Evolutionary Psychology and Mental Health

Randolph M. Nesse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

28 Scopus citations


An evolutionary perspective revolutionized the understanding of behavior over a generation ago, but most mental health clinicians and researchers still view evolution as an interesting or even threatening alternative, instead of recognizing it as an essential basic science for understanding mental disorders. Mental health professionals lack a body of knowledge about normal emotional functions comparable to the understanding physiology offers to general medicine. Evolutionary psychology can bring information about an individual's idiosyncratic values, goals, and life situations into a scientific framework. Some mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism, are almost certainly specific diseases or clusters of diseases, while others, such as depression and panic disorder are fundamentally different in that they are useful protective mechanisms, albeit ones that readily go awry. Many can be prevented or eliminated safely, but only when one can better understand the functions of negative emotions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology
PublisherJohn Wiley and Sons Ltd
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780470939376
ISBN (Print)0471264032, 9780471264033
StatePublished - Sep 8 2015


  • Emotional disorders
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Mental disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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