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Review
, 116 (3), 620-54

The Bright Side of Being Blue: Depression as an Adaptation for Analyzing Complex Problems

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Review

The Bright Side of Being Blue: Depression as an Adaptation for Analyzing Complex Problems

Paul W Andrews et al. Psychol Rev.

Abstract

Depression is the primary emotional condition for which help is sought. Depressed people often report persistent rumination, which involves analysis, and complex social problems in their lives. Analysis is often a useful approach for solving complex problems, but it requires slow, sustained processing, so disruption would interfere with problem solving. The analytical rumination hypothesis proposes that depression is an evolved response to complex problems, whose function is to minimize disruption and sustain analysis of those problems by (a) giving the triggering problem prioritized access to processing resources, (b) reducing the desire to engage in distracting activities (anhedonia), and (c) producing psychomotor changes that reduce exposure to distracting stimuli. As processing resources are limited, sustained analysis of the triggering problem reduces the ability to concentrate on other things. The hypothesis is supported by evidence from many levels-genes, neurotransmitters and their receptors, neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, neuroenergetics, pharmacology, cognition, behavior, and efficacy of treatments. In addition, the hypothesis provides explanations for puzzling findings in the depression literature, challenges the belief that serotonin transmission is low in depression, and has implications for treatment.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
A diagram of the proposed causal relationships between the variables and constructs that are prominent in the AR hypothesis. The diagram uses the terminology of structural equation modeling where the circles represent latent constructs, the rectangles represent manifest variables, and the arrows denote the hypothesized direction of causation.

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