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Angst: Origins of Anxiety and Depression
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Self-Promotion (Authors) > Anxiety and Depression evolved from ancient herd instincts for sociability!

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Jeffrey P. | 6 comments Folks -
For those wondering how we ended up with so much Angst, there is an evolutionary theory. We still have ancient herd instincts that promoted sociable behavior, only now when we defy them with Reason they speak to us through anxiety and depression. Oxford U Press. Angst: Origins of Anxiety and Depression

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David Rubenstein | 860 comments Mod
I just discovered this thread about your book. It sounds fascinating--I'm putting it on my "to-read" list.

It is always interesting to learn about why human traits that we think of as "negative" have evolved. The book Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease focuses on physical illnesses. Your book, which focuses on mental illnesses, seems to be an excellent complement.

message 3: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 334 comments Then I wonder how does that explain those of us who love our alone time, and don't like crowds.

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Angus Mcfarlane | 71 comments Before those with real expertise on this sort of thing respond, may I speculate Aloha? The first hypothesis that comes to mind is the value of the explorer personality, who, in their ability to resist the stress of leaving the herd, are able to identify new benefits (eg food sources) or dangers. A second might be a form of sexual exclusion, where sub dominant (males) need to be capable of some isolation to survive (emotionally). Not sure how early these instincts would have come into play, but I look forward to listening to other ideas...

Jeffrey P. | 6 comments Thanks David! Anxiety and depression were good for the herd, but not always so good for us free-thinking humans. One reason they persist is that we repurpose their pain to other advantages.
And thanks Aloha and Angus! Time alone can be a peaceful escape from the anxieties of an uncertain herd experience ("Hell is other people" said Sartre). This can have advantages (time to think, create, discover, etc.)

message 6: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 334 comments I guess the explorer or creative personality would most likely need alone time in order to make new discoveries. I haven't read it, but Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking looks like a good book to read on that. And hell can be other people, along with the positive benefits. It depends on who you surround yourself with.

message 7: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 334 comments There's also the factor of experience. If one have had bad experiences from human interaction, then social interaction is irritating while solitude is peace.

message 8: by Mosca (new) - added it

Mosca | 5 comments Aloha, you are echoing my own intuitive reaction to the quick summations of this book's assumed content. If our social interactions are loaded with anxiety and depression (for example: a toxic work environment), then time alone may be our healthiest choice.

Jeffrey P. | 6 comments Aloha & Mosca -
Anxiety and depressive disorders try to coax us into herd-like roles that we may not want. Few of us prefer to be at the bottom of the totem pole, even if we have biology that tries to make that happen (Social Anxiety Disorder). So some of our Angst among people comes from a conflict between our minds choosing behavior at odds with what our instinctive biology wants. And that in addition to the distress caused by a toxic work (or home) environment.

message 10: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) But didn't our evolutionary line split off before the development of the herd?

message 11: by Ibis3 (new)

Ibis3 | 23 comments This sounds to me like it has the same problem as most (all?) evo-psych "theories".

1. We suffer from depression and anxiety.
2. We evolved.
3. Therefore depression and anxiety must be adaptive traits.
4. What could these traits have been adaptations for?
5. Let's pull x explanation out of thin air.

This kind of thinking is unscientific at best. You can't jump to #3 given 1 and 2, and you certainly can't justify #5.

Jeffrey P. | 6 comments Hi Stan -
There is herd like behavior in most animals, including us. You can see it more overtly in our ape cousins - the book includes work on Baboons.
- Jeff

message 13: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) Jeffrey wrote: "Hi Stan -
There is herd like behavior in most animals, including us. You can see it more overtly in our ape cousins - the book includes work on Baboons.
- Jeff"

I don't know, Jeff. This might get into definitions. To me, 'herd' refers to herbivores. The social grouping of baboons and other apes is more like 'pack.'

Jeffrey P. | 6 comments Hi Ibis -
A theory is only a theory, but don't jump to conclusions! This one does have strong support, with about 650 scientific references included (discretely noted so as not to scare away readers). So I'd change your item #5 to: "Does existing knowledge and data support this theory?" You are right, though, in your concern that scientific theories (including evo-psych) are often poorly supported by research.
- Jeff

Jeffrey P. | 6 comments Stan wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "Hi Stan -
There is herd like behavior in most animals, including us. You can see it more overtly in our ape cousins - the book includes work on Baboons.
- Jeff"

I don't know, Jeff...."

True, but among the many possible words, "herd" seems to best capture the essence of the instincts in question. - Jeff

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