There has been a growing controversy both about the effectiveness of anti-depressants -- that half the folks taking placebos do just as well – as well as concern about biological effects, such as increasing the risk of relapse, cause brain neuron deterioration, bone mineral loss, etc. A different spin in the controversy comes from an evolutionary psychology perspective, and leading the charge of this view are two researchers, Paul Andrews, a clinical psychologist, and Anderson Thomson, a psychiatrist. Their notion is that maybe there is something useful about depression after all.
What prompts their questioning is the prevalence of depression – 20-30% of the population compared to single digits for other mental illnesses – why is this so different? They make the analogy to fevers where the fever process is the body’s way of dealing with infection, and the use of drugs to kill the fever actually weakens the body’s homeostatic functioning. Maybe depression too has some beneficial effect after all. When they look at the biological impact of depression they discover some interesting ideas:
The take-away for Andrews and Thompson is that they are reluctant to immediately try and kill symptoms with medication. While a small percentage of the population are struggling with a biologically rooted disorder, for a majority of us our depression is most often situational – there is something we need to pay attention and fix in our lives and relationships. So, they say, look at what there is to fix. Doing therapy to talk through your thoughts, or doing expressive writing that helps work with ruminations speeds up the recovery process. Rather than mentally or pharmaceutically running away from problems, slow down and give yourself the time to sort it out.
Food for thought. Give it a think.
Reference: Andrews, P. & Thompson, J.A. (2009). The bright side of being blue: Depression as an adaption for analyzing complex problems. Psychological Review, 116 (3), 620-654.