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Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  385 ratings  ·  32 reviews
A founder of the field of evolutionary medicine uses his decades of experience as a psychiatrist to provide a much-needed new framework for making sense of mental illness.

Why do I feel bad? There is real power in understanding our bad feelings. With his classic Why We Get Sick, Dr. Randolph Nesse helped to establish the field of evolutionary medicine. Now he returns with a
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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Dutton Books
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Alja
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The book looks at mental health from an evolutionary perspective: why did natural selection shape traits that make us vulnerable to diseases? Nesse proposes a theory of how emotions evolved to help us cope with different situations (opportunities and threats) and lead us to behaviors that maximize our chance for reproduction because natural selection doesn't select for health, happiness or long life. From the evolutionary perspective, there are indeed good (from the perspective of our genes) ...more
Liina Bachmann
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
It is well documented by now that the chemical imbalance theory as an explanation to depression and other mental disorders does not hold. But have we got something better? Nada. The brain is still the great uncharted territory. Evolution has always been a tempting prism through which to explain diseases and human behaviour. It has one grand flaw though - so often those theories are just-so stories. Meaning that they are practically impossible to back up with science (which goes for the social ...more
Mehrsa
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a very careful and nuanced take on evolutionary psychology--focused on depression, anxiety, and other DSM type "flaws" in humans. Thankfully, it does not try to do what some of the less nuanced scientists do, which is to try to find an evolutionary reason for everything. Nesse makes clear that that is not necessary to explain these things. Instead, he makes some really helpful analogies and graphs showing how these emotions may have evolved. One thing I wish he had covered, ...more
Robert
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED THIS BOOK!

The basic idea is to give an evolutionary explanation for mental illness. Can evolution explain why we seem to get so easily anxious and depressed? And what about schizophrenia or Alzheimer's?

"Evolutionary psychology" is nothing new, but most of the other writing either focused on explaining human sexual behavior ("why do men want many sex partners?") or trying to justify selfishness ("social darwinism").

This is the first book I've seen which looked at how evolution might
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Michael Tenev
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: blinkist
Evolutionary biology provides an invaluable perspective on understanding our everyday emotions and behaviors, as well as our disorders. By understanding how our internal systems developed, we can gain insight into issues like mood and eating disorders, and recognize them as the malfunctioning of otherwise useful regulation mechanisms. This approach can also help us to find the real root cause for our dysfunctions, rather than seek ways to treat individual symptoms or otherwise attempt to ...more
Joseph L. Graves
Essential Reading

Nothing in biology makes sense save in the light of evolution. Nesses shines that light on the most intractable of scientific problems, the human mind and its emotions. Specifically he provides an invaluable perspective that can help us understand the origin of mental illness. However the book doesnt just stop with the why questions it relates these to the how questions. This book can save lives. It offers traditional psychiatry a way out of its dark cave.
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Lisa Butterworth
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brain-books
There are a lot of things I really like about this book, primarily it's careful and nuanced delve into the evolutionary psychiatry of feelings, moods, and the origins/explanations of the many disorders there of. I loved his discussion of the history of the DSM and all the problems in our categorizing of mental health issues, and the limits of the cause/effect medical model thinking. (ignoring context is one of my HUGE pet peeves, and the DSM is all about ignoring context, which I think is a huge ...more
Iman Shabani
When I first saw this book, and also when I started reading it, I didn't even think of giving it anything higher that 3 stars; but as the book progressed it continually surprised me with the direction it went.

It doesn't give you solutions, nor does it tell you how to improve these stuff, it just simply shows you the reason as to why some things happen, and why they occur a specific way.

However keep in mind that, knowing the problem, is half the solution; and that statement holds true here as
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Felipe CZ
Sep 19, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting book and understanding on evolutionary biology and psychiatry, a take on how we have developed, so we can understand our instincts and emotions. Once we gain insight into issues like moods and disroders, we can find the real root cause for dysfunctions, since there is a good reason for all bad feelings like the book's title states.
Mad Hapa
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting read, but the Innovation Hub interview with the author gives you the gist and takes less time to ingest.
Jessica
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Kind of clunky and didn't really hold my attention.
Megan Wight
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Why are minds so vulnerable? This book tries to answer this question through an evolutionary and biological perspective. This was a fantastic book. Now, before this book I had been pretty over the evolutionary perspectives of just about everything. I mean, you can pull any sort of theory out of your butt and rationalize it using evolution. It was starting to become obnoxious, and I started off years ago digging the different ideas, only to become burnt out toward them. This book though, made a ...more
Chance
Mar 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When John Horgan interviewed Noam Chomsky for his book The Undiscovered Mind, Chomsky dismissed the field of Evolutionary Psychology as a philosophy of the mind with a little bit of science thrown in. He continues:

You find that people cooperate, you say, Yeah, that contributes to their genes perpetuating. You find that they fight, you say, Sure, thats obvious because it means that their genes perpetuate and not somebody elses. In fact, just about anything you find, you can make up some story for
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Maukan
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic read. I stumbled onto this obscure book a couple months ago and finally got lucky enough to get it through the library. This book is a well prepared take on how evolutionary insights can be used towards improving patients issues through therapy. Explaining how are biological algorithms are designed for transporting our genes into the next generation, not our well being. Were designed to maximize fitness not happiness. That is a monumental difference of epic proportions, this is ...more
Vanessa Princessa
I read this book thanks to Blinkist.

