Jordan Peterson takes antidepressants

Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, author of the best-selling 12 Rules for Life, said a 2012 interview (above) that he takes antidepressants and expects to take them for the rest of his life.

I don’t have any current information, but my guess is that this is still true.

His daughter Mikhaila, who was 20 back then, also said she takes antidepressants.  Peterson believes he is subject to a genetic flaw that his grandfather and father also had.

This runs counter to the argument of British journalist Johann Hari, whose new book, Lost Connections, was reviewed by me in my previous post.  Hari said people are depressed not because things are wrong in their brains, but because things are wrong in their lives, which is often due to things that are wrong with society in general.

All three generations of Peterson appeared to have everything that makes life living—meaningful work, friends, loving marriages, children and the respect of their communities.

Yet Jordan Peterson’s grandfather and father went to pieces in middle age, and Peterson himself thinks that he might have suffered the same fate if antidepressants hadn’t been available.

Mikhaila, the daughter, did go through a lot of suffering.  She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis from a young age and had to have hip and ankle replacements.  But she didn’t suffer alone.  She had the support of parents and friends.

So none of the Petersons fit the profile of typical depressed people as reported in Lost Connections.

Hari reported on clinical studies comparing patients who’ve been given antidepressants with patients who’ve been given placebos and patients who’ve been given nothing.

They indicate that 50 percent of the apparent benefit of antidepressants comes from the placebo effect and 25 percent from people simply getting better on their own.

That, of course, leaves a remaining 25 percent who actually were helped.  Hari said nobody understands how this works, because the effects of the various antidepressants are widely different.  Some increase serotonin, some decrease it, some increase or decrease dopamine and other biochemicals.  Also, many of them have bad side effects.

Peterson said that antidepressants work best for people who outwardly have great lives and are depressed for no apparent reason.   If you are depressed because you are unemployed, divorced or lonely, antidepressants won’t fix you, he said; you need to look for a job, a new mate and new friends.

My own guess is that Peterson and his forebears may have been depressed partly because of burnout.   Grandfather Peterson, a blacksmith, and father Peterson, a school teachers, lived in Fairview, a small town in a remote part of northern Alberta.  This was a harsh environment to begin with, and they were community leaders who took on multiple responsibilities.

Jordan Peterson himself loaded himself up with more responsibilities than many people, myself included, could have borne.  He had his teaching job, his clinical practice and his scholarly work, plus dealing with the continuing and seemingly unending crisis of his daughters’ illness.

It wouldn’t be surprising to me if the Peterson men cracked under the strains.  But who knows?  Human life is a mystery.

The video above is from a 2017 lecture, the one below is from 2009.  Jordan Peterson looks younger and more fit in the more recent video than he does in older video.   His daughter, Mikhaila wrote on her blog that this is due to his low-carbohydrate diet. which recently switched to an all-meat diet.   Click on the links for details.

Jordan Peterson and Johann Hari are very different, both in temperament and in political attitudes.  One says we need to change ourselves.  The other says we need to change the conditions in which we live.  I see these views as complementary, not contradictory.  It’s Yin (Hari) and Yang (Peterson).


In Search of Utopia for Lobsters Like Us by Oliver Waters for Quilette.

The Jordan Peterson Meat-Only Diet by James Hamblin for The Atlantic.  [Added 8/29/2018]

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2 Responses to “Jordan Peterson takes antidepressants”

  1. peteybee Says:

    Just based on a few youtube clips… his philosophy, his style of cutting through the niceties and taking the brutally direct route in analyzing society and human development and gender relations and the stuff he’s become famous for; the whole “it’s a cruel world” lecture; samsara, dukkha; being a psychologist and absorbing all his clients’ woes…

    It’s interesting to think of his presentation as a response to being overwhelmed by the limitless frustration of humanity, both near and far.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Julius Says:

    It’s kind of ironic that Peterson takes antidepressants. Because he himself is another person claims that if you are depressed, you can solve that problem by having responsibilities. Also, none of his 12 “Rules” involves taking some time to consider the possibility that you might need a psychiatrist. “Nope, if you have depression problems, just follow my advice and you’ll be fine! But my own advice won’t work for me…”


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