The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President

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So, I don’t often write about or post about politics, but that’s going to be a tad unavoidable with this review. I mean, look at the title. So, if you’re a Trump fan this review will likely not be for you lol.

This book interested me because there’s something called the Goldwater rule, where psychiatrists and psychologists aren’t supposed to speak about someone from afar, if they treated the person in question, they shouldn’t try and diagnose. So, what would lead 27 people to potentially damage their career? What I got was an in-depth look at how many mental health experts are interpreting Trump’s actions. The people who authored this book weren’t ‘low rate’ psychologists either – many of them practice at institutions like Johns Hopkins and Harvard and have decades of experience.

Since I have a psych degree I was familiar with the terminology they were using, so it got a little boring at parts for me – but this does mean you can read this without ever having read a psych textbook and understand the implications of what they’re saying. It’s definitely meant for the general public, but it can be a little dry at times. Which is surprising given the subject matter.

The DSM-V is the diagnostic tool the APA uses today, and the authors have laid out in detail how Trump aligns with many disorders, without going so far as to diagnose him. Using examples from his speeches, his twitter account, and interviews it became abundantly clear to me that there’s a need to test him for a degenerative disorder. I had thought previously that his speech patterns have declined over the decades. Watching an interview of his from the 90s and watching a more recent speech is like night and day. His vocabulary has been reduced and has become repetitive, and he has signs of disordered thinkings as he frequently goes on tangents. During his speeches often times one word he uses will bring up memories of something off topic, he’ll follow that thought down a different path and do this again and again in his speeches until he’s so completely off script it doesn’t make sense anymore. I work with the elderly and I see this kind of thing every day. This is a transcript from one of Trump’s speeches, the book goes into instances like this where there are clear examples of disordered speech.

Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now …

He’s trying to talk about a nuclear deal and isn’t making much sense, you’d expect the president to be able to fully articulate why he’s drawing out of a deal this important and he’s giving us nonsense. I try and watch Trump’s speeches, he’s the president and I’d like to know what’s going on in his head and where he’s taking the country even if I don’t like him. So often though, a two-hour speech can be boiled down to ten minutes of important information and it’s hard to parcel out exactly what his message is given all the junk in between.

Each author had a different focus on Trumps behavior and what they believe it may imply, while the Alzheimers/dementia aspect appealed most to me given my current job –  the other focuses were even scarier, to be honest. They made a very good case for Trump being a reactionary malignant narcissist and how that’s different from having a big ego and confidence, and how Trump better fits the malignant narcissist definition than a regular narcissistic personality disorder.

It also went into Time Perspective Theory and how Trump would likely qualify as a present-hedonist. In TPT, people can be overfocused in either the past, present, or future. People who have a negative past focus can be worrywarts, people stuck in the future will miss the positive aspects of the ‘now’ and can suffer from depression. But, those that are too focused on the ‘now’ without having regard for the past or future can be dangerous. Trump is most likely a present hedonist, defined as: people live in the moment – seeking pleasure, novelty, and sensation, and avoiding pain. When taken to the extremes it can lead to those in power making gut decisions without thinking them through, like changing a major international military policy via tweet.

More info on Time Perspective Theory

They also touch on his obsession with power and those throughout the world that abuse power. His odd fascination with leaders like Kim Jong-un, Putin, and the Saudi Arabian Prince is chilling. A United Nations report on human rights under Kim’s regime found that his government’s crimes against humanity included enslavement, extermination, forced abortion, imprisonment, murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and torture – and yet Trump called him honorable, said he believed him when he claimed ignorance to Otto’s murder and said that they “fell in love with each other”. Kim has executed his own family members and made their immediate family watch as he did it.

“He’s the head of a country, and I mean he’s the strong head,” Trump told Fox News Channel. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” — Donald Trump

President Trump told donors on Saturday that China’s president, Xi Jinping, was now “president for life,” and added: “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll want to give that a shot someday.”

There’s a lot to unpack in this book, I gave it 4/5 stars because of a touch of repetition between the 27 authors. This is hard to avoid, they each want to make their case and some of their reasoning and evidence for their beliefs overlaps – but perhaps with a bit more editing, it could have been more engaging.

 

 

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