Does Donald Trump Need Psychiatric Therapy?
Hillary Clinton herself described Donald Trump as “temperamentally unfit” to hold the highest office in the US. To many American voters and people around the world, her claim is valid. Yet in recent weeks, mental health professionals have been speaking out about his need for therapy.
- Psychiatric professionals give damning verdict of Trump’s mental state
- What is narcissism?
- Obama beseeched to take action prior to inauguration of successor
- Do all psychologists agree?
Trump “is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.” These are the words of John D. Gartner, clinical psychologist and former Johns Hopkins professor who started a Change.org petition headlined “Mental Health Professionals Declare Trump Is Mentally Ill And Must Be Removed.”
Other psychologists have followed suit and a group called ‘Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism’ has accrued thousands of members. Their manifesto warned that his behavior was not normal and that public should be concerned:
“Scapegoating and banishing groups of people who are seen as threats, including immigrants and religious minorities; degrading, ridiculing, and demeaning rivals and critics; fostering a cult of the Strong Man who appeals to fear and anger; promises to solve our problems if we just trust in him; reinvents history and has little concern for truth (and) sees no need for rational persuasion.”
Here are the 9 traits associated with the illness, as described by the American Psychiatry Association. If a patient has 5 of the traits, they are considered to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
- Is inter-personally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
It would be hard to deny that the President exhibits at least some of these signs of the disorder.
Harvard professors’ Obama request
In a desperate attempt to draw attention to Trump’s alleged disorder in December, three mental health professionals sent a letter to the outgoing president, requesting that the president-elect be subjected to a psychiatric therapy.
Dear President Obama,
We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the mental stability of our President-Elect. Professional standards do not permit us to venture a diagnosis for a public figure whom we have not evaluated personally. Nevertheless, his widely reported symptoms of mental instability — including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality — lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office. We strongly recommend that, in preparation for assuming these responsibilities, he receive a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation by an impartial team of investigators.
Judith Herman, M.D. Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Nanette Gartrell, M.D. Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco (1988-2011)
Dee Mosbacher, M.D., Ph.D. Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Community Health Systems, University of California, San Francisco (2005-2013)
Is the verdict unanimous?
With the volume of diagnoses increasing daily, one would be forgiven for thinking that mental health professionals were in total agreement. However, Allen Frances, a professor emeritus at Duke disagrees entirely. “What’s going on is bullshit. Everyone has a personality,” Frances says. “It’s not wrong to have a personality; it’s not mentally ill to have a personality. It’s only a disorder when it causes extreme distress, suffering, and impairment.”
His argument is that a disorder can only be described as such when it has manifested in some sort of life changing crash. “They’ll lose their jobs, their spouses and children will abandon them, and their “bubble of grandiosity [will] burst,” he says. “They feel absolutely miserable, can’t function, can’t face the world.”
If Donald Trump has a narcissistic disorder he has, as yet, not experienced this downturn – few would argue the position of Commander in Chief to be a nadir. But the chorus of indignation at his potentially dangerous decision making cannot be avoided. Furthermore, if the opinions are correct one can only imagine what Trump’s opinion of them, and subsequent reaction, will be.