Elephant in the Room: Trump’s Mental Illnesses
— NOTE: This article was originally published in 2017 and has been substantially updated with corroborating information.
TV news producers appear to be afraid of it. Newspaper editors studiously avoid it. They all dare not say it publicly: our president is mentally ill. He obviously has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) (which makes him a “Sociopath”). We need not consult experts for his diagnoses. They are obvious, as this article will demonstrate, via a review and analysis of the criteria that are used to diagnose these two conditions. These mental illnesses are at the root of all of his extremely troublesome statements and actions that we witness — nearly every day.
While I do not believe that consultation with experts is necessary (nor does George Conway, who published his article after this article’s original publication date), it is important to note the existence of a fearless and highly credible assessment of the dangers posed by President Trump. This extensive professional set of opinions and dire warning was made in 2018 by Dr. Bandy Lee, a Forensic Psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine and President of the World Mental Health Coalition. These psychiatrists, due to the industry’s gag rule (see below) refrained from rendering official diagnoses. They addressed the symptoms only. Dr. Lee authored her book, entitled The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, along with 27 other psychiatrists and psychologists,
Dr. Lee has publicly stated that “. . . my colleagues and I saw this [assessment and warning regarding President Trump] as a part of our ongoing, primary professional responsibility to protect society and to warn against potential harm to public health, as our ethics and the law require”.
The Wikipedia article describing the book aptly recaps Dr. Lee’s explanation as to why she and her colleagues were unconstrained in issuing this assessment and alarming warning – a warning to both the United States and the world at large:
“While it has been repeatedly claimed that [Dr. Lee and her colleagues] have broken the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater rule, which holds that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give professional opinions about public figures without examining them in person, the authors maintain that pointing out danger and calling for an evaluation is different from diagnosis. They have rather criticized the APA [American Psychiatric Association] for changing professional norms and standards, stating that it is dangerous to turn reasonable ethical guidelines into a gag rule under political pressure.”
In the book, the 27-member panel of experts analyzed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report. They concluded that the overwhelmingly large body of sworn evidence in the Report allowed for a better forensic assessment of President Trump’s mental conditions than any psychiatrist could possibly perform in a clinical setting. Thus, the conclusions as to the mental instability and dangers posed by the president – as detailed in the book – apply with even more force than would a diagnosis upon personal examination.
The experts have found that President Trump has “. . . failed every criterion for rational and reality-based decision-making capacity.” Dr. Lee has publicly stated that one of the main messages of the book is that “President Trump should be prevented from having access to nuclear weapons and war making powers.” Indeed, all members of the military must pass rigorous mental examinations before gaining access to any of our nation’s nuclear capabilities. The book ultimately concludes that President Trump “lacks mental capacity” and that he “. . . cannot make decisions free of impulsivity, recklessness, paranoia, and false beliefs.”
In additional to the book’s functional assessment, it is important for the public to understand the actual medical diagnoses of the president, a conclusion that can be publicly stated by anyone who is not constrained by any ethics rule in the psychiatry and psychology professions. Notably, George Conway, a nationally prominent lawyer and husband of Kellyanne Conway, a senior White House official, came to the same conclusions as this author in an article he published on October 3, 2019 (after the date of this post’s initial publication) in the Atlantic Magazine entitled Unfit for Office. He also contended, as I do here, that reaching the diagnosis is easy for any lay person: one need only make observations of Pres. Trump’s public activity, statements, decisions, and demeanor.
And now, just prior to the election, a new documentary contends that Trump’s mental illness is “Malignant Narcissisim”, according to “esteemed psychologists, including John Gartner, Lances Dodes, and Justin Frank.” While Malignant Narcissism is not technically listed as a diagnosis in the bible of the psychiatric profession, the DSM, the components of Malignant Narcissism that the documentary put forth contain the very same officially diagnosable conditions previously discussed and written about by me, in this article and elsewhere; i.e., Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Sociopathy (Antisocial Personality Disorder). The documentary’s producers — quoting the above psychologists — added the following additional diagnoses:
- Paranoia; and
Therefore, it is frustrating that journalists have not — and have likely deliberately avoided — a fulsome public discussion as to why Trump thinks and acts as he does. They are perplexed by his statements and actions and routinely state that “this is not normal” and throw up their hands in disbelief. Experts appear on TV struggling to explain what is happening, searching for hidden motives or for some grand plan. But the answers to the questions posed can simply be explained by this: people with these personality disorders act this way. His statements and actions are symptoms of his illnesses. These mental illnesses — especially in combination with one another — can and do cause unethical, cruel, dangerous, erratic and impulsive behavior, resulting in the making of unsound decisions that are not in the interests of the United States.
