Is depression an adaptation?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Many functions have been suggested for low mood or depression, including communicating a need for help, signaling yielding in a hierarchy conflict, fostering disengagement from commitments to unreachable goals, and regulating patterns of investment. A more comprehensive evolutionary explanation may emerge from attempts to identify how the characteristics of low mood increase an organism's ability to cope with the adaptive challenges characteristic of unpropitious situations in which effort to pursue a major goal will likely result in danger, loss, bodily damage, or wasted effort. In such situations, pessimism and lack of motivation may give a fitness advantage by inhibiting certain actions, especially futile or dangerous challenges to dominant figures, actions in the absence of a crucial resource or a viable plan, efforts that would damage the body, and actions that would disrupt a currently unsatisfactory major life enterprise when it might recover or the alternative is likely to be even worse. These hypotheses are consistent with considerable evidence and suggest specific tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDepression
Subtitle of host publicationThe Science of Mental Health
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages182-189
Number of pages8
Volume6
ISBN (Electronic)9781315054322
ISBN (Print)9780815337492
StatePublished - Oct 15 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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  • Cite this

    Nesse, R. M. (2013). Is depression an adaptation? In Depression: The Science of Mental Health (Vol. 6, pp. 182-189). Taylor and Francis.