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The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic Hardcover – February 11, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465022219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465022212
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Why is depression so prevalent and persistent? Why is the disorder so difficult to treat? Rottenberg, a professor of psychology who has suffered from depression, addresses those broad questions from a dual perspective as scientist and patient. Acknowledging that there is no single cause of the depression epidemic, he pushes for a new evolutionary model of mood and theorizes about the potential advantages of negative moods. For example, a low or sad mood might confer greater skepticism, deliberation, and caution in processing information. Mild depression could possibly function as an “emotional cocoon” that offers an opportunity for a time-out to ascertain what is going wrong. Rottenberg reminds readers that human beings “are not wired for bliss.” Evolution is fixated on survival and reproduction. Is it conceivable that mild forms of depression aid in achieving those evolutionary goals as crucially as happiness does? In this provocative presentation of the natural history and evolution of depression, the bottom line is, strangely, both deflating and hopeful: “Low mood is both inescapable and sometimes useful.” --Tony Miksanek

Review

“…Almost a clarion call to open the discussion about depression, remove its social stigma and break with current scientific convention to help those suffering begin their recovery.”
The Economist

“With tens of millions already on antidepressants, the expense will eventually force us to reevaluate our approach to care. The Depths is a first step.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“The personal experience of depression that Rottenberg details here lends authenticity to his mood science-focused consideration of both the origins of the depression epidemic and why it remains so tenacious and difficult to treat. As The Depths shows, our age requires innovative psychological approaches if we are to tackle the growing burden of depression and, further, to promote well-being.”
Times Higher Education

“An ambitious, rigorously researched, and illuminating journey into the abyss of the soul and back out, emerging with insights both practical and conceptual, personal and universal, that shed light on one of the least understood, most pervasive, and most crippling pandemics humanity has ever grappled with.”
—Brain Pickings

“A compelling inversion of conventional wisdom, arguing that depression is not only a natural response to certain conditions, it's a state that often promotes our very survival… Rottenberg's search for the fundamental sources of depression is strangely consoling, even inspiring at points. By accounting for depression in evolutionary terms, he decisively discredits any lingering explanations of depression as a character flaw. He also achieves something equally powerful: a nuanced assessment of the ever-shifting advantages and costs of depression in various circumstances.”
Daily Beast

“Jonathan Rottenberg has written a brave, insightful book. The Depths challenges us to rethink our current conceptions of depression and to find new ways to help people experience, as Rottenberg so aptly puts it, ‘the glory of recovery.’”
—Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic

“Rottenberg’s practical style and talent for using real-world examples by real-world people to illustrate states of low and high mood is refreshing…the book is a wonderful first step for those who wish to better understand the illness from a scientific viewpoint. And it gives the reader hope by suggesting that depression is a common, albeit painful, human experience: that a low mood does not mean we have failed.”
—PsychCentral

The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic has the potential to revolutionize the way scientists study depression and therapists treat depression. It can provide hope for people with depression and understanding for their families.”
—PsychologyToday.com

“A stimulating book…”
Publishers Weekly

“In this provocative presentation of the natural history and evolution of depression, the bottom line is, strangely, both deflating and hopeful: ‘Low mood is both inescapable and sometimes useful.’”
Booklist

“An important contribution to [Rottenberg’s] stated aim of promoting ‘an adult national conversation about depression.’”
Kirkus Reviews

The Depths presents a paradigm-changing approach to depression by clearly and comprehensively explaining the way depression really works, describing its origins, the importance of low mood, its persistence and slide into deep depression, and most encouragingly, the climb up and out from the depths. Along the way, Jon Rottenberg dispels many myths about depression, refutes beliefs that perpetuate stigma, and shines a light on recent advances in mood science that can transform the way we think about and approach depression. Scholarly and comprehensive, yet immediately accessible and relevant, The Depths will be enormously helpful to people with depression, health care providers, and anyone who wants to understand why so many of us experience depression.”
—Ann Kring, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley

“Depression is more common than it should be, and we still don’t know how to treat it. In The Depths, Jonathan Rottenberg points us in the right direction. Combining solid empirical research with individual stories, including his own struggles, Rottenberg situates depression in a broader and more logical context. In doing so, he provides compelling and important new insights about the phenomenon.”
George A. Bonanno, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of The Other Side of Sadness

“It’s rare to come across new ideas on the nature of emotion. Drawing on his own groundbreaking research and the best science available, Rottenberg unravels some of the mysteries of depression. Why is it so common? Why is it so resistant to treatment? How does a normal bout of sadness transform into deep depression? This beautifully written book offers wisdom and hope.”
Todd B. Kashdan, Associate Professor of Psychology, George Mason University, and author of Curious?

