Donald Trump is a mentally unstable person, whose flawed persona is a threat to our country. I am a trained, certified and experienced psychotherapist, though in retirement. Many throughout the psychological professions would see my characterizing Trump as mentally unstable to be unethical and unwarranted. They would base their critique upon the “Goldwater Rule” which is:
“the informal name given to Section 7 in the American Psychiatric Association‘s (APA) Principles of Medical Ethics, which states it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements. It is named after presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
The issue arose in 1964 when Fact published the article “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.” The magazine polled psychiatrists about American Senator Barry Goldwater and whether he was fit to be president. The editor, Ralph Ginzburg, was sued for libel in Goldwater v. Ginzburg where Goldwater won $75,000 (approximately $579,000 today) in damages.”
This “rule” is not limited to psychiatrists alone:
“The American Psychological Association [APA] code of ethics also supports the Goldwater Rule as is clearly explained by the New York Times letter published on March 11, 2016, from APA President Susan H. McDaniel, PhD, in response to its March 7, 2016, article, “Should Therapists Analyze Presidential Candidates?”
It has been 13 years since heart problems disabled me and I was forced to retire from my work. My licenses have lapsed and I derive no income from my former profession, so I don’t see myself as bound by the constraints of either APA. Furthermore, I believe I don’t need my psychotherapist background to make this assessment of Trump, because in my opinion any minimally perceptive human being would arrive at similar conclusions, though without the framework of diagnostic tools like the DSM-5. Human beings make personal assessments of others mental instability almost daily. If on public transportation or in crowds for instance, we try to distance ourselves from people who seem to us seem to be “acting crazy”. It is a gut reaction reaching back far into the pre-history and history of our species. It is an instinct born of the need to protect us and ours from a sometimes lethal environment. Admittedly, we humans often get those judgments wrong, sometimes with unhappy consequences, because all of us are fallible. Yet if I learned anything from my four decades as a psychological professional, it is that mental health professionals often are quite fallible in their judgments and are just a susceptible as non-professionals to the whims of their “guts”.
With all those caveats, I still maintain that our President is a mentally unstable person, with a host of flawed personality traits making him all the more malignant. While I base this only upon the public persona of Trump as revealed on television, having never even been in the same room with him, I think the evidence of his dysfunction is incontrovertible. The inappropriateness of his speech at CIA Headquarters is alone damning in so many ways. Watch this speech, observe his affect, savor the self-centered egotism of his remarks and make your assessment by placing them into a current context. It was the speech of a huckster, ignoring his audience and servicing his own narcissism.
I believe that in that speech Trump placed on display all any person would need to see that this is an unbalanced man addicted to his own glorification and blissfully unaware of the needs of others. It seems that the rein of Trump is disturbing to many other in the psychiatric and psychological profession and they are speaking out despite the “Goldwater Rule”.
One of those speaking out is Dr. Bandy Lee, a psychiatrist at Yale University who specializes in public health and violence prevention. She recently convened a conference that explored questions related to Donald Trump’s mental health and how mental health professionals should respond to this crisis. The proceedings from this conference will be featured in a forthcoming book due out later this year. Dr. Lee was interviewed by at Salon in an article: Psychiatrist Bandy Lee: “We have an obligation to speak about Donald Trump’s mental health issues … our survival as a species may be at stake”
introduces the discussion with:
“President Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the United States and the world.
He has reckless disregard for democracy and its foundational principles. Trump is also an authoritarian plutocrat who appears to be using the presidency as a means to enrich himself and closest allies as well as family members. Trump’s proposed 2018 federal budget is a shockingly cruel document that threatens to destroy America’s already threadbare social safety net in order to give the rich and powerful (even more) hefty tax cuts. His policies have undermined the international order and America’s place as the dominant global power. It would appear that he and his administration have been manipulated and perhaps (in the case of Michael Flynn) even infiltrated by Vladimir Putin’s spies and other agents. The world has become less safe as a result of Trump’s failures of leadership and cavalier disregard for existing alliances and treaties.
Donald Trump’s failures as president have been compounded by his unstable personality and behavior. It has been reported by staffers inside the Trump White House that he is prone to extreme mood swings, is cantankerous and unpredictable, flies into blind rages when he does not get his way, is highly suggestible and readily manipulated, gets bored easily and fails to complete tasks, is confused by basic policy matters and by all accounts is unhappy and lonely. And despite bragging about his “strength” and “vitality” during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump appears to tire easily and easily succumbs to “exhaustion.” Trump is apparently all id and possesses little if any impulse control. He is a chronic liar who ignores basic facts and empirical reality in favor of his own fantasies.”
Note that almost all of the characterizations that DeVega makes are the opinions of staff working closely with Trump. The picture painted is of an unstable person, who lacks the attention span, stamina and critical thinking we would all feel to be necessary in a President of any nation, much less these United States.
Follow these questions and answers from this article with DeVega’s questions in red and Dr. Bandy Lee‘s answers in blue:
“How did a person like Donald Trump become president?
Well, my being a psychiatrist, I will inevitably see things from that lens. I also tend to think about the social context that gives rise to the current conditions. For me the big shift in our society has been the increasing inequality, and with that a certain segment of the population will end up suffering from an undue amount of poverty — a relative poverty, actually — deprivation, a lack of education, a lack of health care and mental health care. All those things will contribute to worsening of collective mental health.
As a clinician, when you watch Trump’s behavior day after day — his lying and obfuscation, his apparent confusion and anger management issues — what are you thinking?
Well, I’ve been thinking from the very beginning that he exhibits many signs of mental impairment. I recently organized a conference on this at Yale. Afterwards, there has been almost an army of people who have shared with me how they have been wanting to speak about this issue. I did not expect to get such a massive response.
What are your peers’ specific concerns, and what are they afraid of?
This situation has come to such a critical level. In fact, a state of emergency exists and we could no longer hold back. We have an obligation to speak about Donald Trump’s mental health issues because many lives and our survival as a species may be at stake.
What are two or three things you could cite about Donald Trump’s behavior that causes you the greatest concern, worry or alarm?
Well, there are certainly the symptoms that he displays. He has a great need for adulation. He is angry if reality does not meet his needs. People have been expecting him to settle into his role and become normal or more “presidential,” but that does not ordinarily happen among those with such personality traits. In fact, what we’re seeing is a creation of his own reality, a reality that will meet Trump’s own emotional needs and the need to impose that reality on others. It is his imperviousness to facts and reality that could place us all at great risk.
On one hand he can just be cantankerous, moody, angry and a spoiled child. I’ve described him as a man-child or a clown king. But how do we separate that from saying, “OK, there is something going on clinically”?
Well, one does not make the other mutually exclusive. In fact, one can both be immature and a jerk. Dangerous and ill-intentioned. In other words, bad as well as mad. It’s really the combination that makes it so toxic and unpredictable that we felt that there was a need to speak out.
How should the “Goldwater Rule” — the ethical requirement not to diagnose a person you have not examined — be balanced with mental health professionals’ responsibilities as American citizens and members of the global community?
In an ordinary situation where matters were not so intense, we could balance out our political activism and separate that from our professional goals and actions. But when there is such a grave mental disability that is affecting the public sphere, the political sphere, such as in the current position of power, then those lines get blurred. Given that all human health exists in an ecological system, there is no rule that politics will never enter the sphere of health or the mental health profession. Right now we’re seeing that it does.
When we have a president who asks, “What is the point of having nuclear weapons if we cannot use them?”, who urges our government to use torture or worse against prisoners, who urges his followers at political violence to beat protesters up so badly that they’ll be taken out in stretchers, and suggests that his followers could always assassinate Hillary Clinton if she were to be elected president, there is something very wrong. All this attraction to violence, threats of violence, boasts of his own violence and sexual assaults, and incitements to violence — all these have an effect.”
This only is a part of DeVega‘s article and the balance deals with Dr. Lee’s assessment of how Trump got elected in the first place, assessing the mindset of his supporters and how she sees the lasting effect of the Trump presidency on America. It is well worth you time.
For all of us Americans it is my belief that we are in perhaps the most critical period of our Country’s history since the Second World War fought against the Fascism trying to engulf our planet. In many of my posts I’ve written about what I see as the Fascist Tendencies of Trump and his supporters and indeed this prospect of American Fascism is disquieting in itself. How much more threatening then is it if the new American Führer, Donald J. Trump, is mentally unbalanced and emotionally unfit?
Our Country is in crisis and we must all speak out, so damn the “Goldwater Rule”, we must resist as if our lives and this nation depend upon our actions, because in my estimation we are on the edge of a horrible abyss.