Tangled Minds: The Link Between Creativity and Bipolar Disorder

Monday, April 06, 2015 by Meg   •   Filed under Evolutionary Psychology

Highly creative? Outside the box thinker? You might be more prone to mental illness. 

Creative individuals have a higher risk for pathology from mood disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders and substance abuse issues4. For some of these creative types, depression or anxiety stems from seeing things differently compared to those around them. In other cases, condition symptoms lead to a need for some type of outlet, and creative endeavors like art or writing fit the bill. 

However, many have creative minds as a symptom of their diagnosis because the same systems that trigger the condition also lead to the ability to think creatively. This seems particularly relevant in the case of bipolar disorder. 

Now this is surely not to assert that everyone with bipolar disorder is a creative genius, or that those who happen to be creative necessarily suffer from bipolar disorder. Instead it is more an exploration of how those things might go together. Because creativity is pretty bad ass and we all want to know some of the things that cause it right? 

Let’s take a ride....  continue reading

Why Your Mother-In-Law Is Crazy: Criticism, A Shit-load of Toys and The Grandmother Hypothesis

Monday, December 08, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Evolutionary Psychology

It's the holiday season. And this year I have already gotten a bunch of emails about how to deal with grandparents. The most common complaints seem to be: 

  1. "Grandma brings over so many toys that we just don't need. Why can't she understand that the playroom is already filled to bursting?"
  2. "I always feel criticized at holiday gatherings. Sometimes it's with a look and sometimes it's more confrontational. Why can't she leave me alone?"

Believe it or not, there might be some good evolutionary reasons for these behaviors. So if you're losing your mind because your children just came back from granny's covered in chocolate, peppermint bark and lipstick, there may be a reason for grandparent spoiling besides to make you insane. The plight of the indulgent grandparent may have root in a mechanism affectionately entitled, "The Grandmother Hypothesis." And her criticism of you might even have a root there as well....  continue reading

My Other Ex: Evolution, Identifying Toxic Friendships, Friendship Splits, and Vajazzling

Monday, September 29, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Evolutionary Psychology

Have you ever lost a friend? 

The pain of friendship breakups is intense, and with good reason. Friendships offer not only material goods, but also physical security and, on an emotional level, a sense of belonging, competence and self worth. As a special form of reciprocal altruism (discussed more here) friends serve as “functional kin”2, extensions of our familial relationships that are far more complex than tit for tat due to our long-term need for the other8

And need one another we do, and not just because our actual families may have members who are less than “functional kin” themselves.

Throughout history, female friendships have sustained species, particularly in mammalian societies where males were expected to go out on their own3. Even the female stress response (but not the male) involves the secretion of oxytocin, a chemical involved in attachment and bonding12. Instead of fleeing during high anxiety, we evolved to seek one another out for wine and cookies. Or maybe for that strength in numbers thing (More on the Tend and Befriend Stress Response here). It should come as no surprise that across mammalian societies, females with the strongest friendship support have less stress, live longer and have higher rates of infant survival3, a phenomenon that extends to our species10.  

These are ties that bind, in ways even stronger than leather restraints in a millionaire’s Red Room. (Or so I’ve heard.)...  continue reading

Don't Be A Judgmental F*ckface: Robin Williams, Suicide, and the Evolutionary Basis for Survivor's Guilt

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Evolutionary Psychology

“Didn’t you notice anything weird?” 

“What made him hate himself so much?”  

“Couldn’t you have tried to get him into treatment?” 

“I don’t feel bad for him, it was a choice. It was his own fault.”

If you ever find yourself with the inclination to utter one of these sentences, please, kindly shut the fuck up or give yourself a high five in the face with a frying pan. Because if it were as simple as offering a hand, or giving someone a hotline or the name of your shrink, most people wouldn’t end up dying. 

Free will is a bitch sometimes....  continue reading

Why Are You Jealous of Your Friend's Friend? BFFs, Ruthlessness and Vulnerability

Monday, May 19, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Evolutionary Psychology

Friendships were critical in our evolutionary history due to the fact that we usually raised our children together, sharing all responsibilities among close members of a group. Women even evolved a special "tend and befriend" panic response to ensure we stuck together when things got stressful. I assume this meant that fewer early women wanted to run off and join the circus on the regular. 

Built in assistance? Yes, please. 

Our emotional closeness to each other was the biggest facilitator of this arrangement by allowing us to create long-term friendships with other women. Today we don't rely on each other as much, but this certainly doesn't mean that our brains have forgotten all about those early days of critical connection....  continue reading

Reciprocal Altruism: The Evolutionary Drive Towards Not Being A Jackass

Monday, April 07, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Evolutionary Psychology

There is a reason it feels good to help others. Human beings are emotionally hardwired to help each other in times of need. But altruism isn't a moral obligation or a selfless act of kindness. At root, altruism is a biological imperative that is all about self-interest. And this predisposition has the ability to trigger guilt and anxiety if we aren't careful to repay kindnesses.

"You hear that, Judy? Where's my casserole dish?"...  continue reading