The divide in the nation’s ideology on political views is sickening, but could it really be making you mentally ill?
Perhaps it is a symptom of increased news outlets, social media, and mainstream media, but there appears to be growing anxiety related to American politics, and specifically the decisions of President Donald Trump. What counselors and other mental health professionals are witnessing is a growing angst about world affairs. And because that angst is gaining so much traction in the psyche of the American public, it’s even been granted a name – the “Trump Anxiety Disorder”.
Is Political Anxiety Something New?
There has always been fear of what the leaders of the world will do and the decisions they make. And also, how those decisions can impact the average person. But never before have people become so immersed that it is disrupting their day-to-day. “Trump Anxiety Disorder” is affecting the masses like never before in history. But is it really all President Trump’s doing, or are there other factors in play?
Politically Divisive Climate… Healthy for Noone
All you have to do is open up your Facebook account to see the derisive rhetoric from friends, family, and strangers. The negative headlines are abundant, as is the real potential that what Donald Trump says he is going to do, he just might. Although there have always been fears about what a president will do, Trump’s “say it as it is” style might be a little much for the average American to handle. Predecessors had a much “gentler” speech and were more swayed by public opinion. The anxiety might be stemming from the perception that Mr. Trump has a hot temper, has his hand on the button, and appears not to be afraid to use it.
On the Chopping Block
Every administration has their cross to bear and their hurdle to overcome, but never before have people felt the realization that the Supreme Court might overturn significant issues like abortion. Or, that immigration policies might stand, and people will lose their homes and their families if here illegally. What was once just a campaign stump speech for many elected officials, has become a real fight for Donald Trump. Perhaps it is that people aren’t used to real change from their leaders. In the past, there has always been talk of what to do with every newly elected president, but rarely do major upheavals actually occur.
It is Affecting Opponents and Proponents Alike
It isn’t just those who are opposed to Trump who are feeling the sting of anxiety due to the political atmosphere. It is also those who are in direct favor of his policies. Those who oppose him are worried that he will make good on his promises and take the things that they cherish or jeopardize our national security by angering the world stage. While those who believe in what Trump is doing are suffering as well. Those who aren’t fearful of his plans to change things are feeling isolated from the majority of those who don’t trust or care for Mr. Trump very much.
The Psychological Parent
No one likes to admit that the president is a psychological parent figure who is supposed to keep us safe, guide us, and make sure that we are taken care of. Without that psychological parent, or with them being someone who is erratic or unpredictable, it is leaving many feeling shaky in their own lives and fearful of what is around the bend. Many feel that there is no one listening to their wants and that no one is on their side.
The Rise of Trump Anxiety Disorder
In 2017, there was an essay written by Harvard Medical School in collaboration with the Yale School of Medicine related to a condition called the “Trump Anxiety Disorder”. Researchers classified the disorder as being separate and different from generalized anxiety disorders, precisely because it was related solely to the political unrest that people felt in American society. The unpredictable nature of Trump and his decisions are leaving people feeling anxious and insecure about their future and the safety of it.
What are the Symptoms of Trump Anxiety Disorder?
Those who have been labeled with Trump Anxiety Disorder feel as if they have lost control over their own lives and fate. There is also a pending hopelessness and fret about what the future will bring. The constant incoming messages from social media are only further exasperating the condition, with those suffering are spending hours on end listening to the negative commentary and being immersed in a media frenzy. The flip side to Trump Anxiety Disorder has been termed the Trump Derangement Syndrome, as though it is an illness to be pro-Trump. So both sides are losing the mental health wellness battle.
Stress for Those Supporting a Trump Administration
After the election of 2016, the American Psychological Association recorded a spike of anxiety with a more than five percent increase in those experiencing clinical anxiety specifically related to politics. According to the AMA, that is the highest that anxiety has run in over a decade. Also, a survey conducted in February of 2017, concluded that as many as two-thirds of all Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, admitted that they were highly concerned and anxious about the future of the United States.
