Depression: Is Rumination Really Adaptive?
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Within evolutionary approaches to depression there is a rather even split between theories that propose that depression and symptoms of major depressive disorder are not adaptive and those that propose that depression is adaptive. An example of the latter, the analytical rumination hypothesis, has since its first formulation (Watson & Andrews, 2002) suggested that the depressive symptoms are adaptive and help solve problems. In the most recent formulation of the theory (Andrews & Thomson, 2009), the analytical rumination hypothesis describes a theory of how rumination and depressive symptoms provide solutions to complex social problems and, therefore, should be promoted rather than treated. This adaptationist approach might seem unsurprising to nonclinician evolutionists, but breaks with a tradition among clinical evolutionary researchers such as Gilbert (1998), Nesse (2011) and Nesse and Williams (1996). Further, standard clinical approaches to depression typically assume that depression is not adaptive, if evolutionary questions are considered at all. Although most clinicians and researchers that work with anxiety have a functional approach to fear, an adaptationist approach has been atypical within clinical approaches to depression.