Traditional evolutionary theory invoked natural and sexual selection to explain species- and sex-typical traits. However, some heritable inter-individual variability in behaviour and psychology – personality – is probably adaptive. Here we extend this insight to common psychopathological traits. Reviewing key findings from three background areas of importance – theoretical models, non-human personality and evolved human social dynamics – we propose that a combination of social niche specialisation, negative frequency-dependency, balancing selection and adaptive developmental plasticity should explain adaptation for individual differences in psychology – ‘specialised minds’ – explaining some variance in personality and psychopathology trait dimensions, which share various characteristics. We suggest that anthropological research of behavioural differences should be extended past broad demographic factors (age and sex) to include individual specialisations. As a first step towards grounding psychopathology in ancestral social structure, we propose a minimum plausible prevalence, given likely ancestral group sizes, for negatively frequency-dependent phenotypes to be maintained as specialised tails of adaptive distributions – below the calculated prevalence, specialisation is highly unlikely. For instance, chronic highly debilitating forms of autism or schizophrenia are too rare for such explanations, whereas attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and broad autism phenotypes are common enough to have existed in most hunter-gatherer bands, making adaptive explanations more plausible.