The Depths

The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic


By Jonathan Rottenberg

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  1. Hardcover $36.00 $46.00 CAD
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 11, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Nearly every depressed person is assured by doctors, well-meaning friends and family, the media, and ubiquitous advertisements that the underlying problem is a chemical imbalance. Such a simple defect should be fixable, yet despite all of the resources that have been devoted to finding a pharmacological solution, depression remains stubbornly widespread. Why are we losing this fight?

In this humane and illuminating challenge to defect models of depression, psychologist Jonathan Rottenberg argues that depression is a particularly severe outgrowth of our natural capacity for emotion. In other words, it is a low mood gone haywire. Drawing on recent developments in the science of mood-and his own harrowing depressive experience as a young adult-Rottenberg explains depression in evolutionary terms, showing how its dark pull arises from adaptations that evolved to help our ancestors ensure their survival. Moods, high and low, evolved to compel us to more efficiently pursue rewards. While this worked for our ancestors, our modern environment-in which daily survival is no longer a sole focus-makes it all too easy for low mood to slide into severe, long-lasting depression.

Weaving together experimental and epidemiological research, clinical observations, and the voices of individuals who have struggled with depression, The Depths offers a bold new account of why depression endures-and makes a strong case for de-stigmatizing this increasingly common condition. In so doing, Rottenberg offers hope in the form of his own and other patients’ recovery, and points the way towards new paths for treatment.
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  • "A compelling inversion of conventional wisdom, arguing that depression is not only a natural response to certain conditions, it's a state that often promotes our very survival.... Rottenberg's search for the fundamental sources of depression is strangely consoling, even inspiring at points. By accounting for depression in evolutionary terms, he decisively discredits any lingering explanations of depression as a character flaw. He also achieves something equally powerful: a nuanced assessment of the ever-shifting advantages and costs of depression in various circumstances."—Daily Beast
  • "Jonathan Rottenberg has written a brave, insightful book. The Depths challenges us to rethink our current conceptions of depression and to find new ways to help people experience, as Rottenberg so aptly puts it, 'the glory of recovery.'"—Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic
  • "Rottenberg's practical style and talent for using real-world examples by real-world people to illustrate states of low and high mood is refreshing...the book is a wonderful first step for those who wish to better understand the illness from a scientific viewpoint. And it gives the reader hope by suggesting that depression is a common, albeit painful, human experience: that a low mood does not mean we have failed."—PsychCentral
  • "Almost a clarion call to open the discussion about depression, remove its social stigma and break with current scientific convention to help those suffering begin their recovery."—Economist
  • "With tens of millions already on antidepressants, the expense will eventually force us to reevaluate our approach to care. The Depths is a first step."—Philadelphia Inquirer
  • "The personal experience of depression that Rottenberg details here lends authenticity to his mood science-focused consideration of both the origins of the depression epidemic and why it remains so tenacious and difficult to treat. As The Depths shows, our age requires innovative psychological approaches if we are to tackle the growing burden of depression and, further, to promote well-being."—Times Higher Education
  • "An ambitious, rigorously researched, and illuminating journey into the abyss of the soul and back out, emerging with insights both practical and conceptual, personal and universal, that shed light on one of the least understood, most pervasive, and most crippling pandemics humanity has ever grappled with."—Brain Pickings
  • "It's rare to come across new ideas on the nature of emotion. Drawing on his own groundbreaking research and the best science available, Rottenberg unravels some of the mysteries of depression. Why is it so common? Why is it so resistant to treatment? How does a normal bout of sadness transform into deep depression? This beautifully written book offers wisdom and hope."—Todd B. Kashdan, Associate Professor of Psychology, George Mason University, and author of Curious?
  • "The Depths brings meaning to moods with an informed clarity that is both personal and scholarly."—Melvin McInnis, professor of psychiatry, University of Michigan Medical School
  • "The Depths achieves a rare level of integration of a deeply personal narrative with the best of scientific thinking. Rottenberg draws from a rich array of scientific disciplines to build the case for an evolutionary model of depression. An insightful exploration of a complex and prevalent problem, this book will appeal to anyone interested in depression."—Sheri L. Johnson, professor of psychology, University of California, Berkeley
  • "The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic has the potential to revolutionize the way scientists study depression and therapists treat depression. It can provide hope for people with depression and understanding for their families."—
  • "A stimulating book."—Publishers Weekly
  • "In this provocative presentation of the natural history and evolution of depression, the bottom line is, strangely, both deflating and hopeful: 'Low mood is both inescapable and sometimes useful.'"—Booklist
  • "An important contribution to [Rottenberg's] stated aim of promoting 'an adult national conversation about depression.'"—Kirkus Reviews
  • "The Depths presents a paradigm-changing approach to depression by clearly and comprehensively explaining the way depression really works, describing its origins, the importance of low mood, its persistence and slide into deep depression, and most encouragingly, the climb up and out from the depths. Along the way, Jon Rottenberg dispels many myths about depression, refutes beliefs that perpetuate stigma, and shines a light on recent advances in mood science that can transform the way we think about and approach depression. Scholarly and comprehensive, yet immediately accessible and relevant, The Depths will be enormously helpful to people with depression, health care providers, and anyone who wants to understand why so many of us experience depression."—Ann Kring, professor of psychology, University of California, Berkeley
  • "Depression is more common than it should be, and we still don't know how to treat it. In The Depths, Jonathan Rottenberg points us in the right direction. Combining solid empirical research with individual stories, including his own struggles, Rottenberg situates depression in a broader and more logical context. In doing so, he provides compelling and important new insights about the phenomenon."—George A. Bonanno, professor of clinical psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of The Other Side of Sadness

On Sale
Feb 11, 2014
Page Count
272 pages
Basic Books

Jonathan Rottenberg

About the Author

Jonathan Rottenberg is an associate professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, where he is Director of the Mood and Emotion Laboratory. His work has been covered by Scientific American, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Time. In 2013, Rottenberg launched the Come Out of the Dark campaign to start a better, richer national conversation about depression. He lives in Tampa, Florida.

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