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Trump 77: Mentality

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The question had arisen before, but it blew up at the Democratic National Convention after former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had this to say in urging a presidential vote against Donald Trump: “Let’s elect a sane, competent person.”

With that implicit assertion that Trump is neither sane nor competent, the question of Trump’s mental condition semi-officially became a public topic of discussion.

The American Psychiatric Association forbids its members, the nation’s psychiatrists, from offering diagnoses of public figures who they personally have not even met. It’s an understandable rule; few of us would like to be so analyzed from a distance, and long-distance analysis inevitably is going to be far from perfect. The origins of the rule, which lie partly in the 1964 presidential election, help prove the point. That year a magazine polled psychiatrists on whether Barry Goldwater, who was being being caricatured as loony, was mentally fit for the presidency; 1,189, who had never met the man, wrote back to say they thought not. Goldwater’s long and quite respectable service in Congress in the years after made for a strong counter to their estimate.

Okay. Fine. Still, and all that said.

“Donald Trump is not of sound mind,” conservative pundit (not psychiatrist) Stephen Hayes opined in the Weekly Standard.”The most common amateur diagnosis of Trump is narcissistic personality disorder, a condition characterized by an ‘inflated sense of their own importance,’ ‘a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others,’ and ‘a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism,’ the Mayo Clinic said [in describing the condition]. … He boasts of his own unparalleled magnificence. He creates and promotes wild conspiracy theories. He tells easily disprovable lies. He fails to finish sentences before he gets distracted by unrelated thoughts. He appears to fly into a wounded rage at mild criticism.”

Hayes has lots of company. In the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday psychiatrist Matthew Goldenberg recited: “A former dean of Harvard Medical School tweeted that Trump “defines” narcissistic personality disorder. New York Times columnist David Brooks has said the GOP nominee “appears haunted by multiple personality disorders.” Entrepreneur Mark Cuban was cruder, calling Trump “batshit crazy.” Trump’s coauthor for “The Art of the Deal,” Tony Schwartz, labeled him a “sociopath.” Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker found Trump’s behavior reminiscent of a brain injury.”

Goldenberg declined to offer his own analysis. He points out, for example, that most diagnoses of mental illness start with how a person is functionally impaired – and Trump seems to be able to function just fine, to the point of being nominated for president.

But he also said this: “Perhaps the most important reason to skip a psychiatric assessment of Trump is that it just isn’t necessary. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to know that there’s something seriously wrong with the candidate. The lessons I learned in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school — not in medical school, residency and years of psychiatric practice — are what tell me that Trump is unfit for the job. My core values as an American — not my professional training — are what make me concerned about a Trump presidency.”

You don’t need to put a clinical name on it, in other words. You just need to describe it for what it is. – rs

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