Depression and Evolution
by Christopher He
Most of us associate the word “depression” with sadness, loneliness, secludedness, and suicide. But it seems some scientists are trying to sway the pendulum the other way, looking at depression more positively than negatively. How could you make a disease that is defined in the DSM V by unproductiveness, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, and even thoughts of suicide into something good?
Scientists have created almost a dozen theories explaining the possible benefits of depression. One theory, developed by Dr. Andrew Miller and Dr. Charles Raison, claims that people who are depressed have an over-activation of the immune system which leads to inflammation, even when they are not affected by an infection. They say that depression was a beneficial adaptation before the discovery of antibiotics, when this inflammation helped fight off life-threatening infections. They claim that fever, fatigue, social withdrawal, and anorexia—all potential results of depression —could all be adaptations that keep infections under control. They even added that testing for increased inflammation using biomarkers could mean a good response to certain antidepressants.
Another theory relates depression to the existence of social and moral problems. The resulting depressed state is really a way of ruminating about problems. The depressed person develops an analytical style of thinking, where a large problem is broken into smaller, more comprehensible parts. Paul Andrews conducted a study in which subjects were put into a sad or happy mood and then were given logic problem. He discovered that more depressed people were better able to solve these problems. Symptoms of depression such as social isolation and permanent unhappiness makes it so that there is less chance of distraction and interruption. Andrews says depression should not be classified as a disorder but rather as “an intricate, highly organized piece of machinery that...
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