Do you or someone you love suffer from “major” depression, panic disorder, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder? I am a psychiatrist and have just published a wide-ranging book, a principle goal of which is to give people who have not suffered from these horrible conditions an accurate description of exactly what the harrowing experience of mental illness feels like, and to give sufferers and their loved ones a deep understanding of them that is completely accessible. This is not a book about the biochemistry or genetics of mental illness, and it is not a self-help book. It is a book about the meaning of mental illness in relation to how human nature has evolved over millions of years. Now, as soon as I mention that I am a psychiatrist who is interested in evolution, people automatically assume that I think that psychiatric disorders somehow serve some adaptive purpose. I blogged on this issue here that I strongly disagree with that point of view, and feel that it is reminiscent of the objectionable attitude that “they just want attention.”
In fact, people with mental illness suffer from an excess of the very attributes that make us human; Mental illness is an “epiphenomenon” (side effect) of our spectacular capacities such as self-awareness and the complexity of our language—you could even say that they “pay the price” for the benefits not only for our cognitive genius but also for the humanity of our species. You will learn how I discovered that mental illnesses can be viewed as “emotional fossils” that illuminate the deep evolution of how and why we became human.
The only way to banish bigotry toward the mentally ill among us is to shine the bright light of understanding into the darkness of the ignorance that begets bigotry in the first place. If this interests you, go to the Amazon book site and scan through the “look inside” feature that lets you read selected pages (actually there is quite a lot is there); this will give you a good idea of what the book is about. If you do read it, I’d bet that your attitude toward mental illness will be radically changed—forever.