I was interested in this article, which is about the pet theory Andy Thomson (psychiatrist at the University of Virginia) has that there is overall an evolutionary advantage to depression:
Like most evolutionary psychology theories, it has some interesting stuff but a strong whiff of just-so story about it. (The article writer even uses the phrase “just-so story,” which makes me happy.)
The part I was most suspicious of was his attempt to find an evolutionary advantage to the worst and most severe symptoms of depression — you know, the can’t-get-out-of-bed kind. Oh, it give you time alone to think! is sort of his point, and I just don’t buy it.
But, what if depression the mental disorder is a malfunction of something that presents an advantage in other areas? What if the capacity to experience major depressive disorder is a piggyback on something that does confer an advantage? A lot of the body seems to work that way, after all. Look at the huge number of auto-immune diseases, some of them deadly, does that mean we’re better off without our immune system?
One study cited within the article suggests there might be a cognitive advantage to a slightly melancholy mood — but it’s a long way from “melancholy” all the way to severe, long-lasting depression.
Take that with this article about how a new statistical analysis of clinical drug trials suggests that antidepressants don’t actually work all that well:
The distinction is between statistical advantage over a placebo — which is there — compared to a clinical advantage — which doesn’t seem to be there except in the most severe cases of depression.
In other words, for most depressed people, antidepressants might help, but only slightly, and probably not enough to be worth the cost, addiction, unwanted physical effects, risk, and other side effects of medication.
Anyway, I wanted to throw this out there because I know that so many of you have experienced depression, treated and untreated, drugged and undrugged. Do you have an opinion? A story to share? I’m interested.