The key message in these blinks:

Evolutionary biology provides an invaluable perspective on understanding our everyday emotions and behaviors, as well as our disorders. By understanding how our internal systems developed, we can gain insight into issues like mood and eating disorders, and recognize them as the malfunctioning of otherwise useful regulation mechanisms. This approach can also help us to find the real root cause for our dysfunctions, rather than
...more
Christen
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review is more for me than an audience - just jots about what stood out.

I really liked this book and the message in the title. The anecdote about describing a person as "depressed" when there was a horrific situation in their life - of COURSE they're depressed!! I know the feeling of wanting to escape bad feelings but in hindsight the warning alarms were sounding and I could have listened earlier. The more I read about emotions the more I realize I run from them when they need full
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Siel Ju
Dec 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The irony is deep: Hope is often at the root of depression. The central questions of Randolphs book are these: Why do so many of us suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and other psychological ills, when evolution could have rooted them out? Could it be that mood disorders actually serve an evolutionary function?

Randolph makes a pretty convincing case that they do. One key idea is that evolution doesnt select for human happiness or longevity. Instead, it selects for
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Janelle
Dr Nesse's careful and quietly encouraging book is fascinating for anyone wanting to learn more about the etiology of mental illness. He reveals the evolution of emotions and WHY things like low mood, anxiety, and eating disorders even exist. He doesn't have any more answers than any other psychologist, but I truly believe he is asking the right questions. The basis of these emotions is rooted in the basic biological building blocks of genetics and survival instinct. This book doesn't "feel" ...more
Amar Ojha
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was one of my favorite reads ever. It is incredibly illuminating for anyone interested in the etiology of mental illness. How should we even go about thinking about their causes? What methods make sense to study them? How are they similar and dissimilar to other medical disorders? And most importantly, what role does evolutionary biology play in psychiatric illnesses? This book offers thinking tools and current hypotheses based on evidence. It is by no means definitive and the author is ...more
Synthia Salomon
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Evolutionary biology provides an invaluable perspective on understanding our everyday emotions and behaviors, as well as our disorders. By understanding how our internal systems developed, we can gain insight into issues like mood and eating disorders, and recognize them as the malfunctioning of otherwise useful regulation mechanisms. This approach can also help us to find the real root cause for our dysfunctions, rather than seek ways to treat individual symptoms or otherwise attempt to ...more
Don Cheadle
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nesse's book is an insightful read about the evolutionary causes of mental maladies.

The writing style is highly accessible, while not sacrificing much in the way of scientific rigor.

I enjoyed it, I learnt something, and I believe understanding why I think as I do helped me accept myself a little more.

If I were to critique an aspect of the book, I'd argue the author jumps to narrative conclusions a tad too often, but considering that it is a social science book he does not do it egregiously so,
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Zhuo Zhang
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is a revolutionary book on a brand new concept to me: evolutionary psychiatry. The six factors: mismatch, infection, constrains, trade-off, reproduction and defensive responses have "doomed" our vulnerability to illness. The perspective that the author has presented is very refreshing and thought-provoking. The beginning of the book is especially gripping. A good read.
Jon
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Most fascinating book I've read this year. Evolutionary psychology is by far one of the most interesting developments in science in recent decades, but most books never go beyond exploring "why chicks like rich dudes." This book is one of the rare ones that look at how evolution has made us vulnerable to so many forms of mental suffering. A well-written, captivating and compassionate book.
Zahwa
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
i had higher expectations for this book and they were reinforced by the early chapters, but as the book went on i saw that it proposed more speculations and theories than answers though interesting. but not what i was looking for.
Jasmin Coates
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Absolutely loved this book!

As mental health awareness is increasing, hoax knowledge is too. With a book that focuses on the scientific reasons, it's definitely a good read for anybody looking to study more about emotions, behaviour, and how evolution has shaped our psychology.
Tim
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great insights into psychology/depression.
Mizo
Mar 17, 2020 rated it liked it
As a psychiatrist I found this book to be an interesting refresher in psychiatry 101 and evolution.
Claire
Nov 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I read the Blink summary version. This book portrays psychology and the causes of our emotions in a logical manner. I found it informative, but most of it seemed obvious.
Ashley Peterson
May 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry by Dr. Randolph M. Nesse digs into the science of evolution to understand why mental illness persists. He explains that while the illnesses themselves are not evolutionary adaptations, our vulnerabilities to these illness may actually have evolutionary purposes.

He takes the rather refreshing approach of acknowledging both the good and the bad of the field of psychiatry. For example, he discusses the flaws of the
...more
Chris Boutté
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At first, I didnt think Id enjoy this book, but I couldnt stop reading it. This is such an incredible perspective on mental disorders and mental health. I cant recommend it enough. ...more
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“Most behavior is in pursuit of a goal. Some efforts are attempts to get something, others to escape or prevent something. Either way, an individual is usually trying to make progress toward some goal. High and low moods are aroused by situations that arise during goal pursuit. What situations? A generic but useful answer is: high and low moods were shaped to cope with propitious and unpropitious situations.” 3 likes
“Like fever and pain, anxiety and low mood are useful normal responses to some situations.” 1 likes
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