An introduction to evolutionary psychiatry

Dr Geoff Lawrence-Smith and Dr Paul St John-Smith

60 minutes


April 2023

Learning module

CPD domain:
Clinical, Academic


The significance of evolutionary theory to biomedical sciences generally remains underappreciated among psychiatrists and medical peers. Whereas contemporary psychiatry’s biopsychosocial model asks how psychiatric disorders arise, evolutionary psychiatry adds the profound Darwinian question of why these disorders exist at all.

Evolutionary science helps us re-evaluate psychiatric epidemiology, genetics, biochemistry and psychology, using insights from comparative animal evolution, ethology, culture, philosophy and other humanities.

Evolutionary psychiatry investigates what it means to be human through the study of the functions of the mind-brain. It seeks to explain the persistence of certain heritable traits (syndromes, defences, emotions, cognition and behaviours) that are shaped by selection and other evolutionary processes.

Within evolutionary psychiatry, we consider our human interactions with modern environments to illuminate causation, prevention and humanistic treatments for persistent mental distress and disorder.

This module aims to introduce the concept of evolutionary psychiatry and its fundamental principles and practical applications before signposting you to further resources to increase your knowledge of this exciting approach.


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