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Applied Evolutionary Psychology$
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S. Craig Roberts

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199586073

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199586073.001.0001

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Mental health and well-being: clinical applications of Darwinian psychiatry

Mental health and well-being: clinical applications of Darwinian psychiatry

(p.276) Chapter 17 Mental health and well-being: clinical applications of Darwinian psychiatry
Applied Evolutionary Psychology

Alfonso Troisi

Oxford University Press

This chapter deals with those activities that clinicians exert in their everyday practice and that people suffering from mental disorders expect to progress at a fast pace: diagnosis, therapy, and prevention. Each of these clinical tasks is analyzed from the perspective of Darwinian psychiatry. When refocused from an evolutionary perspective, diagnosis of people with mental disorders should be revised with regard to what information the clinician should collect, how information should be sought, and where information should be gathered. The validity and utility of psychiatric diagnosis can be improved by applying the concepts and methods of ethology and behavioural ecology to diagnostic reasoning. Darwinian psychiatry suggests that the aim of therapy is not only to reverse the pathogenesis of illness but also to restore the congruence between a patient’s individuality and the conditions of the environment. Thus, psychiatric interventions should aim at improving the patient’s chances of achieving short-term biological goals, and symptoms reflecting evolved adaptive strategies should be distinguished from those that are caused by compromised functional capacities. Effective prevention requires a detailed understanding of those life events that elicit negative emotions and can precipitate the onset of a psychiatric disorder. Yet, mental health professionals lack a body of knowledge about normal emotional functioning comparable to the understanding physiology offers to general medicine. An innovative and original contribution that Darwinian psychiatry can offer to the prevention of mental disorders is the identification of those modifiable risk factors that were absent in the ancestral environment but are common in modern environments.

Keywords:   darwinian psychiatry, clinical applications, diagnosis, therapy, prevention, evolutionary medicine

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