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Depression: Evolutionary perspective

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Evolutionary theoriesEdit

Evolutionary theory suggests that depression is a protective mechanism: If an individual is involved in a lengthy fight for dominance of a social group and is clearly losing, depression causes the individual to back down and accept the submissive role. In doing so, the individual is protected from unnecessary harm. In this way, depression helps maintain a social hierarchy.


  • Other evolutionary theories – Another evolutionary theory is that the cognitive response that produces modern-day depression evolved as a mechanism that allows people to assess whether they are in pursuit of an unreachable goal. Still others claim that depression can be linked to perfectionism. People who accept satisfactory outcomes in lieu of "the best" outcome tend to lead happier lives. [citation needed]
  • Recently some evolutionary biologists have begun to subscribe to the theory of "honest signalling". It has been pointed out that the incidence of major depression is much higher in persons born after 1945 which would seem to cast doubt on a possible disease model and that such suffering is notable in persons of greater than average intellect and emotional complexity. This contradicts the submission thesis.

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