Is depression a trait?

Depression is often seen as a negative and undesirable state of mind. However, some scientists argue that depression may have been an adaptive trait for our ancestors. In this article, we will explore the idea of whether depression is a trait or not.

What is Depression?

Before delving into the concept of why depression could be considered a trait, let’s first understand what it actually means. Depression refers to someone feeling sad or hopeless which lasts for more than two weeks and affects them significantly in their daily lives.

Types of Depression

There are several types of depression such as:

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
    …and many more!

Each has its own set of symptoms and severity level but all cause significant distress in individuals who suffer from them.

How can Depression Be Considered A Trait?

The question arises – how on earth could depression ever be considered as an evolutionary advantage? Well, there are some theories regarding this hypothesis.

The Involuntary Principle

Some researchers believe that involuntary emotional experiences like depressive thoughts helped our prehistoric ancestors survive during tough times. It was suggested by Randolph Nesse, an American physician and evolutionary biologist that sadness existed within humans because it increased their chances to effectively deal with dangers when they were encountered

In simpler words: If early humans became too happy-go-lucky while facing tigers lurking behind bushes in jungles they’d end up getting eaten (Yikes!)They needed to become cautious around danger prone situations hence becoming less risky behavior-wise

The Social Signal Principle

It’s important to remember evolution occurs slowly over generations — so if natural selection had ‘made’ humans susceptible temporary bouts {with} sadness , then those afflicted would have sent nonverbal communication signals alerting their tribe members about possible presence {of} threats . This would help others take cautionary steps, ultimately protecting themselves. Here’s an example:

“Hey tribe-mate, I’m feeling really down . My gut has got this weird ,squirmy feeling in it! “Others could have reacted by raising alarms, standing guard or hatch a plan to move somewhere safer

This ‘social signal principle’ is believed to have helped our ancestors – Those who were genetically inclined towards being more susceptible towards depression ended up saving their clan from potential dangers!

The Positive Mood-Bias Principle

The theory goes that negative thoughts actually sculpted our ancestors’ positive cognitive biases positively. This way, they developed overall positivity and resilience despite adversity as it allowed them to take a break from negativity before facing new challenges.

In short : Experiencing some natural sadness during trials made humans appreciate normal happiness better.

Current View On Depression Being A Trait

Despite all the aforementioned theories the fact remains that there isn’t significant evidence suggesting any of those are likely true- They remain mere hypotheses!

Professor Joseph Parnavelas, a neuroscientist at University College London said:” It becomes less plausible with each passing year because many people now understand about mental health”. He points out that conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks can severely impair daily living— unlike common colds which does not leave us incapacitated beyond 3-days max!”

Even if one had only experienced mild depression for too long periods (many years), there would still be life-altering changes in mood like loss of interest in social activities,family gatherings etc.It’s hard enough already trying to get through everyday tasks without adding debilitating emotions on top !


Depression may or may not have been relevantly important trait among early humans however regardless of its evolutionary history we know today that no ifs and buts about its consequences on modern human beings– We should continue striving for improvements in treating and understanding it better !

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