“So it was really important that I do it, for myself … I mean I really considered it strongly last time”
A few weeks ago, I commented that Donald Trump had narcissistic personality disorder. My assertion was dismissed as “smug,” not “a good road” for political discourse, and “a pretty good way to cheapen and stigmatize people with mental illness.”One partisan claimed that Barack Obama could be diagnosed the same way. My goal was to improve our understanding and then prediction of the Republican nominee’s behavior. Diagnosing the mental health of the opposition’s candidate is not a viable political strategy because it’s rarely warranted (or effectivae, at least not since Nixon). Because his behavior makes no sense, a psychological analysis is warranted. And at this point, it’s too late to stop people from questioning Trump’s mental health for discussion to stop.
(CNN) New York Times columnist David Brooks says the Republican candidate for president appears to have “multiple personality disorders.” Michael Bloomberg prefers to imply that he is not “sane.” And on Sunday the billionaire Mark Cuban called Donald Trump “bats**t crazy.”
Though hardly a term of art when it comes to mental health, Cuban’s comment reflects widespread concern about the stability of the Republican nominee for president.
Eugene Robinson and Robert Kagan have also commented extensively. In fact, Trump’s behavior has been so weird in the last 72 hours that ”Top Republicans and political allies to Donald Trump have been talking about an “intervention.”
What’s missing from these discussions is a useful framework and vocabulary. Mental health problems are many, varied, and complex, and colloquial descriptions oversimplify them and shortchange people who suffer from them. Words like “crazy” and “sane” are descriptively useless, not to mention offensive to the mentally ill. There is still enough stigma about mental health issues that we struggle to discuss them in public. Intellectually, we may accept the mental illness as a health issue, but we still discuss it as if were something at the very least slightly shameful. As a society, we need to do better. We can’t do so when we’re afraid to talk about mental health.
That’s not to say that we need psychological diagnoses to understand the vast majority of people, including politicians. Biographers, like Robert Caro, do a good job of conveying the psychological complexity of politicians without referring to the DSM. Psychological diagnoses aren’t requisite for understanding complex personalities, but if a politician is likely to have a psychological disorder, there is no reason to use it to describe him. In the case of Donald Trump’s case, the amount of evidence and commentary about his mental health warrants a discussion. Crude, colloquial terminology has limited explanatory power and does an injustice to people who are mentally ill. If Trump suffered from alcoholism, we wouldn’t hesitate to discuss it. It’s not any different to discuss the fact that he exhibits the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder explains his behavior better than anything else.
Most people are familiar with mood disorders, depression and bipolar disorder. Few people, however, are acquainted with personality disorders:
a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and to people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, work and school.
Some people may have heard of Borderline Personality Disorder, which has been a trendy diagnosis. Most people have heard of psychopathy, though not by its clinical term anti-social personality disorder. Psychologists and a congresswoman have suggested that Donald Trump has narcissistic personality disorder.
Trump has the symptoms of a personality disorder. He has “trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people.” He’s the guy who tells a mom that he loves babies. He tells her not to leave, then changes his mind. He knows it’s right to say nice things about babies, and in my opinion, he was actually being honest about liking the baby. But then he changed his mind about the baby staying. Trump doesn’t admit to mistakes, so he made a joke about the mother not taking him seriously the first time he spoke. It wasn’t his fault that he told her to stay–it was hers–but he was forgiving her without admitting he was wrong. It was also bizarre that he told the veteran who gave him his Purple Heart that “I always wanted one of these.” An appropriate comment would have been reflected the veteran’s sacrifice, but Trump really has “trouble relating to situations and people.”