Jan 08

Trump’s State of Mind: More from “Dangerous Case”

Trump’s state of mind is a subject of great concern to many who know and work with him, as evidenced in Michael Wolff‘s brand new and bestselling Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

A Minding Therapy post several months ago introduced Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee‘s The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, comprised of essays by 27 different professionals who hold strong opinions about Trump’s state of mind. Seems timely to offer some additional quotes from this book that takes a hard look at the possible mental health issues of our president:

In Donald Trump, we have a frightening Venn diagram consisting of three circles: the first is extreme present hedonism; the second, narcissism; and the third, bullying behavior. These three circles overlap in the middle to create an impulsive, immature, incompetent person who, when in the position of ultimate power, easily slides into the role of tyrant, complete with family members sitting at his proverbial “ruling table.” Like a fledgling dictator, he plants psychological seeds of treachery in sections of our population that reinforce already negative attitudes.

His mental health symptoms, including impulsive blame-shifting, claims of unearned superiority, and delusional levels of grandiosity, have been present in his words from his very first campaign speech…

Power not only corrupts but also magnifies existing psychopathologies, even as it creates new ones. Fostered by the flattery of underlings and the chants of crowds, a political leader’s grandiosity may morph into grotesque delusions of grandeur. Sociopathic traits may be amplified as the leader discovers that he can violate the norms of civil society and even commit crimes with impunity. And the leader who rules through fear, lies, and betrayal may become increasingly isolated and paranoid, as the loyalty of even his closest confidants must forever be suspect.

The tiger is “empathic” with its prey, but not sympathetic or caring. Successful sociopaths are like that…The successful sociopath’s predatory “empathy” reflects a definite perceptive acumen, making him a genius at manipulation. When this works, it produces a disastrous trust in him. Yet, like the tiger, he is unconcerned about the welfare of his target.

To those with NPD [narcissistic personality disorder], other people are simply mirrors, useful only insofar as they reflect back the special view of themselves they so desperately long to see. If that means making others look bad by comparison—say, by ruining their reputation at work—so be it. Because life is a constant competition, they’re also usually riddled with envy over what other people seem to have.

Trump is now the most powerful head of state in the world, and one of the most impulsive, arrogant, ignorant, disorganized, chaotic, nihilistic, self-contradictory, self-important, and self-serving. He has his finger on the triggers of a thousand or more of the most powerful thermonuclear weapons in the world. That means he could kill more people in a few seconds than any dictator in past history has been able to kill during his entire years in power. Indeed, by virtue of his office, Trump has the power to reduce the unprecedentedly destructive world wars and genocides of the twentieth century to minor footnotes in the history of human violence. To say merely that he is “dangerous” is debatable only in the sense that it may be too much of an understatement.

A paranoid, hypersensitive, grandiose, ill-informed leader such as Donald Trump, who has surrounded himself with a Cabinet and a set of advisers who either are unable to bring him out of his paranoid suspicions and insistences or, worse, identify with his positions, represents a multidimensional threat to our country and the world.

Jul 25

Donald Trump’s Mental Health: Seriously Considering It

Decreasingly a laughing matter, Donald Trump‘s mental health is increasingly being questioned. Even Trump himself is fantasized by the satirical Onion as admitting to his own “severe psychological issues.” His symptoms, Trump fictitiously says, include “delusions of inflated worth, power, knowledge, and identity,” “a severe persecution complex,” and a slew of “comorbid conditions,” e.g., narcissism, “certain elements of paranoid schizophrenia,” and psychopathy.

The for-real press, however, have seemed at somewhat of a loss regarding how to dissect Trump’s state of mind. While some mental health professionals have been willing to go out on a media limb and peg him as an extreme case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, for example, many others have taken the common ethical and legal route of stating that it’s not actually possible to analyze and diagnose without a direct relationship with the “patient.”

Psychologist Dan McAdams, in fact, recently told Maggie Koerth-Baker, fivethirtyeight.com, that “mental health is still health, and labeling Trump from afar would be no different than diagnosing President Obama with leukemia, sight unseen.”

What’s more, McAdams said, the basis of diagnosing a mental health disorder is that the person feels disordered…And it’s hard to make a case for that being true of somebody successfully running for president of the United States. ‘Whether you like him or not, he seems to function,’ McAdam said.

Similarly, Allen J. Frances, MD (Psychology Today), who has significant experience diagnosing personality disorders, disagrees with the tendency to pin such labels on Donald Trump’s mental health (mea culpa!)—but that doesn’t mean he fails to see big (YUGE!) problems:

Personality Disorder requires that the individual’s personality characteristics cause clinically significant distress or impairment. Trump’s behavior causes a great deal of significant distress and impairment in others, but he seems singularly unperturbed and his obnoxiousness has been richly rewarded, not a source of impairment.

This does not make Trump fit to be president, not by any means. He must be by far the least suitable person ever to run for high office in the US– completely disqualified by habitual dishonesty, bullying bravado, bloviating ignorance, blustery braggadocio, angry vengefulness, petty pique, impulsive unpredictability, tyrannical temper, fiscal irresponsibility, imperial ambitions, constitutional indifference, racism, sexism, minority hatred, divisiveness etc. We could go on a lot longer, but you get the idea.

Furthermore, one of the negative consequences of mislabeling Trump, states Frances, is that it “unfairly stigmatizes the mentally ill. Most people with mental illness are nice, polite, well mannered, well meaning, decent people. They suffer, but don’t cause suffering.”

Noting as well that it’s generally unfair to go after “the psychological stability of a public figure,” political commentator Keith Olbermann (Vanity Fair), has openly studied Donald Trump’s mental health using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. How does Olbermann justify this?

…Trump has called Lindsey Graham ‘a nut job,’ Glenn Beck ‘a real nut job,’ and Bernie Sandersa wacko.’ Trump has insisted Ben Carson’s got a ‘pathological disease,’ and asked of Barack Obama: ‘Is our president insane?’ He called Ted Cruz ‘unstable,’ ‘unhinged,’ ‘a little bit of a maniac,’ and ‘crazy or very dishonest.’ He also called the entire CNBC network ‘crazy.’ He called Megyn Kelly ‘crazy’—at least six times…

According to his exhaustive evaluation, by the way, Trump qualifies.

Psychopath, though, or sociopath? (They’re not the same thing, though relatively few of us actually fully comprehend either the differences or definitions.) The ghostwriter of Trump’s 1987 bestseller The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, has come forth opining the latter. Jane Mayer, New Yorker, quoting Schwartz: