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The serotonin transporter gene has been fingered in a previous post as linked to depression, with two variations of the gene apparently conferring increased vulnerability to it. The optimum conditions for depression to thrive seem to be a combination of the dodgey gene plus a difficult, stressful environment.

A theory currently gaining ground suggests that natural selection would have wiped out the ‘depression’ gene if it was all bad, and that in a good, supportive environment, people with the gene can live happy, productive lives. So, it is argued, there must be some evolutionary advantage in keeping the gene.

LARGE-WHITE-ORCHID-H99-848x1000_905In this theory – the Orchid and Dandelion Hypothesis – people without the genetic sensitivity to their environment (the dandelions), will thrive anywhere whereas those with it (the Orchids) can, in optimal conditions, bloom spectacularly.  And, of course, wilt dismally in poor conditions.

Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln – two great leaders who suffered from depression – perhaps illustrate that, whilst they may not have been very happy, they were important for the survival of the species.

So my depressed friends: sort out your environment, and be brilliant. No excuses, your species needs you 🙂

 

Further reading

David Dobbs (2009) The Science of Success

See also Dobbs’ blog on genetics Smooth Pebbles

Nassir Ghaemi (2009) A First Rate Madness: Why mental illness enhances crisis leadership

Glenn Wilson (2013) The Black Dog: Causes and Cures for Depression

 

 

 

genetic vulnerability to depression a blessing in disguise: the orchid and dandelion hypothesis

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