We need to have a public discussion about this problem because a president is in a position where he or she can do lasting harm to the country. Impulsive actions and decisions can jeopardize our national security. So why won’t the media do their job? It appears that they are in fear. Fear of criticism. Fear of backlash. And fear of losing viewers and readers — leading to a loss of advertising dollars. Let’s not forget: the major TV news networks are publicly traded on the stock exchanges and the executives of these companies hold large amounts of stock and stock options. Authorizing this story to be covered could hurt their own personal pocketbooks and/or their company’s revenue stream.
Despite the “gag rule” in the psychology and psychiatric professions, the rule does not apply to the media. They can easily cover this story. They could simply interview mental health professionals off-the-record and then honestly report on the subject. They can also find retired psychiatrists and psychologists who may no longer be constrained by their industry’s rules. The media owes us the truth, but they seem unwilling to utter the words, due to the fears and financial self interests mentioned above.
Those of us outside of the mainstream media have no such ethical constraints or fears and do not own media stocks. And we need not be psychiatrists or psychologists to diagnose President Trump. For 40 years of his public life, he has exhibited the signs and symptoms of both of these illnesses. They were on display during the campaign and remain “in our face” every week, without fail. The obvious public facts, measured against the standards in the definitive diagnostic book in the world (the Diagnositc and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders — “DSM”), lead us to only one conclusion. He is afflicted with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder (“Sociopathy”), big time. It’s not even close.
Judge for yourself by simply reviewing the Narcissistic Personality Disorder criteria, listed below, from the DSM. A person has Narcissistic Personality Disorder if they routinely display any 5 of the following 9 symptoms:
- A grandiose logic of self-importance;
- A fixation with fantasies of infinite success, control, brilliance, beauty, or idyllic love;
- A credence that he or she is extraordinary and exceptional and can only be understood by, or should connect with, other extraordinary or important people or institutions;
- A desire for unwarranted admiration;
- A sense of entitlement;
- Interpersonally oppressive behavior;
- No form of empathy;
- Resentment of others or a conviction that others are resentful of him or her; or
- A display of egotistical and conceited behaviors or attitudes.
Trump obviously meets all 9 of the criteria: and to diagnose this illness you only need to routinely observe 5 out of the above 9 symptoms.
In addition, according to the Mayo Clinic, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder disorder can:
- Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance;
- Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration;
- Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it;
- Exaggerate achievements and talents;
- Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate;
- Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people;
- Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior;
- Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations;
- Take advantage of others to get what they want;
- Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others;
- Be envious of others and believe others envy them;
- Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious;
- Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office.
- Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment;
- Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted;
- React with rage or contempt and try to belittle other people to make themselves appear superior;
- Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior;
- Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change;
- Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection; or
- Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation.
We have all seen evidence, with our own eyes and ears, that President Trump suffers from this condition. The result is that many of his actions, statements, and decisions are rash, self-centered, impulsive, and contrary to the national interest.
His public conduct, decisions, and actions also reveal that he is a “Sociopath” (officially designated as Antisocial Personality Disorder). Here too, the diagnosis is easy. Per the DSM, a person is a Sociopath if he/she routinely exhibits 3 (or more) of the following 7 symptoms:
- Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
- Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
- Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
- Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
- Reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
- Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations; or
- Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
In addition the Mayo Clinic states that signs and symptoms exhibited by a Sociopath (Antisocial Personality Disorder) may include:
- Disregard for right and wrong;
- Persistent lying or deceit to exploit others;
- Being callous, cynical and disrespectful of others;
- Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or personal pleasure;
- Arrogance, a sense of superiority and being extremely opinionated;
- Recurring problems with the law, including criminal behavior;
- Repeatedly violating the rights of others through intimidation and dishonesty;
- Impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead;
- Hostility, significant irritability, agitation, aggression or violence;
- Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others;
- Unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behavior with no regard for the safety of self or others;
- Poor or abusive relationships;
- Failure to consider the negative consequences of behavior or learn from them; or
- Being consistently irresponsible and repeatedly failing to fulfill work or financial obligations.
Both of these illnesses cannot be successfully treated. There is no medicine or therapy that can successfully eliminate a personality disorder. We therefore need to have a dose of reality: his conduct will not change. These conditions, especially in combination with one another, will remain as a recipe for dishonesty, disloyalty to the country, corruption, impulsive actions, irrational rebellion, and sheer chaos. For now, these mental illnesses are causing President Trump to unravel emotionally, as reported by credible sources.
The media owes all of us a full airing on this issue so that voters can make informed decisions at the polls in November. A lack of coverage on this story — one of the most critical of our time — is an extreme dereliction of duty by our nation’s media.