In the eyes of some scientists, anxiety disorders have evolved from primitive human instincts, and examining their histories is crucial for medicine today.
This is the basis of evolutionary medicine, an emerging field of biology and the subject material of a new minor now offered at UCLA.
Thus another course that won’t get you a real job is born.
And get this:
Evolutionary medicine is different from modern medicine because it tries to take a step back to analyze the evolutionary history of a pathogen. Modern medicine, however, often focuses on fixing the immediate problems caused by a disease, Blumstein said.
Hold it. Anxiety disorders are not a disease caused by a pathogen (that is why they are called a disorder, not a disease). They are a poor strategy for coping with the inevitable challenges of life.
It is recognition of just such facts that has caused the recent fall of the psychiatric manual, DSM-V:
Perhaps the deadliest accusation is, as the Financial Times puts it, “By gradually slackening its criteria the DSM has estranged us from our eccentricities, our survivable rough patches, our shyness and sorrows, and made them sound like diseases.” Allen Frances, the leader of DSM IV, acknowledges that the Manual has resulted in “medicalizing” normal human problems. As one reviewer offered, “Fully a quarter of the people in the US are regarded as suffering from a mental illness. People are tagged as mentally unfit, when in fact they are often just having a hard time with life.”
Anyway, as neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has noted, medicine (and counselling) are by definition committed to treatment for this person here and now, not that person then or back when:
Proximate explanations are the description of the process itself. A proximate explanation of type 1 diabetes is that it is caused by lack of insulin. A proximate explanation of Duchenne muscular dystrophy is that it is a recessive X-linked genetic disease that causes muscle degeneration, weakness and death. Males are affected, though females can be carriers. It is caused by a mutation in the dystrophin gene on the X chromosome (Xp21).
As you can see, proximate explanations are what medical researchers would call the scientific explanation for a disease. Proximate explanations are medical science and provide the foundation for all medical treatments.
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The difficulty with evolutionary explanations in medicine is:
1) All of the relevant pathophysiology is provided by the proximate explanations, which are the only explanations useful for treatment.
Maybe evolutionary medicine will help trim the demand for medical care.
Incidentally, recent books on the fall of the DSM and related issues in psychiatry:
The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry, by Gary Greenberg
Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-Of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life, by Allen Frances (chaired the task force for the fourth DSM)
Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good, by James Davies
Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry, by Tom Burns
Maybe evolutionary medicine will