Good reasons for bad feelings Insights from the frontier of evolutionary psychiatry

Randolph M. Nesse

Book - 2019

Instead of asking why certain people suffer from mental illness, Nesse asks why natural selection has left us all with fragile minds. Drawing on revealing stories from his own clinical practice and insights from evolutionary biology, Nesse shows how negative emotions are useful in certain situations, yet can become overwhelming. Anxiety protects us from harm in the face of danger, but false alarms are inevitable. Low moods prevent us from wasting effort in pursuit of unreachable goals, but they ...often escalate into pathological depression. Other mental disorders, such as addiction and anorexia, result from the mismatch between modern environment and our ancient human past. And there are good evolutionary reasons for sexual disorders and for why genes for schizophrenia persist. Taken together, these and many more insights help to explain the pervasiveness of human suffering, and show us new paths for relieving it by understanding individuals as individuals.

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

616.89/Nesse
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 616.89/Nesse Checked In
Subjects
Published
New York, New York : Dutton [2019]
Language
English
Physical Description
xv, 365 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9781101985663
1101985666
Main Author
Randolph M. Nesse (author)
  • Part one: Why are mental disorders so confusing? A new question
  • Are mental disorders diseases?
  • Why are minds so vulnerable?
  • Part two: Reasons for feelings. Good reasons for bad feelings
  • Anxiety and smoke detectors
  • Low mood and the art of giving up
  • Bad feelings for no good reason: when the moodostat fails
  • Part three: The pleasures and perils of social life. How to understand an individual human being
  • Guilt and grief: the price of goodness and love
  • Know thyself: NOT!
  • Part four: Out-of-control actions and dire disorders. Bad sex can be good, for our genes
  • Primal appetites
  • Good feelings for bad reasons
  • Minds unbalanced on fitness cliffs
  • Epilogue: Evolutionary psychiatry: a bridge, not an island.
Review by PW Annex Reviews

Nesse (Why We Get Sick), director of the Center for Evolutionary Medicine at Arizona State University, thought-provokingly comments on modern medicine's continuing difficulties in treating mental illness. Nesse notes that identifying the brain abnormalities and genes responsible for specific disorders has not, contrary to expectations, led to much progress; for example, there have been "no major breakthroughs in the treatment of depression in the last 20 years." He hypothesizes that since natural selection did not eliminate "anxiety, depression, addiction, anorexia, and the genes that cause autism, schizophrenia, and manic-depressive illness," they must have some benefits. He does not claim to know what all of those benefits are, making clear at the outset that since this is a new field, his conjectures may well prove wrong. Nesse shows a particular knack for clearly explaining his concepts, such as anxiety's value as a survival mechanism against predators and how the cost of fleeing in panic unnecessarily is outweighed by the benefit of doing so from a genuine threat, which he terms the smoke detector principle. Nesse fully meets his modest but laudable goal of providing a conversation-starter on why mental illness should be viewed from an evolutionary perspective. Agent: Katinka Matson, Brockman, Inc. (Feb.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Describes how natural selection and evolution can be viewed as explanations for the continued existence of human mental disorders and how insight into their role in human survival can improve the understanding and treatment of mental illness.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

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 book that transforms our understanding of mental disorders by exploring a fundamentally new question. Instead of asking why certain people suffer from mental illness, Nesse asks why natural selection has left us all with fragile minds.   Drawing on revealing stories from his own clinical practice and insights from evolutionary biology, Nesse shows how negative emotions are useful in certain situations, yet can become overwhelming. Anxiety protects us from harm in the face of danger, but false alarms are inevitable. Low moods prevent us from wasting effort in pursuit of unreachable goals, but they often escalate into pathological depression. Other mental disorders, such as addiction and anorexia, result from the mismatch between modern environment and our ancient human past. And there are good evolutionary reasons for sexual disorders and for why genes for schizophrenia persist. Taken together, these and many more insights help to explain the pervasiveness of human suffering, and show us new paths for relieving it by understanding individuals as individuals.