Is It Time to Call Trump Mentally Ill?

Mental healthMany people are questioning President Trump’s mental health. This month, Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, went so far as to say he was considering proposing legislation that would require examinations by a White House psychiatrist.

Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, believes this would be a mistake.

From an op-ed in The New York Times, February 17: “I don’t doubt that…experts believe they are protecting the country from a president whose behavior they ­– like many of us – see as dangerous. A recent letter to the editor in this newspaper, signed by 35 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, put it this way: ‘We fear that too much is at stake to be silent.’ It continued, ‘We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.’

“But the attempt to diagnose a condition in President Trump and declare him mentally unfit to serve is misguided for several reasons.”

Professor Friedman elaborates one of these reasons: “…While it would be unethical for a psychiatrist to say that President Trump has narcissistic personality disorder [without having examined him], he or she could discuss common narcissistic character traits, like grandiosity and intolerance of criticism, and how they might explain Mr. Trump’s behavior. In other words, psychiatrists can talk about the psychology and symptoms of narcissism in general, and the public is free to decide whether the information could apply to the individual. This may seem like splitting hairs, but it isn’t. Diagnosis requires a thorough examination of a patient, a detailed history and all relevant clinical data – none of which can be gathered from afar. Narcissism, for instance, isn’t the only explanation for impulsive, inattentive and grandiose behavior. Someone could be suffering instead from another clinical problem like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; the abuse of drugs, alcohol or stimulants; or a variant of bipolar disorder, to name just a few.

“This is all to say that when mental health professionals label public figures with mental illnesses, it is not just unethical – it’s intellectually suspect. We don’t have the requisite clinical data to know what we are talking about.”


5 responses to “Is It Time to Call Trump Mentally Ill?

  1. A reason for mental health professionals not to label Trump unfit due to mental illness is that among those who are Trump supporters it would merely further undermine the credibility of psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists. Trump supporters will shoot the messenger, simply because they disagree with the message. Much better to tackle Trump on the issues, his values, and the implications of his actions, strategies and style than to tell people who are not psychologically sophisticated that Trump is mentally ill. Only if the Surgeon General himself, backed by a team of psychiatrists from the Mayo Clinic and VP Pence, were to make the pronouncement, would it be widely accepted. And that’s not going to happen. American citizens who think Trump is crazy can not be persuaded that he isn’t. Those who think he’s sane will not be persuaded that he isn’t.
    Besides, it’s quite possible to suffer from a personality disorder or a psychiatric disorder, and still be high functioning. To use mental illness as a reason to declare a president unfit for office may only serve to stigmatize others who suffer from a mental illness, but are otherwise quite competent.

  2. Its a legal/political question not a medical one. Read 25th Amendment of U.S. Constitution. World will be becoming very familiar with it soon…

  3. According to the 25th Amendment, Trump would have to be “unable” to carry out his duties in order for someone else to take over. Far from disabled, he gives every sign of being mentally and physically vigorous and determined to remain in control of the reigns of power, despite the concerns of those of us who think how he operates, what he says and what he wants to do is “crazy”, ill-considered, dangerous and inhumane.

  4. In answer to your question, “Yes!”

  5. Reporting from numerous sources from the Munich Security Conference last week indicated that the 25th Amendment was the #1 whisper topic in the restaurants and bars frequented by the US delegation and their staffs. According to this reporting, it is broadly enough worded that it can be used provided VP and sufficient Cabinet Members (and Congressional leaders?) agree. If true, there appears to be a Constitutional provision for what is, in effect, a legally sanctioned “coup”. That is what is being reported out of Munich, not my bright idea….