Bargaining hypothesis of depression: what is it and what does it propose?
This hypothesis provides insights into possible innate causes of depression.
Depression is, along with anxiety, one of the most prevalent psychological disorders in the general population.
Over the last decades, countless studies have been carried out with the intention of explaining and understanding this pathology better and better, so that we can have more effective treatments. Let's discover what one of these explanations consists of: the hypothesis of the negotiation of depression.
What is the negotiation hypothesis of depression?
There are many psychological currents, and each of them tries to explain the different mental disorders from its perspective. One of them is evolutionary psychology.
This school is the originator of the hypothesis of the negotiation of depression, as an explanatory model of this psychopathology. In order to better understand this concept, we will we will go deeper into some of the positions that various authors have held on depression..
The author who proposes the model of the depression negotiation hypothesis is Edward H. Hagen. He maintains that depression is nothing more than a state of emotional strike in which the sufferer unconsciously chooses to cease all positive emotional behavior, with the aim that the people around us (or the situation itself), in response, cease the activities that they were maintaining over time and that have caused the imbalance.
The depression negotiation hypothesis, therefore, is also known as the strike hypothesis, because in this case our emotional state would be acting like the workers of a company who, in search of a series of improvements (or to avoid a potential worsening of their situation) decide to abandon their functions to provoke a situation of tension in which it is the other party that ends up giving in and accepting their demands.
Therefore, according to Hagen according to Hagen, depression would be acting as a form of manipulation (obviously unconscious) of the individual who suffers this pathology towards the restThe evolutionary perspective is to demand that they cease all the behaviors that are affecting them and that have ended up triggering this kind of mental strike that is preventing them from exercising normally all the routine tasks of their lives, from leisure to social interaction behaviors or self-care (hygiene, restorative sleep or food, etc.).
Other evolutionary perspectives
To better understand the implications of the depression negotiation hypothesis, it is useful to know the other perspectives with which it is in opposition, so that we can establish a comparison between the two points of view. For this reason, we will better describe some of the models used within evolutionary psychology that attempt to explain depression and its symptomatology as an adaptive reaction of our organism.
These researchers maintain that the symptomatology of sadness and low mood has an evolutionary function, to cope with a series of stimuli and situations and to process them correctly. However, if this system fails and this mood becomes chronic, resulting in depression, the system would no longer be adaptive, as it would have given rise to a state of depression.The system would no longer be adaptive, as it would have given rise to a state in which the symptomatology would be harmful to the subject.
Some authors speak of the importance of depression as an indicator of psychological Pain (just as fever and other signs exist to warn of a physical ailment in the organism). When experiencing the depressive symptomatology, our mind would be warning us to cease all those activities that may be generating it, functioning as a kind of alarm whose purpose is to warn us to cease all those activities that may be generating it.It would be functioning as a kind of alarm whose objective is that we recover stability as soon as possible, moving away from the harmful elements.
However, those who believe that it is a non-adaptive mechanism affirm that this system does not work, since the depressive symptomatology in its most severe state ceases to be a mere warning sign, to become a serious symptomatology that gradually consumes the individual who suffers from it, affecting his rest, food, social relationships and, ultimately, all levels of life of the person, which obviously not only does not help him, but harms him tremendously.
The case of postpartum depression
According to Hagen's approaches, there is one case in particular in which the hypothesis of the negotiation of depression applies better than in any other, and that is the case of postpartum depression. Edward Hagen's explanation is that women who experience this disorder generally find themselves in a situation of deficit of the support from the environment they requireTherefore, unconsciously, her body would develop depressive symptomatology as a form of strike in search of the help she needs.
In this sense, postpartum depression would be an automatic alarm of the body and mind, an indicator for the mother herself, who would be warned that the resources she has to face a situation as demanding as raising a child are being insufficient. This effect is even more aggravated in cases where children suffer from some ailment or illness, since the physical and mental cost of coping with the situation is even higher..
At this point, the depression denial hypothesis would link up with another theory of evolutionary psychology which, although controversial in its approach, follows a logic. This is the parental investment hypothesis, developed by Robert Trivers. What Trivers affirms, among other things, is that the cost that breeding implies for the parents will only be carried out if the return is greater, that is, if the investment is profitable, speaking in terms of economy.
This theory applied to times when the human being was just another animal in a hostile environment, and sometimes it was not possible to obtain the necessary resources to raise the offspring, so efforts were focused on the next child. Adapted to the present, what the author is telling us is that the postpartum depression would warn the mother of this dangerThe author is telling us that postpartum depression would warn the mother of this danger, so that she would seek the necessary help, so that the situation would be reversed and she would be able to successfully raise her child.
In the previous point we have focused the hypothesis of the negotiation of depression in cases of postpartum depression, but in reality this theory could be applied to any of the areas in which this pathology makes its appearance, since ultimately the function is exactly the same. And the fact is that depression would be a distress call both for the person affected and for all those around her: her partner, her family, her friends, her co-workers or any other person in her circle.
It is important not to confuse bereavement with depression.It is important not to confuse grief with depression, since there are vital situations that produce this symptomatology so marked of low mood as a sentimental rupture, the loss of a loved one, a dismissal, and many others. The problem would be the chronification of these symptoms after a while. If months go by and the person continues without improvement, we should consider the possibility of a pathology and therefore the hypothesis of the negotiation of depression would apply.
That a person has a very low mood and experiences the feeling of sadness constantly as a result of the death of a relative, for example, is logical, if he/she had a good bond with him/her. The strange thing would be if this symptomatology were not present, in any case. However, if months or even years go by and this symptomatology is not reduced and even worsens, all the indicators would point to the fact that the person has stopped experiencing ordinary grief and is suffering from depression, and would need help.
Of course, the importance of seeking the help of a psychologist should not be overlooked. to overcome depression, because the help and support of family and friends is always necessary, but sometimes it is not enough and requires the realization of a therapy with a professional who is the one that gives the tools to the patient to get ahead and leave behind the depressive symptoms once and for all.
And is that the training of a psychologist provides the ability to carry out this demanding and complex task, something for which non-professionals need not be trained.
- Hagen, E. H. (2003). The bargaining model of depression. In P. Hammerstein (Ed.), Dahlem workshop report. Genetic and cultural evolution of cooperation. MIT Press.
- Hagen, E. H. (2002). Depression as bargaining: The case postpartum. Evolution and Human Behavior. Elsevier.
- Hagen, E. H., Rosenström, T. (2016). Explaining the sex difference in depression with a unified bargaining model of anger and depression. Evolution, medicine, and public Health.
- Rosenström, T. (2013). Bargaining models of depression and evolution of cooperation. Journal of theoretical biology. Elsevier.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)