The serotonin transporter gene has been fingered in a previous postÂ 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.
In 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. Â 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 🙂
David Dobbs (2009) The Science of Success
See also Dobbs’ blog on genetics Smooth Pebbles
Nassir Ghaemi (2009)Â A First Rate Madness:Â Why mental illness enhances crisis leadership
Glenn Wilson (2013)Â The Black Dog: Causes and Cures for Depression