Do therapists need to speak up about Trump’s mental health?

Jeff Guenther on Oct 12, 2019

As therapists, we are not supposed to diagnose public figures with mental health issues. This makes sense. It’s hard enough to accurately diagnose our own clients and they are giving us a ton of information about themselves. So diagnosing a public figure, who most likely hides important aspects of their personality, would be difficult to do. However, as trained therapists we innately know what signs to look for if we feel like a public figure may be suffering from mental health issues. And sometimes it feels so obvious—like with Donald Trump—that to me, it starts to feel like it’s bordering on irresponsibility if we don’t speak up.

This week on Say More About That, I talk to my therapist friend Kirk about diagnosing Donald Trump. We chat about what issues he could qualify for, whether or not he can be helped, if we can connect with compassion for him and much more. Listen to the podcast by clicking play below or check it out on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

The reason I think more qualified mental health professionals should speak out is because I think the general public should know that this man is not okay. He is suffering from a serious condition and if he continues to go untreated (I am only guessing that he is not being treated but it feels like a pretty good guess) then his condition will probably get worse and he could become even more dangerous than he already is.

Donald Trump has a severe personality disorder

I think Donald Trump could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. The Mayo Clinic defines antisocial personality disorder as:

"Antisocial personality disorder, sometimes called sociopathy, is a mental condition in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others harshly or with callous indifference. They show no guilt or remorse for their behavior."

I think that’s a really good definition. I also think it describes Trump perfectly. People that qualify for antisocial personality disorder can have a disregard for right and wrong, are liars, act callously, are disrespectful, use charm or wit to manipulate, are arrogant, violate the rights of others, are hostile, agitated, aggressive, violent and have a lack of empathy or remorse.

How is that not the perfect definition of Trump? I have to keep in mind that I’m not a Trump fan so that could skew my perception of him. But it just seems so obvious that he is not well and perfectly fits the description of this personality disorder.

Is there a chance that there is side of Trump that I am not seeing? Sure. Do I think Trump is hiding a softer, more empathetic side? No. Absolutely not. As therapists, we have an intuitive sense about people. And intuitively, I don’t think there is a side of Trump that he’s hiding from public view that would make me think any differently about him.

That being said, I want to make it perfectly clear that people with mental health issues can perform very well on the job. I am in no way saying that if you suffer from a mental health issue then you’ll do poorly. However, I am saying that if you suffer from untreated antisocial personality disorder, I don’t think you should have one of the most powerful job in the world.

Should we blame his family?

Who is responsible for allowing Trump to hold the highest position in the country while suffering from severe mental health issues? Well, a lot of people are responsible. But I kinda want to pin this on Ivanka. Hear me out!

Ivanka seems like the most level-headed child of the bunch. Now I don’t know any of his children so I could be completely off base. But she seems like she has her shit together. And if my father had a personalty disorder that would compromise him from being a competent president, I would feel like I had a duty and responsibility to speak up and not let that happen. For the good of the country. And for the health of my father. Has it ever crossed Ivanka’s mind that maybe her father is a sociopath and shouldn’t be president? Does it bother anyone else in the family? What about non-family members that are close to him? Have any of his close friends spoken up?

Maybe it wouldn’t matter if anyone close to him tried to get through to him. He is a rich, white man and has all the privilege in the world. If you’re rich and you’re white you can do just about anything. It’s just that I really think I would have at the very least campaigned against my sick father if he decided to run for president. It’s bizarre that his children and family members are not speaking up. He must have a lot of power over them. He does seem pretty scary.

As therapists what should we do?

I think we should speak up more often about Donald Trump’s mental health issues. I think some folks don’t know that he is likely suffering from a diagnosable personality disorder. I imagine other presidents could be diagnosed with a personality disorder, as well. But this feels different. This feels more urgent. If more mental health professionals spoke up, then maybe we could influence people to make a different choice at the ballot box in 2020. Maybe a more healthy republican nominee could be their candidate. I mean, probably not. It seems inevitable that Trump will be on the ticket in 2020. But at the very least, in my opinion, more people should be aware of his potential health issues.

While you’re here…

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Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.

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