Jordan Peterson’s opinion on Antidepressants

So, the question is, how do you differentiate the utility of behavioural/psychotherapeutic treatments for conditions like depression Versus medical treatments? Okay, so the first thing I would say is, um, don’t underestimate the utility of medical interventions. Depression is a catastrophy. It carries with it a very high suicide rate. And it also levels people out, and it’s really hard on their families. And so, and it’s physiologically extraordinarily damaging. And so, if you’re in a depressive state, and it’s severe, you could try an antidepressant. You’ll know in a month if it works. If it works, well, maybe it’ll help you get your life together. Like, we could say, well, maybe you’re depressed because your life isn’t very well together. Could be. Sometimes people are depressed, and their life is just… It isn’t fine, because no one’s life is fine. Everyone’s life is a tragedy. But sometimes people have their lives in order as much as you could expect anyone to have. They have friends, they have an intimate relationship, they have a career that they like, you know, they’re qualified, industrious people, working hard on what they’re doing, and really, playing a minimum number of games with themselves and they’re terribly depressed. Antidepressant, man. Sometimes that will just fix it. And so, hooray! Like, you’re a biological entity. If there’s something out there that can help you strengthen yourself so that you can prevail, great! And you know, people… you hear, ‘everyone takes antidepressants, you know, everyone’s taking them.’ It’s like, no one takes those bloody things without serious consideration. Half the time I spend with my clients when they’re depressed is often a 2 years long attempt to try to get them to tentatively try an antidepressant. Because they’re so guilty that they’re relying on an external crutch to sort out their lives, that they can’t even tolerate it. But, you know, I say, well look, man, what if you had diabetes? You’re not going to take your insulin? It’s like, you got stressed, you blew out at your weakest point, that’s what happens when you get stressed; if there’s something out there that might help you, it’s like, try it, for god’s sake. You’ll know in a month. And you just stop if it doesn’t work. Now, having said that, you want to do a multidimensional analysis. It’s like, well, do you have any friends? Do you have an intimate relationship, or are you pursuing one? Do you have a reasonable career? Are you as educated as you are intelligent? Do you have something useful to do with your time outside of work? Do you have a drug or alcohol problem? Are their other behavioural issues like sleep dysregulation or lack of eating that are contributing to the pathology? You want to differentiate all of that, and wherever you can make a behavioural intervention, so much the better. But sometimes, too, you’re dealing with people whose lives are so wrecked that they don’t even know where to start. They’re different from the ones who have everything in order. And you say, well, try this, man, maybe you won’t cut your throat in the next month. Because if you’re dead, it’s going to be hard to work with you. And so… so… medical interventions, anything! If you’re sick, you do what’s necessary to get better. And you leave your pride behind if you have to. And that says nothing about the utility of behavioural intervention. You want to hit the problem with everything you have at your disposal. But some antidepressants, especially for people whose lives are together and who are depressed, antidepressants can be absolutely miraculous. So… you know, you hear about the clinical evidence in your favour being iffy, and that’s partly because the diagnosis of the depression isn’t very well formulated It’s very different to have a terrible life than to be depressed. And antidepressants can only help you so much if you have a terrible life. So… yeah.


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