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Why might depression be something our bodies are programmed for, evolutionarly speaking?

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ascfgdxz

Hi,

 

Why is it possible to feel so low? I understand for example anxiety is something that sucks but would help you in a fight or flight scenario, to protect you from danger etc. 

 

When problems in life happen, why does our body believe it makes sense to feel so much pain that you can't think at all, you feel like being in your body is not an option, you can't be productive or relax to fix the situation. Why do some people not feel this way ever? What is wrong with others and I to feel such levels of low? Is there a way this capability would have been helpful when we were hunter-gatherers?

 

Thanks

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bheb

The first step in addressing this question is acknowledging that not every feature of every organism alive today was evolutionarily adaptive. There are many things about humans that are not adaptive (or neutral); however, so long as those features did not directly inhibit our ability to survive to reproductive age, they were able to be passed down. 

 

The second step is recognizing that mental states are not directly inheritable. The way you feel now is not necessarily genetically predetermined -- especially if there was interference with drugs (don't know exactly if you're referring to a pre- or post-withdrawal state). Of course there are genetic factors that can predispose one to feeling certain things but that's not the be all end all. 

 

So to crystallize your question -- is there anything at all about depression that is evolutionarily beneficial? I don't really know, to be honest. Possibly. If you google "evolutionary psychology depression" you might get some leads. There might be some hypotheses that depression keeps people out of dangerous situations when they are vulnerable, I don't know. Lots of evolutionary psychology is speculative though, so I'm not sure if you'll get the wisdom you're after. 

 

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ascfgdxz
21 hours ago, bheb said:

The first step in addressing this question is acknowledging that not every feature of every organism alive today was evolutionarily adaptive. There are many things about humans that are not adaptive (or neutral); however, so long as those features did not directly inhibit our ability to survive to reproductive age, they were able to be passed down. 

 

The second step is recognizing that mental states are not directly inheritable. The way you feel now is not necessarily genetically predetermined -- especially if there was interference with drugs (don't know exactly if you're referring to a pre- or post-withdrawal state). Of course there are genetic factors that can predispose one to feeling certain things but that's not the be all end all. 

 

So to crystallize your question -- is there anything at all about depression that is evolutionarily beneficial? I don't really know, to be honest. Possibly. If you google "evolutionary psychology depression" you might get some leads. There might be some hypotheses that depression keeps people out of dangerous situations when they are vulnerable, I don't know. Lots of evolutionary psychology is speculative though, so I'm not sure if you'll get the wisdom you're after. 

 

Great reply thank you.

 

That makes sense that just because it may be something we have, it may just be an "extra" and not necessarily evolutionary advantageous. The only think I can think of now is, maybe if someone is needing significant change or something from others and can't do it on their own, they would get very depressed so that their tribe would come and help them? 

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Noloft

My most recent psychiatrist was explaining to me about how certain subs types of people like this were important parts of the hunter gatherer group. He was telling me that people with depression often suffer from insomnia and sleep difficulties (which I do). These people were the first to awaken and startled very easily or were not deep sleepers. Though this is crummy, it served a role in Paleolithic or whatever period in which giant sabretooths or wolves would prowl camps at night. Without those depressed light sleepers, no one would wake up at the sound of a wolf near the camp and there would be no way to warn the others. 

 

 

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Altostrata

I feel sorry for psychiatrists, they keep on making up myths to explain what they're seeing.

 

Your psychiatrist's first mistake is that he believes an emotional state is an intrinsic brain condition. This is nonsense. Most so-called "depression" is situational, arising from bad families, bad marriages, bad jobs, grief. Situations come and go, they're not a brain condition.

 

As defined by testing of modern populations, there is a genetic component to disposition. One twin might be optimistic and outgoing while the other is withdrawn, for example. (Still, there are situational reasons for even these differences in personality.)

 

However, back in the hunter-gatherer era, people lived very differently, in groups based on extended, inter-related families sharing a lot of genes. Being outgoing or withdrawn may not have that much meaning when you are living and working communally 24/7 with your parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, second cousins, etc. You rarely see a stranger. Everybody knows you, you don't have to explain yourself, there is no difference between public and private personality -- therefore, no social anxiety -- and no family secrets.

 

Not that they're happy all the time, but what would hunter-gatherers be "depressed" about? They're getting up with the sun and sleeping at nightfall, aligned with natural biorhythms, and getting lots of exercise as they constantly look for food or prepare it during the daytime.

 

A hunter-gatherer with insomnia or paranoia would be an odd duck indeed. Studies of aboriginal societies indicate they integrated a lot of behavioral variation that modern societies are still having difficulties with, such as gender variance. Their idea of "abnormal" may be very different from your psychiatrist's.

 

Still as humans are neurologically variable, at the very far end of the curve are people who are definitely "wired wrong." They do have neurological conditions which may determine their emotional and physiological states. But like any congenital condition, this is the exception, not a segment of the population. One might imagine, if one was making up myths, that without the assistance of the community, these individuals with extreme congenital conditions might not survive.

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