Much in line with Thomas Hartmann’s inspirational book ADD: A Different Perception, in the January/February 2010 edition of Scientific American Mind Paul W Andrews and J Anderson Thomson, Jr put forth the notion that depression is the result of millions of years of evolution…and can actually be quite beneficial to us.
The theory goes: depression causes us to focus on nothing but our difficulties – the brain activates in such a way that we cannot be distracted by outside stimuli, we lose interest in our normal distracting pleasures and we retreat into isolation…all things that are conducive to problem-solving.
Furthermore, studies demonstrate that treating such depression with anti-depressant medications, or trying to escape the thoughts through distracting activities or substance abuse, all have the same effect of prolonging the disorder – whereas encouraging the obsessive ruminations on the problems that sparked the depression and letting it out in full steam (such as through writing) helps people to sort out their troubles and pull out of depression more quickly.
They are careful to note that there is such a thing as clinical depression…but they believe it is far rarer than people are led to believe. According to diagnostic statistics, apparently almost half of America is believed to suffer from the disorder, which Andrews and Thomson think affects more like 1-2% of the population, like its relative nervous disorders. They encourage psychiatrists and psychologists to try talking and behavioural therapies in the place of standard drug intervention, as this latter course of action has a history of worsening people’s problems, rather than alleviating them.
For more, please do read their article Depression’s Evolutionary Roots, or the more detailed version in the July 2009 edition of Psychological Review.
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