Alright, let me start by admitting that I really debated writing this one. I’m a politician, and a pretty progressive/Democratic one at that, so as you can imagine, I am pretty much diametrically opposed to…err, everything Donald Trump stands for. As a result, the last thing I want to do is to be accused of “bringing politics” into a mental health discussion, something that I legitimately think happens too often. I’m going to do my best to stick with legitimate, reputable sources as I discuss this issue, and try to approach it from the most objective angle possible.
The short answer to this question is yes, the President of the United States can be damaging your mental health. That, of course, depends on a variety of factors.
Let’s start in my favorite place, Twitter:
Well, that was stressful. And yes, there are plenty more. I will say that, in my personal life, I’ve repeatedly joked that this election turned me from an elected official into a therapist: I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken with who are suffering from Trump-related anxiety.
In the immediate aftermath of the election, 24/7 crisis lines found themselves overwhelmed with calls from frightened individuals. Then there is this Daily Dot article, which led with the subtitle, “If you’re a liberal with a history of depression or trauma, this presidency could be more damaging than you thought.”
From the perspective of a therapist, there’s no doubt:
Several patients with histories of sexual abuse and self-image concerns told me that they experienced significant increases in anxiety. One reported that the constant news coverage triggered memories of her past sexual abuse, and another suffered frequent crying spells and difficulty sleeping.
Quoting multiple therapists and psychiatrists, the article notes that many clinical professionals have had patients tell them that they are experiencing additional anxiety, worry and depression as a direct impact of Trump’s rise to the Presidency. This effect is particularly pronounced for members of threatened classes, such as people of color, the LGBT community or other religious minorities, many of whom are already more likely to suffer from mental illness.
Then there is this survey, conducted by the website CareDash. The data below is copied directly from the survey:
- More than half (59%) of Americans are at least somewhat anxious because of the November election results. The national survey findings mirror an online poll of CareDash newsletter subscribers which found that 55% of respondents are at least somewhat anxious because of the November election results.
- Nearly three-fourths (71%) of people 18-44 are at least somewhat anxious because of the November election results.
- Half (50%) of Americans are looking for ways to cope with the negative political environment.
- Over one-third (39%) of Americans are avoiding social media to reduce their anxiety around the political comments.
Another survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association, found that 52% of Americans believed the 2016 elections were a very or somewhat significant source of stress in their lives.
It seems pretty clear: Yes, Donald Trump has had a negative effect on the nation’s mental health.
So, all of this begs the question: What can you do if you are suffering from Trump Anxiety?
This Lifehacker article and this article from Psychology Today lay it out pretty nicely: Don’t just worry. Channel that worry into something real and tangible.
- Ask yourself some key questions about what you can and cannot do.
- Get active in politics or other social causes – ones that you care about – that will help you reestablish a sense of control in your life.
- Stop reading the news all the time. There is a difference between being informed and being obsessed.
- Connect with others; family, friends and people who, like you, are under serious stress.
- Write down your anxiety. Don’t just let it be free-floating – write what is troubling you, and use the information you gain from that writing to fight back.
The elections, and the aftermath, have been extremely stressful to some. If you are one of those people, know you aren’t alone. If you aren’t, I hope this entry gave you some perspective: There are real people who are truly suffering as a direct result of the election and its aftermath.
As always, I’d love your thoughts in the comments below!