Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Evolutionarily speaking, mental illness might not be a bad thing!

The following is an excerpt from an interesting article from MSNBC, explaining how evolution may have played a part in man's development of what we call "mental illness". It lists all of the most common mental illnesses and explains how they might have started as something that was a benefit, but either got overdeveloped, or isn't useful any more. Very interesting!

(click here to link to read the full article at MSNBC)

Mental ills may have an evolutionary upside

People with bipolar disorder have more sex, for instance, research says

By Robin Nixon


updated 3:31 p.m. CT, Tues., Aug. 26, 2008


Mental illnesses hinder one in every four adults in America every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And this doesn’t count those of us with more moderate mood swings.

To explain our susceptibility to poor mental health, Randolph Nesse in "The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology" (Wiley, 2005) compares the human brain with race horses: Just as horse breeding has selected for long thin legs that increase speed but are prone to fracture, cognitive advances also increase fitness — to a point.

Let's take common mental conditions one-by-one.

People with aggressive and narcissistic personalities are the easiest to understand evolutionarily; they look out for number one. But even if 16 million men today can trace their genes to Genghis Khan (nature's definition of uber-success can be measured by his prolific paternity), very few potential despots achieve such heights. Perhaps to check selfish urges, in favor of more probable means to biological success, social lubricants such as empathy, guilt and mild anxiety arose.



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Lorna said...

I suppose I can see the sense in that a little. Unforunately Rob's meds have changed his sex drive to go the other way, i'm so terribly frustrated that every night he makes promises, and then says he's too tired :-(. I thought it was getting better with the lower olanzapine, but evidently not. Oh well, we have had all our children and he doesn't want any more so at least it isn't necessary for reproduction purposes *sigh*.

Opps went off on one there a little :-S x x

perphila said...

Interesting article. It is depressing for me to think my husband is having a lot of sex right now though.

Michah Hadley said...

Hi Lorna, I also have bipolar and a personality disorder. I am currently on lithium and olanzapine so I know what it can do to your sex drive and the guilt associated with lack of libido. My partner, as wonderful as he is, suffers greatly but we get through somehow. Just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. I talk more about my experiences onhttp://michahtalkingmentalhealth.blogspot.com/ if you are interested. It is only new and I hope I haven't overstepped the line with inserting my blog address here! Good luck

Mrs. Dreamer said...


glenellynboy said...

i have a theory about mental illness. it is caused intentionally by the species to create a vast part of the population that is disoriented and consequently absorbs all the skull resonance of the misdirected comments of the normal people. in this way language is kept from escaping into the environment where other species might decode it and form a counter measure. any population has a distribution of individual susceptibility to dislodgement. all the species needs to do is set a condition with a precise threashold and the population will separate into a disoriented, mentally ill part, and a normal healthy part. you can read more about my theory at my blog, http://gettingyourbusiness.blogspot.com
the technorati.com tag cloud there, the mental illness tag, goes to this technorati.com page: