A group of psychiatrists and mental illness experts have written a book titled the Dangerous Case of Donald Trump arguing that President Donald Trump may be dealing with a dangerous mental illness.
American psychiatrists abide by an unofficial rule called the Goldwater Rule. This rule came about in 1964. A magazine conducted a survey of more than a thousand psychiatrists to find out if they believed Republican Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater was mentally fit for the office. The majority of psychiatrists who were polled noted that he was unfit. He did not win the election. However, he successfully sued the magazine for defamation. During this period, the American Psychiatric Association adopted the rule. Under this unofficial ban, psychiatrists cannot talk about a public figure’s mental health without personally examining them. The reasoning is simple – a psychiatrists must examine a patient before diagnosing mental health disorders.
However, there are no real consequences if a psychiatrist were to break that rule.
US President Donald Trump is a polarizing figure in world politics. He has found himself being criticized for his actions and his statements in the past. He has been accused of sexism, misogyny, racism and more. Business leaders like Elon Musk have left councils within the administration due to statements made by Trump. The President has also been criticized by Republicans for failing to forcefully condemn racism in the wake the alt-right rally that took place in Charlottesville in August 2017. Most recently, top athletes like LeBron James have condemned him.
Senator Jack Reed (Democrat) was caught in a microphone speaking to his colleague Senator Susan Collins in July stating, “I think he’s crazy.” Collins responded simply by noting, “I’m worried.”
In the past year, there have been intense debates on whether psychiatrists could comment on the President’s mental health given the bizarre nature of his statements. In 2017, the American Psychoanalytic Association, a leading psychiatry group in the US, told its 3,500 members that could publicly speak about their concerns regarding the President’s mental health. However, the American Psychiatric Association has recommitted itself to the rule. Not all psychiatrists agree though. Psychiatrist Jerrold Post told The New Yorker, “I think there’s a duty. It seems unethical to not contribute at this perilous time.”
Presently, 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts have come together to publish a book titled, ‘The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump’. The book was put together by Judith Lewis Herman of Harvard Medical School and Bandy X. Lee of the Yale School of Medicine. The co-authors write, “Collectively with our coauthors, we warn that anyone as mentally unstable as Mr. Trump simply should not be entrusted with the life-and-death powers of the presidency.”
Trump isn’t the first President to be suspected of mental illness. President Abraham Lincoln allegedly suffered from severe bouts of depression. However, he was able to keep his illness at bay in order to conduct his duties. The authors of the book argue that Trump’s illness may be more ominous. Some of the experts have suggested that he possibly displays symptoms of extreme present hedonism as well as narcissistic personality disorder. Philip Zimbardo (of the famous Stanford prison experiment) and Rosemary Sword argue that this combination makes him, “an impulsive, immature, incompetent person who, when in the position of ultimate power, easily slides into the role of the tyrant.”
Retired Harvard psychiatry professor Lance Dodes states, “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.”
Our assessment is that psychiatrists and mental health professionals are fulfilling their moral obligation of the duty to warn the general public. If the President seems incoherent in his thinking, then he must be evaluated immediately. If he is found to be suffering from a mental disorder, then he should be treated accordingly. After all, this is someone who has the power to begin a nuclear war within minutes.