Depression: Synthetic or Natural?

From the NY Times:

What is natural, the thinking goes, is best. If we are designed to suffer depression in response to life’s ills, there must be a good reason for it, and we should allow it to take its painful and natural course.

The evolutionary explanation for depression is rooted in “Group Rank Theory“, which posits that a lot of our social intuitions were formed to help us establish pecking orders within our tribes, which promotes social cohesion.

From that, it’s often necessary for individuals within a group to give up rank. Under normal circumstances giving up rank is fought vigorously, but depression gives individuals a rationale for doing so without resorting to violence. Mania serves a similar purpose, but for opposite movements within a social order.

If that’s true, I still don’t think that’s a good justification for not treating depression. I tend to abide by the “live natural” creed, but mostly because living natural aligns our instincts and desires with beneficial outcomes.

If that link is severed, then other alternatives can be explored.

2 thoughts on “Depression: Synthetic or Natural?”

  1. there are natural malfunctions and deformations though, right? so not everything that is natural is best, especially if it (depression) gets in the way of productive/healthy living.

    another point I thought of is that not everything we experience today is natural – if we’re surrounded by exhaust from cars (as I am often as a biker) and eat chemicals in processed foods, then the outcomes we experience are induced by unnatural factors. I think this is why we use unnatural medicine – to treat unnatural occurrences.

    if we were only surrounded by natural things (direct from the earth, not processed) then our lives would be much different i think (maybe that’s trite…)


    1. Tracy, I don’t really disagree with anything you said.

      I suppose it comes down to how much of depression is caused by genetic vs. natural causes, and thus how malleable it is to outside circumstances.

      I personally don’t think all depression should go untreated. However, I do think for a lot of people depression should be the second or third option considered.

      Changes in attitudes, therapy, refreshing social relationships, etc should be the first options considered.

      Then changes in nutrition/environment. Vitamin D, lack of greens, etc.

      Then if that doesn’t work go on medication.

      FWIW I have several people in my family who have always been very sensitive to depression, and they’ve used medication for most of their lives, and I think they’re probably better for it. At least in their case it runs in the family.


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