Evolutionary Benefit for Schizophrenia.

We all know, oik, maybe we don’t. But, many of us know and see the evolutionary benfits to Sociopathy. Is there any benefit to Schizophrenia. Do animals have it. What advantage does it cause. If none, why does it continue to exist and be passed down. Could it be evidence of a higher power.

I realize this sounds more like a GQ question, but I’m hoping for some debate on the subject.

I have never heard of any benefits of sociopathy, evolutionary or otherwise. Consequently, I can’t see why an evolutionary benefit, or lack thereof, for schizophrenia would be meaningful one way or the other. Are there any other diseases with hereditary components which have an evolotionary benefit? What evidence do any of those provide for the existence of a “higher power”. (Which is what, exactly? 500,000 volts?)

Basically what I’m wondering is why schizophrenia is the key to this and not some other disease.


An interesting article. I still don’t see what it has to do with schizophrenia, which is a completely seperate disorder, any more than it has anything to do with Blue Rubber Bleb Nevus syndrome. I’m not even 100% sure there is a hereditary component to schizophrenia. There are many other diseases with a heriditary component. Do any others have a speculated evolutionary advantage?

I also don’t understand how or why the lack of an evolutionary advantage would say anything about the existence of a higher power. You do realize that most mutations which are inheritable are harmful rather than advantageous, right?

What does the existence of a possible evolutionary benefit to sociopathy say to you about the existence of god? I don’t see the connection.

If schizophrenia had an evolutionary benefit, why aren’t most people schizophrenic?

I think it’s pretty obvious what evolutionary advantages sociopathy might have if it was a hereditary condition, but I think we are all naturally ‘sociopaths’, it’s just that some of us learn and follow societies rules better than others.

There is as much evolutionary benefit to schizophrenia as there is to being born without arms.

If a disease doesn’t show until an age where you are or were (in the past ) likely to die anyway then it has no effect either way i.e. its benign.

This is the reason there are more ‘old age’ diseases that are fatal than ones for young kids.

Very interesting article, I am interested in this particular subject. There is also a theory that ADHD is not necessarily a “disorder” but a difference in temperment that is perhaps older than the current norm. You can read a little something about it here


As for the OP I do not understand how you can correlate sociopathy with schizophrenia. I think the article itself explains rather fully why the two cannot be compared in this context.


Oif. this is going badly, I obviously had not thought this out as well as I’d hoped. mods, go ahead and lock this sucker. I’ll be back in a week or two, after I’ve had time to ruminate, and maybe post a GQ topic or two. There is something there, I just need to clarify it into something cogent.

Hi Oldscratch,

Looks like I’m going to get to post before they close this thing down.

Seems like not everything has an evolutionary benefit, somethings just are and work or don’t work but hang on just the same. But here is a neat kind of twist on schizophrenia:

April 15, 2001
Reproductive Gerontology: Ask Not for Whom the Clock Ticks

MEN, take note: you, too, have a biological clock.
True, it does not tick toward the absolute deadline that ends women’s childbearing years. As notables like Tony Randall, Yasir Arafat, George Plimpton, Anthony Quinn, Clint Eastwood, Strom Thurmond and so, so many more
have demonstrated, men can father babies no matter how old they get. But there is a growing body of evidence that the fruit of aging loins is burdened with increased risk of a wide variety of gene-influenced illnesses. A study released last week raised the intriguing — if skeptically viewed —
possibility that some cases of schizophrenia fall into that category.

Full text:

Note it says increased risk, not that every case of schizophrenia has this particular causitive source.


I haven’t met anyone diagnosed as “mentally ill” who hasn’t had an unresolved childhood trauma at the core of their “illness”.

Many people enjoy riding horses but are oblivious to the fact they are only able to do so owing to the trauma sustained during “breaking” coupled with post trauma training.

Infants can be traumatized without even being touched.