The Depths brings meaning to moods with an informed clarity that is both personal and scholarly.”
Melvin McInnis, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Michigan Medical School

The Depths achieves a rare level of integration of a deeply personal narrative with the best of scientific thinking. Rottenberg draws from a rich array of scientific disciplines to build the case for an evolutionary model of depression. An insightful exploration of a complex and prevalent problem, this book will appeal to anyone interested in depression.”
Sheri L. Johnson, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley

“In this courageous and compelling book, Jonathan Rottenberg makes a moving appeal to bring depression out of the dark so that we can have an open conversation about one of the most dreaded mental disorders. Writing both as someone who has suffered from depression and as a scientist who has published groundbreaking work on this disorder, Rottenberg weaves a rich tapestry of personal stories and scientific findings. What emerges is a sober account of how and why depression arises, and what needs to be done. Everyone should read this book!”
James J. Gross, Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

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Customer Reviews

I found it quite refreshing and informative.
Chaim D. Larsen
A very new and interesting perspective on depression based on the author's two decades of research in the field.
jdmjdmjdmjdm
Thus negative results may not tell you much.
Paul J. Watson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By jdmjdmjdmjdm on March 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very new and interesting perspective on depression based on the author's two decades of research in the field. He makes a very persuasive case against the "chemical imbalance" explanation for depression -- and the accompanying view that depression can be categorized into discrete states, e.g. normal, moderately depressed, severely depressed -- and offers as an alternative the theory, backed by psychology experiments, that feeling "down" is a tool the brain uses for demotivation (when we're wasting energy pursuing an impossible goal). Depression, in this model, results from, among other things, continuing to pursue an unattainable goal, or at least continuing to work without signs of progress, because this prompts the mind to ramp up how "down" you feel. The harder you push, the harder it pushes back.

If that sounds simplistic and like it misses a lot, that's because it's just one of many elements of depression Rottenberg touches on. I don't want to recap the whole book here; suffice to say that it's an illuminating read, particularly if you or someone you know has depression -- there are a lot of "oh, now it makes sense why [I/he/she] do/es that."
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dan Fields on March 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This well-written book has changed the way that I think about depression. Rottenberg presents the latest research in animals and human on the evolutionary function of mood, including low mood. He in no way dismisses the anguish caused by depression and candidly describes his own experience with severe depression. But the studies that he discusses pose a serious challenge to the common notion of depression as a chemical imbalance and also shed light on why depression can be so tenacious. I applaud the author for seeking to spark a long-overdue national dialogue on depression and to reduce the stigma attached to it. As someone who has dealt with depression and has read a lot on the subject, I found Rottenberg's arguments refreshing and persuasive.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By KAY AUGUSTINE on April 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rottenberg explains depression as a natural function in both animals and humans which has both positive and negative effects. He envisions a paradigm shift in our approach to depression which, rather than stigmatizing those who suffer or have suffered from depression, we recognize and honor their strength for having overcome its challenges. I find his message so hopeful and helpful that I bought several copies to share.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By annette on January 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Marrying memoir with an insightful analysis of the prevailing paradigms in psychology and psychiatry, this mood scientist gets at just why depression is so tenacious and why we're in the midst of an epidemic. It's not a self-help book, but it would be a boon to anyone who is suffering or who loves someone who has suffered from depression.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JC on May 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A worthwhile and comfortably logical read. The author, a doctor specializing in and with first-hand experience with depression, convincingly uses facts and perspective to explain depression. I would recommend that the reader read the first and last chapters in that order before proceeding with the other chapters. The first chapter is powerful in placing weight on the issue and the author's suggested perspective while the last chapter, by way of discussing what is successful, makes a compelling case of what is missing in today's typical approach. 5 Stars for ease of explanation and compelling message.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gretchen M. Gillis on April 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This thoughtful, well-writen book includes enough science to be credible and enough personal history to be compelling. We are all surrounded by people who are depressed, so it is useful and comforting to gain an understanding of depression from this book. Much as I would like to re-read this right away, it's more important to share my copy with family and friends.
Congratulations and thanks to Dr. Rottenberg for this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Todd Windyhill on April 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The real specter of a "depression epidemic" in our country suggests far more reading, understanding, and perhaps government funding to be very much in order. So, this work is both timely and value-added for a broad spectrum of interests, and Jon's concise writing style and relative brevity makes it an easy read, perhaps one-sitting. A good bit of real-world and relevant substance is packed into 200 pages.

I've been treated for Clinical Depression for over a decade, experiencing several major episodes. I was able to relate to many of Jon's descriptions, and suggest the episodes are so profound, one never experiencing or closely observing the same cannot fully relate. It can be virtually debilitating, overpowering even the strongest of wills.

I've been treated in a very traditional, yet effective manner. Jon raises the prospect of a "mood-based" approach to treatment, as a means of getting to the real roots of depression, and not relying on the "chemical imbalance" sourcing so commonly mentioned. Perhaps anti-depressants are not the most effective approach, depsite the widepsread use and popularity in the medical community. If they are, why is the stated epidemic continuing unabated? Why are so many victims suffering despite the availability and use of numerous drug therapies?

Jon prudently makes no definitive pronouncements but raises questions. With his first-hand experience in mind, and as a scholar to boot, the questions are very much worth raising. Can we trace the origins of depression periods to the evolution of certain fundamental positive and/or negative moods? Study and serious consideration are in order when seemingly tens of millions are burdened with depression, and the numbers are increasing.
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