The Difference between Major Mental Illnesses and normal bad feelings

We all face emotional challenges from time to time, like feeling down after a bad day or getting anxious before a big event. These emotions have been with us throughout our evolutionary journey, helping our ancestors navigate complex social landscapes. But major mental illnesses? They’re like a thunderstorm compared to a drizzle. It’s as if those age-old feelings get cranked up to maximum volume. Imagine an echo that gets louder and louder until it’s deafening; that’s how intense these emotions can become. Psychiatric medications help to turn down that volume. Instead of viewing mental illnesses as simply about “wonky brain chemicals” or “problem genes,” we can think of them as supercharged versions of emotions that have deep roots in our evolutionary past.

Learning from Primates through Mental Illness

Conditions like severe depression or extreme anxiety might not just be random glitches in our minds. They might actually give us a peek into how our ancient primate relatives felt and acted. It’s like finding an old family photo album that shows you where you come from. These conditions might be like emotional fossils, traces from the early days when our primate ancestors first started forming groups.

Primates: The Social Geniuses

Monkeys, apes, and humans – we’re all part of the primate family. And one thing that sets primates apart is their incredible social skills. Imagine it was around 52 million years ago, and our ancestors were just starting to hang out in groups. They got really good at it, all thanks to two main emotions that stopped them from just fighting or running away every time they faced a problem. Picture four friends playing a strategic board game. They form teams, make alliances, and sometimes, they compete. At the end of the game, there’s usually one winner, and the rest acknowledge it. But everyone remains friends with the usual bickering. Similarly, in the primate world, these mini groups or “pyramids” form, with one leading and others following. These mini-groups then connect, creating the larger social pyramid in a group of primate families. So, what magic emotions helped our primate ancestors go from being loners to social butterflies?

What made primates hook up into social pyramids?

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