In the case of mentally ill people post trauma training/psychological violence never stops and generally then becomes passed on to succeeding generations.

If you talk to psychiatric professionals on a personal level then I feel confident you’ll find they all eventually come to the realization that psychological violence is the root cause despite what the “official” line is.

IMHO “Mental Illness” has nothing to do with evolution.


ps A member of any species “trained” by Man is capable of becoming mentally ill - dogs can be made psychotic for example.

I read in my college anthropology textbook that schizophrenics had increased resistance to shock. They survived traumatic injuries and illness better than normal people.

Like sickle cell anemia, it doesn’t have to be pleasant to be adaptive. (Sickle cell anemia is controlled by a recessive gene. If you have both genes, you die young of sickle cell anemia. If you have only one, you have increased resistance to malaria, and sickle cell is found mostly in areas of Africa with high incidence of malaria.)

I forget the authors’ names, but a book,“Why We Get Sick”, addresses the possibility of mental illness as adaptive in nature.
As well, explanations of kids’ dislike of certain veggies and women’s morning sickness abound.
It’s very recent, and very much in print- try bn.com if you’d like a copy.

Happy Hunting!

I read somewhere that relatives of mentally ill people tend to be more creative. I guess if your brain circuits are more flexible, it’s easier to come up with new ideas, but it’s also easier for them to snap into some weird, abnormal configuration.

Homosexuality is inherited in most cases, though there are incidents of people turning homosexual due to psychiatric trauma or mental illness. In evolution, homosexuality has only one potential purpose in the over all survival of the species and that is population control. Average homosexuals do not breed, though they contribute to society as a whole.

It is also noted that incidents of all forms of homosexuality and schizophrenia increase during times of increased population, where elbow room is limited and people are forced to contend more with loss of privacy and individual control.

Schizophrenia has so many aspects the psychiatrists still do not understand it well, though they know it arises from a chemical imbalance in the brain, which usually shows up within the teens and 20s. People over 30 without any preexisting signs of schizophrenia rarely, if ever, develop it.

Uses in evolution? A wild card, I would think. Some very creative people have been schizophrenics. It is suspected in some circles that Joan of Ark was an active schizophrenic. Some people think schizophrenia might be the breakdown of all of a human’s normal separation of the Id, Ego and Superego. In the multiple personality stage, it is suspected that severe life experiences causes the self defensive compartmentalizing of various aspects of the personalities to allow the person to function, defend his or herself and breed. (Three faces of Eve, who currently has 21 documented personalities.)

It has been documented that if the connective tissue between the two hemispheres of a brain is severed, that something like two personalities can emerge with previously unlearned functions, like writing with both hands, accompanying them. This has led to a close investigation because when the two hemispheres are joined, they trade information and create one personality. Sever them, and they seem to develop two, with one being weaker and diffused. Current operations for severe neural disorders require removing 1 hemisphere, and the person survives, personality basically intact, though often with some control problems to over come, like a weakness in the limbs on the removed hemisphere’s control side or some lapses in speech or memory.

Schizophrenia could also be a form of population control for true schizophrenics, unless watched over, often die for various reasons, can go wild and kill people, become sociopathic, reclusive and might never breed, and, depending on the level of dementia, actually contribute great things to society. Certain forms can be controlled by medication, but they still tend to be often ‘different’ from normal people.

Think about the many prophets in the past who claim to have heard voices and to whom people listened, either meeting ruin in the long run or success, along with all of those other ancient mystics who professed to talk to the gods or the dead (excluding probably 90% who were absolute fakes, putting on a deliberate act). They might have been schizophrenic to some degree.

How many rulers were paranoid schizophrenics? That could lead to some real bloody battles. Some of the famous English Kings certainly seemed a bit paranoid schizophrenic.

But, lastly, it has been observed that when population pressures are low and communities more spread out, individual freedoms more available, that the incidents of schizophrenia decrease sharply. I would say that there are more schizophrenics in New York City, with it’s jammed up population in the million or so than in Road Kill, Texas where only 20,000 people live.

