Political Psychology: The Presidents’ Mental Health

Perhaps it isn’t surprising, given the intense rhetoric of this year’s presidential election, that politicians have started throwing around accusations of insanity.

In early August, California Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat, launched the hashtag #DiagnoseTrump and started a change.org petition claiming the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, meets the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Not long after, Trump called Hillary Clinton “unstable,” and at a rally in New Hampshire said, “She’s got problems.”

The candidates’ verbal volley highlights a persistent stigma about mental illness in politics. In the past, an admission of mental health problems was a death knell to political careers. In recent years, a few members of Congress have been open about getting treatment for mental illness, but they remain few and far between. Nevertheless, there’s good evidence that even some of the most beloved presidents in American history might have met the modern criteria for mental illness.

The presidency is a high-pressure job, and one that Americans typically view through almost a fairy-tale lens. [The 5 Strangest Presidential Elections in US History]

“Americans have a version of the presidency in mind, the textbook presidency, that bears very little relationship to the actual job of being president,” said Jennifer Mercieca a historian of American political rhetoric at Texas A&M University. Political scientists talk about “heroic expectations” for presidents — that they’ll be generally good-hearted, magnanimous and well-meaning. Their health, both mental and physical, is a part of these expectations, Mercieca told Live Science.

“There’s definitely a politics of ‘fitness’ for office,” she said. “Using that word as a pun.” …Read More>>

Source: Live Science

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