Resonation

This really rings true for me:

It is Mr Rottenberg’s view that the current vogue for the “pursuit of happiness” may perversely push certain people towards depression. Happiness, he argues, is the result of achieving a goal, rather than a goal itself. He cites recent evidence suggesting that depression or low mood can be triggered by setting unobtainable goals. Rather than becoming depressed because of underachievement, he suggests that perhaps depression is an overcommitment to goals that cannot be reached.

To the point that i don’t really want to discuss the details.

I’m leery of reading books with titles like “The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic”, but perhaps Mr. Rottenberg will bring some clarity to episodes that i don’t really feel equipped to comprehend in any detail…

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Thinking About the Hard Stuff

This article in Scientific American is the great:

There is another possibility: that, in most instances, depression should not be thought of as a disorder at all. In an article recently published in Psychological Review, we argue that depression is in fact an adaptation, a state of mind which brings real costs, but also brings real benefits.

One reason to suspect that depression is an adaptation, not a malfunction, comes from research into a molecule in the brain known as the 5HT1A receptor. The 5HT1A receptor binds to serotonin, another brain molecule that is highly implicated in depression and is the target of most current antidepressant medications. Rodents lacking this receptor show fewer depressive symptoms in response to stress, which suggests that it is somehow involved in promoting depression. (Pharmaceutical companies, in fact, are designing the next generation of antidepressant medications to target this receptor.) When scientists have compared the composition of the functional part rat 5HT1A receptor to that of humans, it is 99 percent similar, which suggests that it is so important that natural selection has preserved it. The ability to “turn on” depression would seem to be important, then, not an accident.

It goes on to conclude that getting depressed is a good way to spend time thinking about difficult things:

Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.

There you go – it was time well spent… at least it would be  if i could remember actually reaching any meaningful conclusions!

Yes, of course i’m being glib and lighthearted. Depression is a serious problem for many people. However, it’s interesting to be able to see it in evolutionary terms.