Evolutionary Depression

So why is the rate of depression continuing to grow? I can’t quote statistics, but I’m not really sure I have to; general consensus seems to support the idea.

Is it just that we now make a more proper diagnosis and/or diagnose more frequently (wonder the same thing about hypothyroidism and caner)? Rates increased because the suite of symptoms is so often repeated by media that people associate themselves with it? Or are the rates really climbing?

Do more docs ‘believe’ in the condition now? I once saw a GP in a drenched, rainy Western Washington suburb about some gut pain, real pain, not imaginary, and he could make no determination as to what was bothering me. He left the room as I reclothed myself. He walked back in, and, almost agressively, asked, “Are you a real man, or would you like me to write scrip for some Prozac?” I didn’t understand what he was saying, he stomped out, abandoned me to negotiate my own way out from his office, my own meaning from the incident. I would learn later about the Prozac.

Several years ago, as I was trying to make sense of depression, to make sense of why it happened, and why to me, and why to growing numbers of folks, I began to consider the idea that depression might somehow be evolutionarily adaptative.

Things are so fast today, so diffuse and fractured. With all of the daily decisions made, factors considered, multi-tasking done (which I’ve read in Time, contrary to Web-influenced prognostications, is not a necessarily efficient way for humans to work or an appropriate metaphor for cognition), perhaps depression is adaptive in its relative elimination of external ‘noise.’ The frontal brain is somewhat overcome by portions of the more primitive inner brain. While one may be overcome by emotions, or reduced to a certain ‘dullness,’ linear thought, at least in my experience, seems a more frequent protocol (once one is past, in the case of severe depression, lack of sleep or ruminatory thought). Maybe the human species is somehow selecting for, or protecting itself through, a kind of transfer to or regression from contemporary cognitive function in order to slow down or regain internal control; maybe it’s adefensive  response to external stimuli, a reconstitution so as to regain organismic control, a slower, more sensible offensive approach to our environment (of course this idea fails to account for suicide, unless you considered it an over-compensation yet in the same adaptive ‘direction’).

Maybe the human organism, in some innate connection to environment and ecology, senses somehow that it has nearly destroyed its natural niche; the reduced activity produced by depression, in the sense of both work performed and material consumed, could be an adaptive response to that destruction.

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