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  1. 1

    Tim Valenta

    Very interesting… I admit I hadn’t thought of the “positive” side like that. I believe I’ve either experienced or witnessed those two sides of the issue. The negative is very hard to just write off, especially for those with severe difficulty, but as pointed out there are lots of varying types and reasons for depression.

    Not that I’m a depressed basket-case, but I can find a place in my past for this as a contributing explanation for my creative drives.

    Thanks for sharing that. I was unsure what it was doing on what I normally see as a tech blog 🙂 But that was excellent.

  2. 2


    I’m really glad you brought this to my attention. However, please don’t refer to depression as “sadness”. It’s demeaning and upsetting.

  3. 3

    Gina Trapani

    Right, depression != sadness. I didn’t use the two terms interchangeably; when I referred to sadness I was doing so as the primary symptom of depression.

  4. 4

    Christopher Sullivan

    As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety nearly all my life, thanks Gina — the info is much appreciated.

  5. 5

    Paul the Counsellor

    I am a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice who often sees people suffering from depression. There are lots of ways to conceptualise depression and it’s quite possible that we are lumping together several different mood states under the same term. This particular study demonstrates a potential selective advantage to having certain symptoms of depression. I would tend to agree that depressive states are combined with rumination, which sometimes sews the seeds of new ideas that help to change life circumstances. However, severe clinical depression impairs function to such a level that it would be hard to imagine a selective advantage. It may be that the people who get severe depression have essentially got a double dose of the gene that provides a selective advantage through rumination.

  6. 6


    Thanks Gina. This is a great link. Both my partner and I have mood disorders (he suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I have recurrent Major Depression), so I found this article especially interesting.

  7. 7


    I believe in your good intentions, but writing something like “for folks who tend toward depression” just doesn’t feel right to me. Replace the word “depression” with “cancer” or “AIDS” or some other disease, and I think you’ll see what I mean. Still, I believe you mean well, and thank you for the link.

  8. 8


    “If depression has an evolutionary purpose, it’s certainly not obvious.”

    Perhaps it serves to decrease the production of children of miserable, unsuccessful, depressed persons by lowering their sex drives and making them less attractive to mates, thus increasing the percentage in the species Homo sapiens of happy, potentially successful children born to happy, successful people?

    It occurred to me long ago that people are both social creatures and individuals, and much self-destructive behavior that seems inexplicable might be socially beneficial by weeding out people who don’t add to the hive.

  9. 9

    Joe Chiocchi

    Interesting post Gina – but from someone who has been living with depression their whole life and the terrible side effects that go with it -it doesn’t really help to know that there is a “positive benefit” of having it.
    Thats just my take.

  10. 10


    Thanks for your comments on the NY Times article highlighting the potential benefits that may be overlooked by those in depressive states.

    Those of us who are given over to extended fits of “rumination” appreciate the post.

  11. 11


    Thanks for the pointer to the article.

    Actually, depression MAY have an evolutionary purpose, as written about in The Atlantic magazine a short time ago in an article titled “The Science of Success”, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/03/the-science-of-success/7761/

  12. 12

    Andy Hilal

    This is interesting, and I would certainly agree that happiness is not required for survival and evolutionary success. The bar, really, is quite low. Live to about 15 and breed.

    I wouldn’t go looking for a purpose to every phenomenon evident in humans, especially the diseases and dysfunctions that beset us from the age of reproductive fertility onward. By definition, evolutionary selection has not had as much opportunity to operate upon afflictions that arrive after the age of reproductive fertility. Back to the low bar: if you live to 15 and breed, the disease and misery you suffer for the rest of your life has little further consequence. You’ve already passed the selection bar and passed on your genome, as-is, just as successfully as the person next to you who doesn’t experience adult depression (or prostate cancer, or heart disease, or whatever the case may be).

  13. 13

    Mike Treseler

    Depressed monkeys stay up late and warn others of approaching predators


  14. 14



    While it might seem like there’s a lot of stuff going on in the depressed brain (and specific parts of it) when looking at it from the observer’s point of view, taking the depressed person’s POV might shed some dark light on the matter.

    As many depressed people have said, being in a depressed state of mind is like being stuck in a whirlwind revloving around a black hole into which all existance is pulled.

    So, all the fuss and busy looking is actually a sham. Now a clincally approved sham, but still – not much positivity.

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