The Tenacity of Depression

depressionSupporters of depression research argue that more funding is needed to help find a cure; however, this may be an illogical request.[1] Even though more research and treatment resources have been put into combating this disorder, its prevalence continues to rise.1

Today, 38 million Americans struggle with depression, and the World Health Organization projects that by 2030, the amount of disability and life lost due to depression will be greater than that from war, accidents, cancer, stroke, and any other health condition, minus heart disease.1 Despite the 26 different antidepressant doctors and patients have to choose from, only a third of patients actually experience full remission.1 In fact, the antidepressants developed more recently are no more effective than those that were developed 60 years ago.1

Researchers’ main approach to depression is biomedical, assuming that depression is an illness; however, the search to discover a fault in the brain that causes it has thus far come up with nothing.1 There are no biological tests to diagnose depression and no genes that strongly predict it.1 The question—“Where is the disease?”—may not be the right one to focus on.1

Instead, focusing on this question may lead to more answers: “How has nature built us with the capacity to become depressed?”1 Depression is a product of evolution, which has shaped the basic mechanisms of our minds.1

We share moods with other animals.1 They have been selected due to their flexibility to tune behavior to our situational requirements.1 Moods integrate various aspects of how well or how poorly we are doing by tracking resources in our external environment (food, allies, potential mates) and our internal environment (fatigue, hormone levels).1 When we are placed in unfavorable conditions, our goals are unreachable, and this causes low moods which hinders an animal’s abilities to be productive.1

Depression has become so prevalent because our ancient mood system has collided with our modern environment.1 Depression is worse in humans because our species has unique strengths.1 Language allows for wallowing, our ability to set goals allows for failure, and our culture presents expectations for happiness that cannot be fulfilled.1 Therefore, there may not be a magic pill to cure depression. Instead, a lifestyle change is needed.1 We need to work less, sleep more, and place less stress on hurrying up and getting it all done today.1 It’s time to listen to our moods and adjust accordingly.1

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