Could Depression Provide The Answers?

Close up of a mans eye with a large tear developing in the corner.

News reports recently published by leading psychiatrists are making bold assertions that will affect how depression is understood and treated. Could being ‘down in the doldrums’ be nature’s way of stimulating evolution?

Is Depression The Reason Humans Have Evolved So Quickly?

The human race has evolved exponentially compared to other known species on earth. Depression could be the reason why. After all, people are generally inherently lazy animals, for the most part, unimaginative and happy to spend life treading water.

But occasionally, an inspired and highly motivated individual comes along who can single handily advance the human race. Think Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Galileo, Newton and more recently Einstein, Fleming, and Hawking, a few names among potentially thousands.

Could depression be the common motivating factor that connects great people, the ‘go-getters’? Driving them to keep searching, evolving because of a vague hunch. To single-handedly advance the human race for the greater good of humanity. 

Dr Paul Keedwell from the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, an expert in mood disorders, thinks it might be.

Dr Keedwell says, “depression is a natural defence mechanism that forces a healthy re-evaluation of current circumstance and thinking.” All humans could be susceptible to depression when faced with circumstances that make them stressed or fundamentally unhappy.

Continued Presence of Depression

The very fact that humans have evolved so far in comparison to the other species on Earth poses the question, why has depression, if it is a negative human trait, not been scrapped by the evolutionary process, the same process that has advanced humans far ahead of their fellow planetary inhabitants. The answer is simple. It hasn’t been eradicated by evolution because it helps the human race advance and become stronger.

“There are benefits, and that’s why it has persisted. It’s a tough message to hear while you are in depression, but I think that there’s a life afterwards,” he says.

“I have received e-mails from ex-sufferers saying in retrospect it probably did help them because they changed direction, a new career, for example, and as a result, they’re more content day-to-day than before the depression.”

It’s depression that helps the abused wife leave her husband, something she may not have been able to muster the courage to do without the introspection it provided.

Resilience

Several athletes & explorers accredit bouts of depression for giving them the strength to achieve. For example, Dame Kelly Holmes previously spoke about the depression she experienced and emerged from it with the extra resilience to go on and become a double Olympic gold medalist. This achievement, she feels, would have been beyond her before her depression.

The Creative Residue Left By Depression

Many creative artists experience periods of depression before emerging to produce some of their most inspired works. “Psychological unease can generate creative work, and the rebirth after depression brings a new love affair with life,” he says.

Aristotle accredited depression for furnishing him with “great insights,” Sir Issac Newton suffered well-documented psychological troubles during his life, as have Picasso, Beethoven, Bob Dylan, John Lennon and many other creative geniuses.

Was Caveman Depressed?

Evidence suggests that depression was present in Stone Age when men lived in tight communities. The community and changes would quickly recognise symptoms would ensue.

The Banda tribe, a remote community in Uganda, are aware of depression. Although they call it an “illness of thought,” sufferers can leave the group and spend time in reflection, which may be a treatment we could learn from.

Cases of depression are rising in Europe & US at exponential rates, probably due to increased pressures to achieve, be successful and purchase the latest consumer goods, combined with a breakdown in core family values and community.

Ineffective Antidepressants

Recent reports suggest that antidepressants have little or no effect on mild or moderate depression, a staggering fact considering that antidepressants are now the most commonly prescribed drug in North America, with over 10% of the population consuming them. Furthermore, there were no benefits over placebo pills in experiments conducted in the US.

If you are currently taking prescribed antidepressants, you should seek professional advice before stopping prescriptions. Read more here. As the experiment only applies to certain types of antidepressants in certain situations.

Severe Depression & Antidepressants

Severe depression is effectively treated with antidepressants. This article is focused on mild and moderate depression. Severe depression must be addressed by seeking professional medical advice.

Lonely Depths

There aren’t many people who have suffered bouts of depression that would endorse it as a way of becoming enlightened or inspired. The darkness experienced while in depression is monotonous and chilling and shouldn’t be wished upon any being.

But there is hope. The sun will shine again, and the other side of the tunnel will be bearing gifts.

Sources:

BBC

WEBMD

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