January 2012

Depression: Is There an Evolutionary Advantage?

Dr. Friedman: Is Depression Advantageous?

The NYT featured an interesting essay on evolutionary biology, behavior, and depression. The basic premise of the article is that many researchers are currently fixated on the idea that evolutionary biology guides actions and is responsible for many illnesses, but that illnesses like depression don’t fit into this mold because there often isn’t a silver lining.

Dr. Richard Friedman, the MD who wrote the article, illustrated his point by first recognizing that certain studies have demonstrated that patients who are sadder may have better judgment than those who are not; however, he continued by pointing out that the thought patterns of depressed patients are nothing to “embrace,” but something that should be addressed because the thinking of the individuals is often distorted. He continues by weighing in on the health risks associated with severe depression.

I agree that depression is something that must be taken seriously, but find fault a little bit with the doctor’s attitude towards depressed individuals in that he repeatedly stated that depressed individuals had a hard time making decisions. I believe that this is a gross over-generalization; it depends on the individual. Abraham Lincoln, for example, was thought to have been severely depressed at many times in his life, yet was able to make decisions that resulted in the end of slavery in the United States.

Many individuals who are not depressed also have distorted world views based on their religious or family backgrounds. How we think and treat others is often a result of our upbringing as well and not just a result of the chemicals in our brain.

Was Hysteria Ever A Real Mental Condition?

and Why Did Keira Knightley Study Old Films for Hysteria for Her Role in "A Dangerous Method"?

The LA Times has the low-down on a few movies centering on mental illness including “A Dangerous Method” starring Keira Knightley which focuses on the mental illnesses of one woman back when “hysteria” was a serious mental condition. To prepare for her role in “A Dangerous Method,” Director David Croneberg had Knightley watch old movies in which the female characters had been diagnosed with hysteria.

As director David Cronenberg describes it: "Hysteria has pretty much been either medicated away or the conditions that gave rise to it — repression and shame and the fear of making a misstep in a very rigid society — no longer exist."