Two more commentaries on diagnosing public figures

Two more commentaries on diagnosing public figures

Recent disclosures about Donald Trump’s past behaviors have increased comments from various sources about his personality.  Following op on a previous post about whether it is proper – ethical, even- for mental health professionals to comment on a public figure’s personality, here are two more discussions.

The online newsletter Clinical Psychiatry News posted “Why psychiatrists’ opinions about politicians shouldn’t matter” on 8-25-16. This commentary, written by Dinah Miller, M.D., notes that a significant number of US presidents have had evidence of mental and chemical health problems.

In fact, one study found that 49% of presidents from 1776 to 1974 that criteria for an Axis I psychiatric disorder, and 27% were found to have evidence of psychiatric difficulties while in office. She writes, “it may be safe to say that if the existence of psychiatric pathology had always been a disqualifier for public office, we live in a very different country.” She also notes that half of the US population will suffer them episode of psychiatric illness at some point in their lives.”

She concludes:

Is there a role here for living room consults from psychiatrists? Is there something for us as professionals to add to the prediction of Mr. Trump’s behavior if he becomes president? I don’t think so. Every American has ample data, and for those who are curious about Mr. Trump’s psychiatric status, they are free to Google the criteria for psychiatric disorders and see if they believe he meets them. The input of psychiatrists would neither change the election outcome nor accurately predict his behavior if elected. But it might make us look a bit grandiose.

Also, the online posting service The Science of Us posted “The Science of Donald Trump’s Thin, Thin, Skin” on 10-7-16.  The article discussed how his behavior fits some patterns of narcissitic behaviors, with commentary by a psychologist who studies personality.  The article includes this disclaimer:

A necessary caveat: When people say Trump is narcissistic, they’re just saying that, from the distance at which we all observe him, he seems to exhibit many of the characteristics of individuals who are high in this personality trait, or, in the case of observers making the more extreme version of such claims, those who have narcissistic personality disorder, as it’s called in the DSM 5. But no one can be formally “diagnosed” at such a distance as being high in the trait or having the disorder — not without evidence that they’ve been examined by a psychologist. Still: At this point, Trump has shown, over and over again, that he acts in a manner consistent with the hypothesis that he is, at the very least, quite high in narcissism. It’s gotten increasingly difficult to argue with this.


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