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  • Cited by 2
  • Edited by Riadh Abed, Mental Health Tribunals, Ministry of Justice, UK, Paul St John-Smith, Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, UK
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2022
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:

Book description

Evolutionary psychiatry attempts to explain and examine the development and prevalence of psychiatric disorders through the lens of evolutionary and adaptationist theories. In this edited volume, leading international evolutionary scholars present a variety of Darwinian perspectives that will encourage readers to consider 'why' as well as 'how' mental disorders arise. Using insights from comparative animal evolution, ethology, anthropology, culture, philosophy and other humanities, evolutionary thinking helps us to re-evaluate psychiatric epidemiology, genetics, biochemistry and psychology. It seeks explanations for persistent heritable traits shaped by selection and other evolutionary processes, and reviews traits and disorders using phylogenetic history and insights from the neurosciences as well as the effects of the modern environment. By bridging the gap between social and biological approaches to psychiatry, and encouraging bringing the evolutionary perspective into mainstream psychiatry, this book will help to inspire new avenues of research into the causation and treatment of mental disorders.


‘This is a fascinating read on a topic that, although has relevance, is not well known or understood in the mental health world. The book is stimulating, authoritative, and entertaining in tone and has the ability to motivate debate and provide some answers to issues we all struggle with. It is difficult to put down.’

Adrian James - President, Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK

'Riadh Abed and Paul St John-Smith have provided a terrific service to the field of psychiatry to assemble a stimulating set of chapters exploring how psychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions may be better understood through a Darwinian lens. Understanding poor mental health as an adaptive response to a toxic environment can lead to interventions focused on changing the environment rather than treating the patient. Understanding the genetic basis of neurodiversity encourages us to think about genotypes that may result in disabilities in certain environments and adaptive strengths in others. The challenge for researchers in the revolutionary field of evolutionary psychiatry is to come up with testable predictions to confirm or refute hypotheses. This volume will be welcomed by clinicians, research scientists, and students among others, who are interested in how psychiatry can be integrated within the broader framework of evolutionary biology.'

Simon Baron-Cohen - University of Cambridge, UK

'Darwin's shocking discovery of the combined role of natural and sexual selection in shaping the evolution of homo sapiens revolutionized psychology every bit as much as biology. Freud was the first to apply Darwin's insights to the practice of clinical psychiatry, but many of his theories were limited by the science of his time. This book updates Darwin and Freud- providing a wonderful summary of how our evolutionary past inexorably influences our behavioural present. Great stuff for clinicians, patients, and anyone curious about human nature.'

Allen Frances - Duke University, USA

'What is it to be psychologically normal, and when can we judge that something has gone wrong with an individual’s mental functioning? Why do so many things seem to go wrong with our minds, anyway? This book presents a cornucopia of fresh and stimulating thought about these profound issues by an international group of researchers, both senior authorities and young-and-rising investigators who are among the most talented explorers of our evolutionary psychological heritage and its discontents. Consequently, the book is bursting with illuminating and often provocative insights into the possible sources and nature of mental disorders across the entire spectrum of disorder categories. The future of psychiatry belongs to an evolutionary understanding of the shaping of our minds, and this book takes the reader on the first step of the long journey to that future.'

Jerome C. Wakefield - New York University, USA

'With a carefully thought-out sequence of chapters and an enviable roster of authors, this book is a superb invitation to evolutionary psychiatry for both researchers and practitioners in mental health. Readers will find a solid, concise introduction to the basic concepts; important but otherwise hard-to-find information (for example about mental illness in hunter-gatherers); and a range of thought-provoking hypotheses about the origins of specific conditions. As noted by the editors, this book exemplifies the power of evolutionary theory as a framework for ‘asking the right questions’; even better, it shows how an evolutionary approach can foster true interdisciplinarity, and permit wide-ranging theoretical exploration while remaining firmly grounded in biological and psychological reality.'

Marco Del Giudice - Associate Professor of Psychology, University of New Mexico, USA

'In this remarkable book, the editors have brought together international leading thinkers and clinicians to illuminate how understanding the evolutionary history and functions of the mind provide crucial insights into our vulnerabilities to mental health difficulties and what we require to flourish. It is full of fascinating and detailed analyses of basic processes, from epigenetics, the role of hunter-gatherer societies in shaping our social motives, through to evolutionary conceptualisations of a range of different types of mental health problems and their treatment. With increasing recognition that progress in understanding, developing interventions for, and preventing mental health problems requires insight into how our brains, bodies, and minds came to be the way they are, this book makes an outstanding contribution and will be a major resource for clinicians and researchers for many years to come.'

Paul Gilbert - PhD OBE, Author of Human Nature and Suffering, Depression: The Evolution of Powerlessness, Compassion Focused Therapy

‘Early chapters give way to increasingly advanced and sophisticated evolutionary hypotheses and conceptualizations applied to an array of specific diagnostic considerations … Other interesting ideas include a novel perspective tying the sciences of crime and justice to evolutionary and cognitive psychology (chapter 19) and a set of practical, evolution-based recommendations for clinical care of psychiatric patients (chapter 20). … Highly recommended.’

L. J. Rubin Source: Choice

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