China, with it’s ever changing political oppression, social climate, high population and strict laws, probably has more schizophrenics than average nations. Then again, if the average Chinese person has limited education and exposure to other outside sources, might he not be ‘smart’ enough to develop schizophrenia because he has always lived with that society, experiencing nothing better? Food for thought.

Whew! Strained my brain on this diatrib. Sorry for the length.

Eh…individual freedoms are more available to people in small towns? Not according to the small-town folk I know.

I agree with your point, though, that “holy people” of the past often had what we’d call psychotic symptoms. Maybe today’s schizophrenics would have been shamans in another life.

I’ve seen schizophrenic children in special ed classes that you would not follow to the end of the street never mind lead you in prayer to fight the great bears or evil neighboring paleos.

IMO leaders and shamen came from those individuals who were more atune to those around them, not less.


Traditional societies had shamans and people who were visionaries and more in touch with the unconscious. Such people had a useful function. they could be shamans and witchdoctors, priests and prophets.

Native Americans and other native would take drugs or go on vision quests to obtain visions from the unconscious.

They learned a lot from such visions.

In our society, such people are labeled and condemned.

By individual freedoms, I mean, well things like the freedom not to have to listen to your neighbors stereo, or their fights, or people driving by your window with loud music playing, of having some stranger on the street yell at you because he’s mad at the world, or step in human pee in an ally, stand shoulder to shoulder in a subway car, ride a bus stinking of BO with around a dozen people hacking up their lungs and spreading God knows what and having everyone watch what you do in public and being forced to at least pretend to like your neighbors. That sort of stuff.

Today’s pressure on workers to produce at maximum and beyond, plus the knowledge that you can be fired at any time, having to contend with the company back stabbers, squealers and hanger-on’s plus having to dress the part, drive the acceptable car, have the proper cell phone, the proper laptop, the proper wireless service, and be in the proper clubs can be an enormous strain.

In NYC, waiters will chase you out onto the street if they feel you did not tip them properly, people will insult you in stores, on the street, in bathrooms, cops will snarl at you, and so many people will try to rip you off that you start trusting no one.

That kind of pressure.

Schizophrenics do not always have to act like loons. It is very possible that some of the ancient soothsayers were schizophrenics, more controlled than usual, who did not resist the voices in their heads and believed them divine. Not all schizophrenics hear voices or the ‘murmur of a crowd’ in their heads. This type is often initially confused as having other disorders, and may have, combined with the schizophrenia.

I know of a girl who seemed perfectly fine, except that right after having her lover dump his load in her, she had to get up and take a full shower immediately. When she came back, if they did it again, she had to take a complete shower once more. It seems more like obsessive compulsion, but she was diagnosed as a low level schizophrenic. Some seem just fine, with odd ‘quirks’. You might be surprised just how many of those couples who constantly argue over everything, tick each other off at the slightest provocation and seem never to let go of a grudge have a partner who is schizophrenic.

You might be surprised to find out how many schizophrenics pop up in organized religion, especially with its so many disputing branches and conflicting ways to worship. Some forms of religious fanaticism could be forms of schizophrenia. (It certainly has it’s quota of megalomaniacs, depressives, fanatics, emotional cripples and psychopaths.)

How many antiabortion fanatics do you think might be schizophrenic? In the name of religion, you stop the abortions by talking away human rights, freedom of choice, freedom of religion, the right to privacy, and even commit murder. Save a life by taking a life. Not real sound judgment.

Sometimes I figure politicians might foster deliberate schizophrenia by their ability to double think, twist laws, morals, justice, play people against each other, speak for an hour and say nothing, support good laws openly while secretly passing bad ones and, when caught, declaring with injured feelings that they’re not only innocent, but everyone else is to blame.

That last paragraph made my head hurt.