Oct 04

“The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump”: Psych Experts

The only people who aren’t allowed to comment on Donald Trump’s mental health are the people who are most expert and qualified to do it. John D. Gartner, PhD, a contributor to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, regarding the Goldwater Rule (Baltimore Sun)

For those who’ve been looking for extra validation that Trump isn’t fit for office, the time has come via The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President by Bandy X. Lee, MD, M.Div., and many other contributors from the mental health field.

Concerned about America’s well-being, these experts believe it’s not only fair to analyze this particular public figure, it’s their obligation.

Bill Moyers (Mother Jones) interviewed the foreword’s author, Robert Jay Lifton, who establishes a belief that the ethically mandated “duty to warn” supercedes the Goldwater Rule. “We have a duty to warn on an individual basis if we are treating someone who may be dangerous to herself or to others—a duty to warn people who are in danger from that person. We feel it’s our duty to warn the country about the danger of this president. ”

It’s not all about the question of mental illness. “It’s really a question of what psychological and other traits render one unfit or dangerous.” More from Lifton:

…I’ve focused on what professionally I call solipsistic reality. Solipsistic reality means that the only reality he’s capable of embracing has to do with his own self and the perception by and protection of his own self. And for a president to be so bound in this isolated solipsistic reality could not be more dangerous for the country and for the world. In that sense, he does what psychotics do. Psychotics engage in, or frequently engage in a view of reality based only on the self. He’s not psychotic, but I think ultimately this solipsistic reality will be the source of his removal from the presidency.

For excerpts from essays authored by Gail Sheehy, Philip Zimbardo, Rosemary Sword, Dr. Lance Dodes, and Dr. James Gilligan for The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, you can check this Newsweek link.

Some book quotes courtesy of Carlos Lozada‘s review in The Washington Post:

  • Lance Dodes, MD: “Mr. Trump’s sociopathic characteristics are undeniable. They create a profound danger for America’s democracy and safety. Over time these characteristics will only become worse, either because Mr. Trump will succeed in gaining more power and more grandiosity with less grasp on reality, or because he will engender more criticism producing more paranoia, more lies, and more enraged destruction.”
  • John D. Gartner: “History will not be kind to a profession that aided the rise of an American Hitler through its silence.”
  • Michael Tansey, PhD: “…(T)here is considerable evidence to suggest that absolute tyranny is DT’s wet dream.”

Tansey writes in The HuffPost of an upcoming action on October 14th: “a coordinated multi-city town hall event across the country under the banner of Duty to Warn (http://adutytowarn.org/), a rapidly expanding group of over 4,000 mental health professionals alarmed about the extreme psychological instability of the most powerful man on the planet.”

Gartner is the psychologist responsible for a Change.org petition aiming for the removal of Trump as president that’s now been signed by over 63,000. He “describes Trump as a ‘malignant narcissist,’ a condition that includes paranoia, anti-social behavior, sadism and other traits along with narcissism” (John Fritze, Baltimore Sun). 

Whereas the issue of whether Trump is mentally unfit or simply not of good character may not be adequately addressed in this book, reviewer Sharon Begley (STAT) gives Gartner some kudos: “…Gartner’s ‘Mad? Bad? Or All of the Above?’ takes a stab at this, but for almost all other contributors it’s a blind spot, made all the more glaring because political reporters have done terrific work explaining how Trump’s seemingly crazy behaviors serve his political ends.”

According to Andrew Spitznas, Patheos, the ending of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump may help mitigate readers’ “fatalistic despair”:

…Part Three concludes with a pragmatic, action-oriented essay by psychiatrists Nanette Gantrell and Dee Mosbacher.  With lawyerly exactitude, they make their argument for Trump’s grave danger to national security, requesting Congress to act immediately upon Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, to formally convene an impartial panel to assess the president’s mental fitness for duty.  I can only hope that some of our representatives will read this.

Nov 29

Joshua Walters: Bipolar Disorder, Creativity, and Resources

“Maybe no one’s really crazy. Everyone is just a little bit mad. How much depends on where you fall in the spectrum. How much depends on how lucky you are.” (Joshua Walters)

Joshua Walters is a performer and mental health educator and speaker as well as a facilitator of the DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance) Young Adults Chapter in San Francisco, which he co-founded. He’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The mission of DBSA is to offer “hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders.” Also from their site: “Because DBSA was created for and is led by individuals living with mood disorders, our vision, mission, and programming are always informed by the personal, lived experience of peers.”

Various “Personal Wellness Tools“—including a Wellness Tracker and a variety of Toolbox topics, such as a Therapy Worksheet, both a “Trigger Tracker” and “Trouble Tracker,” and a Suicide Prevention Card—are made available by DBSA.

Walters has learned to put a more positive spin on the challenges of living with mania and hypomania than some. Here he is giving a TED talk:

A couple books mentioned in the clip are listed below along with pertinent reviews:

I. Clinical psychologist John D. Gartner‘s The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America (2005)

Kirkus Reviews:

Gartner works the edges of manic-depressive disorder to explore a lesser-known syndrome: hypomania, ‘a mild form of mania, often found in the relatives of manic depressives.’ Hypomanics are full of ideas, energy, and sometimes insufferable self-confidence; they make decisions quickly, seldom look back, and generally view those who don’t get them as enemies or, at best, mere hindrances. They’re not mentally ill, but they’re close. So far, so good, but then Gartner wanders onto shaky historical ground…

Nassir Ghaemi, M.D., psychiatrist and Director of the Bipolar Disorders Program, Emory University School of Medicine, believes (mentalhelp.net) that Gartner “…has merely replaced the psychobabble of the past with contemporary biobabble…” Ghaemi further explains: “As a researcher in bipolar disorder, I diagnose it quite frequently…I agree that we should be more attuned to recognizing hypomania than we are. But Gartner, as a historian, has written a book reminiscent of those psychoanalysts who saw the Oedipus Complex everywhere.”

II. Clinical psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison’s Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (1993)

Jamison, diagnosed with bipolar disorder herself, has written a number of well-regarded books on related issues, including her autobiography, An Unquiet Mind.

About Touched With Fire, Kirkus Reviews writes:

The basic argument here is ‘not that all writers and artists are depressed, suicidal, or manic. It is, rather, that a greatly disproportionate number of them are; that the manic-depressive and artistic temperaments are, in many ways, overlapping ones; and that the two temperaments are causally related to one another.’

…Lithium and newer drugs, she explains, often dampen creative highs while relieving victims of turmoil and suicidal lows, but calm periods at optimum serum blood levels may allow longer, more productive periods of creativity…