Is Depression Adaptive?

11 09 2007

“Not only does consumer culture encourage us to engage in activities contrary to our well-being and avoid other, more beneficial activities, but it also causes us a great deal of stress—one of the key triggers of a depressive episode. Keeping up with the Joneses—not to mention the Hiltons—requires that people spend long hours at demanding and stressful jobs, skip holidays and needed sleep, and amass record amounts of debt in order to have the latest fashions. As well, the ideals that television and advertising present, in terms of aesthetics and emotional well-being, are so far beyond the means of average people that many end up feeling bad about themselves for not living up to those ideals—but that does not stop them from trying. The result can be lowered self-esteem and a reduced sense of well-being.

While mental health professionals have traditionally looked at depression as a result of either genetic, biochemical, or environmental factors, some evolutionary theorists are now looking at depression in a much different light. Randolph Nesse of the University of Michigan has argued that, like pain, depression and depressive symptoms serve the adaptive function of stopping humans from engaging in activities that are harmful to them or of little benefit.”

Buying Happiness: The Depressing Reality of Materialism By Peter Dodson
Briarpatch Magazine

A nation drugged into ignoring its own best interests.