re: the evolutionary role of depression

Posted by skeptic on April 7, 2004, at 22:10:30

In reply to Re: the evolutionary role of depression, posted by joslynn on April 6, 2004, at 16:02:09

> Something is wrong and maybe people with a tendency towards depression are simply highly attunded barometers, sensing society's problems before others do.

There is something called the hyperthymic temperament. This high-energy temperament has often been associated with bipolar disorder, or 'manic depression,' and, if I'm not mistaken, it is often used to describe people who are very involved in pursuing social causes. (For this reason, this temperament tends to be over-represented in government agencies, the
non-profit sector, and perhaps even certain segments of the legal profession.)

Unfortunately (and this is where the concept of evolution working through compromise comes in), there seems to be an inverse relationship between the ability to maintain close friendships (long-term relationships, included) and the ability to spend one's energy trying to effect change in the world, i.e. through pursuit of social causes.

I'm still trying to figure out just where the balance should be. Sometimes I find I want to spend more time connecting with individual people. And then at other times I would rather find a forum to express my strong feelings on various social issues. (I think that the latter desire can become problematic because one cannot always find the appropriate forum in which to express these feelings.)

If my scientific knowledge serves me correctly, I believe that these fluctuations in desire often coincide with the 'highs' and 'lows' of what psychiatrists refer to as 'manic depression'--and this is where psychiatry (and, perhaps, science in general) needs to be careful about where and how to draw the line between "normal" and "illness"---especially as research into the ability to manipulate the brain through neuropsychopharmacology continues.

Kay Jamison discusses this concern in her book, "An Unquiet Mind," and there is also a book that I've been meaning to read (and that others on this site may find of interest) by Francis Fukuyama, a professor of international political economy at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. It's called "Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution." From the book reviews that I've read (and from a transcript of a lecture of his that I found online), he is quite concerned about the effects of psychiatric drugs on society, and even humanity as a whole.




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