Why do so many people suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous angst? Some twenty percent of us are afflicted with common Anxiety and Depressive disorders. That's not just nervous or scared or sad - that is painful dysfunction without obvious benefit. A new theoretical synthesis suggests that while animals share a set of evolved social instincts, we humans experience commonplace Anxiety and Depressive disorders when we use our reason to defy that biology.
Why does mental illness persist when it would seem to be counterproductive in an evolutionary sense? Kahn (psychiatry, Weill-Cornell Medical Coll.) argues that certain traits that promote group fitness can, in a modern context and if exaggerated, manifest as serious mental illness. Thus panic anxiety stems from the instinct to stay near home, family and safety; obsessive-compulsive disorder, from the urge to maintain safe and healthy living arrangements; social anxiety, from the need to follow more dominant group members; and atypical depression, from the need to maintain group coherence. VERDICT A lively presentation, not intended as treatment advice. Two groups of readers will be interested: those who want books that explore the relationship of mental illness and society, such as Kay Redfield Jamison's Touched by Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament; and those interested in books on sociobiology, such as Edwin O. Wilson's recent The Social Conquest of Earth.-Mary Ann Hughes, Shelton, WA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Oxford University Press
October 23, 2012
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