Catherine Giordano is a writer and public speaker who often speaks out on political matters.
A New Mental Disorder?
What Is Trump Anxiety Disorder?
Ever since Donald Trump became president of the United States I’ve been feeling depressed and anxious with an ever-present sense of foreboding. I thought it was just me.
Then I read the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. The first section of the book consisted of several essays by mental health experts discussing Donald Trump’s many personality disorders. Even though I was well aware of these, seeing them collected in this book really brought home the dangers of having a president who is literally “crazy,” in that he suffers from many serious personality disorders.
The second section of the book discussed why psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have a “duty to warn.” When someone is a danger to themselves or others, professional ethics say they must warn the affected parties. In this case, the “affected parties” include the entire world.
But it was the third section of the book that really shook me. It was about how Trump was affecting the mental health of individual people. They wrote about how many of their patients and acquaintances (and they themselves) were having the same feelings that I was.
In one of the essays in the book, Jennifer Contarino Panning, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist, called it “Trump Anxiety Disorder.”
How Is Trump Anxiety Disorder Affecting People?
As soon as I wake up in the morning, I put on the TV to check the news. I need to check to make sure World War III did not start while I was asleep. I breathe a sigh of relief when I find out that it has not, but that relief is short lived. The relief doesn’t last because even though World War III has not begun, the news is very, very bad. I see America’s freedoms being eroded and the entire world being destabilized by Trump’s presidency.
Betty P. Teng, L.M.S.W., a trauma specialist, described the symptoms her patients were feeling as the possible harbingers of post-traumatic stress disorder. She listed some of the symptoms as anxiety, lack of focus, hyper-vigilance, irritability, and emotional volatility. People seem suffused with a sense of unreality, asking themselves, “Can this really be happening?”
Ms.Teng described it as being similar to the symptoms observed among New Yorkers after the 9/11 attack. Only the election of Trump is worse, because 9/11 was a finite event enacted by an outside source. In contrast, the presidency of Donald Trump is a never-ending onslaught of aggression and it is perpetuated by our fellow Americans. She calls it “Post-Trump Stress Disorder.”
Which Part of the Population Is Most Affected?
People who have previously been the victims of trauma are most affected. Trump’s behavior mirrors the behavior of past abusers—an abusive parent, a bully, or a sexual assaulter. Trump’s outrages deliver “neurobiological overstimulation” and can lead to flashbacks, heightened anxiety, panic attacks, and a disruption of normal functioning.
I have suffered this type of emotional trauma in my past which may explain why my hands started to tremble, my mouth got dry, and my throat tightened as I typed this. It may also explain why I feel so personally betrayed. I have discovered that some of my friends voted for Trump. It was like a dagger to the heart. (I have never felt this way in past elections when my candidate lost.) I don’t want to associate with these friends anymore. And I find myself very distrustful—perhaps some of my other friends also voted for Trump. I don’t want to ask because it is too painful to know.
I also find myself very frightened to be living in a country where nearly half voted for a man like Donald Trump. How could they not see how unqualified he was on every dimension—experience, character, and temperament. I worry that I live in a country where so many can idolize this man or ignore his faults. I thought that Americans were basically good decent people, even if they might have different views on public policy. Were these people driven by hate, misogyny, greed, or just stupidity? When I’m in a public place, I can’t help but think that every other person I meet falls into one of those categories. It terrifies me. I think of Nazi Germany—can it happen here? (My mother was a Holocaust survivor and maybe that heightens my fear.)
As would be expected, Donald Trump’s presidency is having a particular effect on the populations that he is specifically targeting—immigrants, GLBT people, members of the Islamic faith and those whose ethnic heritage is from majority-Islamic countries, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, economically-disadvantaged Americans, and people who do not have employer-provided medical insurance.
Trump Has Many Mental Issues
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Why Does Trump Trigger Anxiety?
I wonder why everyone does not have Trump Anxiety Disorder. Here are a few reasons to be anxious.
- Every day there are new revelations about the ties between Donald Trump and Russia, a country that is an avowed enemy of the United States. Do we have a Russian mole in the White House? Is he actually “Putin’s Puppet” as Hillary Clinton called him in the third presidential debate in 2016?”
- Most of Trump’s cabinet and political appointees are rich millionaires and billionaires who are using their public office to destroy the interests they are supposed to be promoting and protecting and to further enrich themselves. What happened to drain the swamp?
- Trump’s actions are destructive to America.He has brought his unscrupulous business dealings to the presidency. His so called “Tax and Jobs Bill” will enrich himself and his family and other millionaires/billionaires while forcing the poor and middle class to pay more in taxes. It will not create jobs; just the opposite, it is likely to bring on another recession just as George W. Bush’s economic policies did.
- Trump’s behavior is erratic. Remember when he fired missiles into Syria on a whim. He insults foreign leaders—alienating our allies and provoking our enemies. (“Little Rocket Man” may be pushed too far and use some of those nuclear weapons he has been testing.)
- Donald Trump is a compulsive liar. He lies constantly even when the facts are clear and well-known. He can’t seem to help himself; he lies about things big and small. We can’t trust anything he says. (Note: When he says “Believe Me”, that is a "tell"—he's lying.)
- His presidency is a hot mess. Many positions, particularly in the State Department are unfilled, affecting the ability of to run the country and conduct diplomacy. There is constant turnover in his cabinet and top staff. And more turnover is very likely because several highly-placed individuals are likely to be charged with crimes as Special Counsel’s Mueller’s Investigation continues.
- Trump has many personality disorders—severe personality disorders. The above-referenced book, and especially the chapter by John D. Gartner, a clinical psychologist, (Donald Trump is A)Bad, B)Mad, C)All of the Above), lays out the case. Malignant narcissistic personality disorder, sociopathic personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, extreme hedonism, megalomania, hyper-manic disorder, and possible dementia or early stage Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to pathological lying, Trump’s behavior is typical of a bully, a sadist, and someone without empathy or remorse. He may also be delusional. According to Gartner, “Trump lives on the border of psychosis.”
- Trump is spiraling out of control. Psychiatrists call it decompensation. It occurs when increased stress, on a person who was previously able to function more or less normally despite severe personality disorders, causes him to “fall apart.” We can see Trump, whose mental health was precarious to start with, unraveling before our eyes.
Is Aberrant Behavior Becoming Normalized?
When people live in an environment of aberrant and abusive behavior, there is a tendency to come to see this behavior as normal. It is a coping mechanism.
I am concerned that too much of Trump’s behavior is being what is called “normalized.” It is excused as a lack of political correctness, or exaggeration, or negotiating tactics. We must continually remember: This is not normal!
I find it interesting that before Trump came onto the political scene, I had never heard the word “normalized.” Maybe it is a new word or maybe it was never needed before Trump.
How Can Trump Anxiety Disorder Be Treated?
The most obvious answer to the question is:Trump must be removed from office. I’m afraid we will have to wait for that and when it comes it will bring America to the breaking point. More reasons for anxiety!
In the above referenced book, Thomas Singer says, “It now feels as though we have all been groped by the tentacles of Trump’s octopus-like psyche, which has invaded our own and threatens to tighten its squeeze for several years.”
People, like me, who are in the grip of Trump Anxiety Disorder, become obsessed with the news. The constant bombardment of bad news worsens our anxiety, yet we can’t stay away from the news for fear we may miss something. We feel that if we know what is going on we are in control somehow.
The mental health professionals recommend staying away from the news. If you are suffering from Trump Anxiety Disorder, maybe you can cut down on the news. I can’t. I guess I keep hoping that maybe there will be some good news.
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Don't have time to read the book? Watch this video.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you have an explanation for how so many people voted for and still support him including Republicans? And why aren't Democrats visually standing together in media to rebuke him?
Answer: Your first question about why people voted for Trump is a very complicated question to answer. I'll try to list a few of the reasons.
1. Some of Trump's voters are die-hard Republicans. They vote for the Republican on the ticket no matter what.
2. Some people voted for him because they like the very things that make me sick. He acts out their fantasies. The misogynists, racists, homophobes, xenophobes, and bullies were thrilled to have a candidate that unabashedly expressed the views they used to have to keep private.
3. Some of Trump's voters did not have a very clear picture of who he was. He starred in a reality TV show where he played a successful businessman. People thought he was the character he played.
4. Some people have very negative views about government. Trump promised radical change, and that appealed to some people.
5. Russia interfered in the election to help Donald Trump. It is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Social media was hijacked to exploit differences among Americans and to spread ugly false rumors about Hillary Clinton. There have already been 20 indictments and five guilty pleas for crimes related to this, and it is only the first year.
6. Hillary Clinton is not a good campaigner. She also took "the high road" and never tried to match Trump insult for insult. It made her seem weak, but it actually takes tremendous strength to keep your cool and stay out of the gutter. Hillary also likes to play it safe; she was afraid that if she hit back too hard, she would look like a shrew. It was a classic case of "damned if you do, damned if you don't."
7. The ridiculous email scandal hurt Hillary. The FBI investigation showed that no crimes were committed, but James Comey broke the rules and publicly smeared Hillary. Bernie Sanders also smeared Hillary about the money she earned for speeches. She did nothing illegal, and the payments she received were in line with what other former Secretaries of State received. Far from being crooked, Hillary was one of the most honest people ever to run for president.
8. Lastly, the outdated Electoral College tilted the election to Trump. If a total of 78,000 votes in three key states had gone the other way, Hillary would be president. Also, bear in mind, she won 3 million more votes than Trump, so American voters actually preferred Hillary.
Now to your second question about the Democratic response. You seem to think that the Democrats are not rebuking Trump which is entirely untrue. They are all but screaming their objections from the rooftops. I don't see what more they could be doing. Keep in mind Republicans are in control of Congress. Your question should be, "Why aren't Republicans rebuking him?"
© 2017 Catherine Giordano