The Economist "Books of the Year 2019" A fascinating study of the evolutionary roots of mental illness. The author, a professor of psychiatry, argues that, in the right proportion, negative emotions may be useful for survival in a similar way to physical pain. Humans, he says, may have “minds like the legs of racehorses, fast but vulnerable to catastrophic failures”.
Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, by Stephen Austad: "There is scarcely a page that will not make the reader pause for thought and probably for self-examination."
The Quarterly Review of Biology, by David Williams: "The author’s broad ideas represent cutting-edge science. But his nontechnical writing style is appealing and digestible for general readers as well as scientists.
New York Journal of Books by Karen R. Koenig: "If you’re curious about why humans seem stuck with emotional suffering, Good Reasons for Bad Feelings provides thoughtful evolutionary commentary. Nesse looks at emotions, addictions, and mental afflictions every which way and, to his credit, does not pretend to have all the answers. The ones he offers and the questions he raises about their likelihood make for highly interesting and enlightening reading."
Wall Street Journal by David Barash: "All psychiatrists and patients who ﬁnd themselves having occasional “bad feelings” about our current understanding of mental illness will have many “good reasons” to consult this book. I do fully expect that someday nearly all psychiatry will be identiﬁed as evolutionary psychiatry. If so, Randolph Nesse’s book should be seen as the ﬁeld’s founding document."
The Economist: "A negative emotion may be just as evolutionarily useful as physical pain. A depressed patient’s low mood, for example, may result from his realisation that a major life project is sure to fail. It feels terrible, but makes sense in evolutionary terms. People who do not suffer when pursuing unachievable goals may waste their energies on pointless effort, thereby harming their chances of reproduction. That insight taught Dr Nesse to ask the depressed: is there something very important that you are trying and failing to do, but can’t bring yourself to give up?"
The Guardian by Tim Adams: "This intriguing book turns some age-old questions about the human condition upside down: “Why,” Nesse wonders at the outset, “do mental disorders exist at all? Why are there so many? Why are they so common?”
Forbes by Margaux Lushing: "If your idea of self-care skews less spiritual and more scientific, Nesse’s new book on why humans are so vulnerable to a variety of mental disorders is a must. In this new work, he covers both why some people get sick, as well as why natural selection left us all so vulnerable to developing mental illness. Topics covered include changes in our environment impact us, how anxiety and low mood sometimes help our genes and how social anxiety is nearly universal."
Nature by Adrian Woolfson: "in the thought-provoking Good Reasons for Bad Feelings, the evolutionary psychiatrist Randolph Nesse offers insights that radically reframe psychiatric conditions...As Good Reasons for Bad Feelings boldly posits, many of the core dysfunctional components of mental illness ultimately help to make us human."
Evolutionary Psychological Science by Leif Kennair: "There are several reasons to read this particular book. Randy Nesse manages something exceptional: He presents the wisdom of a lifetime of struggling with academic conundrums from the oddest but most scientific perspective within mental health care, while continuously attempting to battle human despair in the trenches of modern psychiatry practice.
Royal College of Psychiatry Evolutionary Psychiatry Special Interest Group Newsletter by Annie Swanepoel. "In this very accessible book, Nesse explains how an evolutionary framework can be to Psychiatry what Physiology is to the rest of Medicine. Evolutionary Science bridges the gap between Neuroscience and the Environment. It helps integrate Biology and Society."
Financial Times "Nesse’s book offers fresh thinking in a field that has come to feel stagnant...Recasting our psychiatric and psychological shortcomings as the unintended sprawling by-products of evolution seems a useful way of understanding why our minds malfunction in the multiple, messy ways that they do."
Publishers Weekly "Nesse shows a particular knack for clearly explaining his concepts, such as anxiety’s value as a survival mechanism against predators and how the cost of fleeing in panic unnecessarily is outweighed by the benefit of doing so from a genuine threat, which he terms the smoke detector principle. Nesse fully meets his modest but laudable goal of providing a conversation-starter on why mental illness should be viewed from an evolutionary perspective."
Royal College of Psychiatry Evolutionary Psychiatry Special Interest Group Newsletter by Riadh Abed: "Professor Nesse’s command of the field of evolution and medicine as well as his extraordinary ability to explain enormously complex ideas in plain English with minimal use of jargon make the book is just as relevant to psychiatrist, psychologists of all levels as well as to academics interested in evolutionary science...My prediction is that the current book is destined to break some sales records and establish itself as required reading for anyone interested in an evolutionary perspective on psychiatry or psychology."
Starred Kirkus Review "An ingenious exploration of how Darwinian evolution explains mental disorders....Many of us have more of certain feelings than we need, but instead of assuming that a pleasant emotion is good and a painful emotion bad, evolutionary psychiatry evaluates its appropriateness to the situation. Readers searching for an attack on psychiatry or a formula for achieving happiness have an avalanche of choices, but they will not regret choosing this book, which is neither."
Evening Standard, Book of the Week "Good Reasons for Bad Feelings is an excellent and timely account of the history, development and implications of evolutionary psychiatry. Although psychiatry has many problems, with a little help from Darwin its future could be very promising indeed. Evolutionary psychiatry has the potential to rene research agendas, resolve controversies, deepen our understanding of mental illness and (dare we hope) inspire new and more effective treatments."
The Sunday Times February 11, 2019 by James McConnachie "a useful contribution, chiefly for the way it underlines that some common forms of mental illness are not the result of specific diseases or “chemical imbalances” and will not necessarily be cured by wonder drugs. Anxiety medication, for instance, seems to work in the way that aspirin works on fever: it does not cure anything, it disrupts a complex and highly evolved system, one so finely tuned by evolution that it can be fragile."
de Volkskrant: in Dutch