The most telling statistic, however, was that there was a strong correlation between media consumption and a rise in stress and anxiety. Which might point to more factors than just President Trump. The bombardment is media messages us doing no one any mental favors. Also, the American Psychological Association reports that a person’s political affiliation can be a huge factor in their experience of anxiety. Nearly 72% of Democrats admitted that the political climate was increasing their anxiety when compared to 26% of Republicans.
What is Driving so Much Anxiety?
Each generation has its own environmental fears. In the 60s, it was the Bay of Pigs and drills in the classroom to “duck and cover”. The 80s brought a Cold War and the distrust of the Soviet Union. A decade ago, it was 9/11, and the threat of more violence in America. Collective fear about the future and the uncertainty of is not a new thing. What is new is the lack of cohesive support behind the leader of the US and his decisions, win, lose, or draw. Never before has there been such a great distrust of a leader, nor such turmoil about his choices and actions.
Social Media’s Role
Social media is quite arguably the most significant societal game-changer around the globe. With the constant stream and flow of derisive negativity, incoming fear-mongering, and the isolation that is becoming commonplace for many people, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find safety and hide from all the anxiety-provoking fear. In the past, leaders made the decisions, and the public was generally unaware of their every move and the potential fall-out of it. That is not to say that Donald Trump’s personality is not driving an increase in anxiety, but the immediacy of messages and the continuation of them, day and night, is only poking an anxiety bear.
So What can the American Public Do About it?
The best way to deal with political anxiety is to tone it down and try to take a step back from the frenzy of media messages. Taking time to unplug, be with family and friends, and stop trying to control something that is entirely out of your control, is the only way to decrease the anxiety that you feel. If you continue to immerse yourself in it, it will only lead to more feelings of helplessness and unpredictability.
Strategies to Combat Political Anxiety
To cope with the influx of messages and the feeling of being out of control, you have to take steps to remove yourself from the situation and see it for what it is. If you are experiencing political anxiety, these are some things to try:
Although it is easy to get caught up in the hype and rhetoric, you have to start to ground yourself in what is real and what is not. Most of the decisions made at the government level will likely have no bearing on you or the way that you live. With each new day, a scare is introduced by the media, but think logically about how many things have actually come to fruition. And consider how any of it will affect you personally. Once you put it into terms of reality, consider this, worrying about the future won’t change it; it is only a whole lot of wasted energy.
Limit the amount of news and media that you watch. Most of what it put out on media coverage is just suspect. So why subject yourself to things that might or might not happen or might be really nothing more than a rumor? The more you watch, the more anxious you will be about the messages you hear. Take time with family and friends and see what is real around you instead of looking for the next news flash that might not be anything more than theatrics.
Presume That People are Inherently Good
The political atmosphere in America has pitted friend against friend and family member against family member. But what we have lost is the realization that most people are inherently good and want the best for their families and the world around them. When in opposition with someone, it is easy to vilify them and see them as the enemy.
But in a political argument, there is no enemy; it is just varying ways of looking at things. If you stop feeling as if those opposed to you are trying to hurt you in some way, or have malicious intent, then you won’t feel so threatened by the political atmosphere or those who are politically opposed to you. Try not to be suspicious or see malicious intent where there likely isn’t any. We are all in the same boat together, and if you assume everyone wants to live free and happy, then it takes a whole lot of animosity of your feelings towards others who have a different political view.
Although fearing the future is nothing new, America has a growing distrust issue with fellow American and the leader of the Free World. Although not entirely media-driven, the sensationalism of journalism is not helping calm anyone’s fear or anxiety about the future. Just the opposite, it is meant to excite the political atmosphere up a notch.
If you are experiencing Trump Anxiety Disorder, whether you are for or against his decisions, it might be time to unplug, put things into perspective, and start viewing your fellow American in a different light. There is nothing we individually can do to change the future besides work together and think positively.