Red Echo

October 1, 2009

Depression as an adaptive trait

This Scientific American article suggests that depression is less a mental disorder than an adaptation for deep analytical thinking:

This analytical style of thought, of course, can be very productive. Each component is not as difficult, so the problem becomes more tractable. Indeed, when you are faced with a difficult problem, such as a math problem, feeling depressed is often a useful response that may help you analyze and solve it. For instance, in some of our research, we have found evidence that people who get more depressed while they are working on complex problems in an intelligence test tend to score higher on the test.

1 Comment

  1. Yeah, already read it. The closing paragraph is frankly bizarre, and I don’t think it could have been written by someone who is particularly familiar with anyone with acute medical depression. Their cases (such as the one in the paragraph you quoted) seem to focus on temporary tendencies toward mild depression, which is a different thing altogether from what would normally be termed medical depression, which should evidence a physiological imbalance, and not stem primarily from environment (as the article’s second paragraph seems to suggest). The article could have done much better if it had better distinguished between susceptibility to bouts of depression, and chronic depression (which is fortunately nowhere near the 30% to 50% range).

    Obviously, being married to someone with a severe, life-threatening mood disorder (for which, very fortunately, pharmaceutical solutions are very effective) keeps me both interested in and sensitive to articles like these… :)

    Comment by Micah Cowan — October 1, 2009 @ 10:27 pm