Why Feeling Bad Can Be Good - Depression As An Adaptation Not A Disease
Firstly, if you are looking into personal development, personality type, or psychological state management, you need to take a look at our free MP3 designed to 'tune' your brainwaves. To get it, click here. Depression and its root cause(s) are highly speculated about. The molecular and physiological mechanisms of action underlying depressive disorders are not completely understood. Depression in attorneys is a hot topic and it consumes volumes of pages of journal articles and self-help books aimed at trying to find an answer to why people suffer from it, how to reduce or relieve its symptoms, and even how to avoid getting it in the first place. With limited and questionable “cures” as treatment, the efficacy and safety of pharmaceutical intervention is also under constant scrutiny.
Yet another field to shine a spotlight on depression is the realm of Darwinian Psychiatry, or Evolutionary Medicine. These scientists focus less on the “how” aspect of depression and focus more on the “why” behind it. One hypothesis of the origin of depression states that is an adaptation of an “ancient defense mechanism” that has evolved over time as a means to help people cope with unwanted and stressful situations. It suggests that we have evolved into using more analytical thinking and ultimately ruminating over the problems, in response to life stressors.
Analytical rumination is where people turn problems over and over in their heads to the exclusion of everything else, trying to look for a solution. While the obsessive and seemingly distracted thoughts associated with depression are often considered counterproductive, some researchers have argued that depressive ruminations may be helpful because they enhance the focus and analysis of difficult problems in order to gain insight. Scientific evidence shows that those individuals who experience a depressed mood demonstrate increased cognitive processing, improved accuracy on complex tasks, and enhanced detail-oriented judgment on tasks that require deliberate information processing, sometimes even to the point of outperforming their non-depressed peers.
This concept seemingly turns depression into a “good” thing. Rather than seeing depression as an impairment or imbalance of the brain, evolutionary psychologists surmise that it may sometimes occur as an attempt of the body to promote the level of cognitive analysis necessary to understand and attempt to resolve life stressors and challenges. Understanding analytical rumination has important clinical implications for how to assess and treat depression. Perhaps it is better to treat certain types of depression by allowing this persistent “deep in thought” reflection and analysis to occur, as opposed to using medication or any psychotherapy that tries to derail the patient from their ruminating mindset.
A Recent Study
A recent study conducted at McMaster University consisted of 308 women (53%) and 271 men (47%) enrolled in the university, with an average age of 19. Only seven percent reported taking and sort of anti-depressant medication. The 20-question ARQ currently offers a quick and easy way to assess the stage and progress of a patient's problem-solving analysis from problem identification to problem resolution. It may be used as a launch pad for diagnosis and treatment within the family heath care setting. It aims to identify cases that would benefit from this type of intervention, and design a personalized intervention strategy that could help patients make progress toward the resolution of their triggering problem.
"We have a set of items that clinicians and researchers can use to understand how people with depression are thinking," says Skye Barbic, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. "Based on how people answer our questions, we can tailor appropriate levels of care and support.” Furthermore, "When working with many people who experience chronic health conditions, depression is often the limiting factor to recovery and goal attainment," says Zachary Durisko, also a post-doctoral fellow at CAMH. "The test can potentially quickly tell us when people are struggling to identify their problems, trying to set goals, or trying to move forward in their lives. We hypothesize that very different levels of support and care are required throughout these different stages of thinking."
For example, patients at the low end of the ARQ spectrum have not yet identified aspects of their problems or the best solution, and the role of psychiatrists and therapists here is clear. They can use “exposure-based” therapies, mindfulness, and problem-solving therapy, to help increase awareness of the patient’s problems and stressors. This insight is invaluable for these patients as traditional anti-depressant medications are typically ineffective. Whereas at the higher end of the spectrum, patients have identified their problem and goal, but need help developing their action plan through, perhaps, goal-oriented cognitive therapies.
"Depression has long been seen as nothing but a problem," says Paul Andrews, an assistant professor of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster. "We are asking whether it may actually be a natural adaptation that the brain uses to tackle certain problems. We are seeing more evidence that depression can be a necessary and beneficial adaptation to dealing with major, complex issues that defy easy understanding."
Conclusion: Depression may be regarded as a natural evolutionary adaptation designed to increase problem-solving activity in the brain.
- Laura A. Wells
Barbic, S., Durisko, Z., & Andrews, P. (2014, November 14). Measuring the Bright Side of Being Blue: A New Tool for Assessing Analytical Rumination in Depression. Retrieved November 20, 2014, from http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0112077
McMaster University. (2014, November 19). A new test measures analytical thinking linked to depression, fueling the idea that depression may be a form of adaptation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141119125105.htm