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Naughty or Nice?
|Sadness is good for you||
Scientists have warned that growing tendency to medicate against sadness like a disease stops us embracing our miserable side and removes the motivation to mature emotionally.
Like the saying “what does not kill me, makes me stronger”, being sad and melancholic can leave sufferers better able to cope with life’s challenges, more resilient and spur them to greater achievements, it is claimed.
The researchers point out that today’s society prizes personal happiness above all else and there is little tolerance for wallowing in despair after losing a job, the break-up of a relationship or the death of a loved one.
But a growing number of mental health experts fear the increasing tendency to take a pill to beat the blues could actually affect human evolution.
Far from the disorder being a modern malaise, humans have suffered from depression for thousands of years – and it has survived partly because it is beneficial to the species in the long-term, they claim.
Estimates suggest as many as one in four people will suffer from depression at some stage in their lives – and five per cent of the population is currently living with it.
A growing number of psychiatrists are questioning whether doctors and drug companies are too keen to treat the condition with powerful and potentially harmful drugs.
Psychiatrist Professor Jerome Wakefield said: “When you find something this deeply in us biologically you presume it was selected because it had some advantage – otherwise we wouldn’t have been burdened with it. We’re fooling around with part of our biological make-up.”
Prof Wakefield, of New York University, believes human sadness helps us learn from our mistakes.
He said: “I think one of the functions of intense negative emotions is to stop our normal functioning – to make us focus on something else for a while.”
It also might act as a psychological deterrent to prevent us from making those mistakes in the first place, reports New Scientist.
The risk of sadness may deter us from being too impetuous or cavalier, especially in relationships or with other things we value.
Dr Paul Keedwell, a psychiatrist at Cardiff University, said even full-blown depression may save us from the effects of long-term stress.
He says without taking time out to reflect “you might stay in a state of chronic stress until you’re exhausted or dead.”
For more information, log on to the New Scientist website
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