“Malignant reality is taking hold”

President Trump in Washington on Monday. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times.

Yet more psychiatrists are speaking up, in spite of the fact they may have their licenses taken away, because of the grave danger they see, not just posed by Trump, but the warping of sentiment and attitude, the increase in hate, bigotry, and violence. Chauncey De Vega has an interview with psychiatrist Bandy Lee, available at Alternet or a Salon Podcast.

President Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the United States and the world.

He has reckless disregard for democracy and its foundational principles. Trump is also an authoritarian plutocrat who appears to be using the presidency as a means to enrich himself and closest allies as well as family members. Trump’s proposed 2018 federal budget is a shockingly cruel document that threatens to destroy America’s already threadbare social safety net in order to give the rich and powerful (even more) hefty tax cuts. His policies have undermined the international order and America’s place as the dominant global power. It would appear that he and his administration have been manipulated and perhaps (in the case of Michael Flynn) even infiltrated by Vladimir Putin’s spies and other agents. The world has become less safe as a result of Trump’s failures of leadership and cavalier disregard for existing alliances and treaties.

Donald Trump’s failures as president have been compounded by his unstable personality and behavior. It has been reported by staffers inside the Trump White House that he is prone to extreme mood swings, is cantankerous and unpredictable, flies into blind rages when he does not get his way, is highly suggestible and readily manipulated, becomes bored easily and fails to complete tasks, is confused by basic policy matters and is unhappy and lonely. And despite bragging about his “strength” and “vitality” during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump appears to tire easily and easily succumbs to “exhaustion.” Trump is apparently all id and possesses little if any impulse control. He is a chronic liar who ignores basic facts and empirical reality in favor of his own fantasies.

Between the scandals and the emotionally erratic behavior, Donald Trump would appear to be a 21st-century version of Richard Nixon, to date the only American president forced to resign under threat of forcible removal. In all, this leads to a serious and worrisome question: Is Donald Trump mentally ill? Moreover, what does Trump’s election reveal about the moods and values of his voters? How are questions of societal emotions and collective mental health connected to the rise of fascism and authoritarianism in America? Do psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals have a moral obligation to warn the public about the problems they see with Donald Trump’s behavior?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Dr. Bandy Lee, a psychiatrist at Yale University who specializes in public health and violence prevention. She recently convened a conference that explored issues related to Donald Trump’s emotional health and how mental health professionals should respond to this crisis. The proceedings from this conference will be featured in a forthcoming book expected later this year.

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. A longer version can be heard on my podcast, available on Salon’s Featured Audio page.

Full article at Alternet.


  1. Kengi says

    ..in spite of the fact they may have their licenses taken away…

    For what? No state licensing board I know of has rules about diagnosing people without meeting them, and then hawking book sales based on that diagnosis. That’s just naked capitalism, which is encouraged in America.

  2. Kengi says

    The Goldwater Rule is a guideline of the APA. The APA isn’t a licensing board. They are a professional association.

  3. Kengi says

    Threats from a licensing board? Or from random people on the internet? I don’t buy that Dr. Lee is being threatened with actual license revocation from an actual licensing board, and it doesn’t say in the article. It just sounds like a good story to help sell books. “I’m the brave psychologist standing up to authority! Buy my book!” The Alternet reporter didn’t bother actually asking about it, or investigating it at all, despite the bizarre nature of the claim.

    After searching, I can’t find a single instance of any American licensing board even supporting such an investigation. I’ve searched through other articles mentioning Dr. Lee, and nothing about licensing is brought up in any of them. I took a look over at NYSED.gov about their Psychiatry & Neurology / Psychiatry licensing (Dr. Lee is licensed by the state of New York) and they don’t seem to have any rules that could be used to get Dr. Lee’s license revoked.

    License revocations are extraordinarily rare, usually for violations such as having sex with a patient, becoming financially entangled with a patient, drug or alcohol impairment, or fraud (usually insurance fraud). There’s just not much that can cause a psychologist to lose their license.

    Again, the Goldwater rule is a professional association guideline. And I think it’s a good one. The psychologist is being unprofessional, but doing nothing that would be considered license-revocation worthy in any state.

    Everything mentioned about Trump’s behavior is perfectly reasonable to discuss, and its reasonable to further say it makes him unfit to be president. It’s also perfectly reasonable to point out narcissist personality traits and how that makes him a poor, even dangerous choice as president.

    It’s quite another to make a professional diagnosis (claiming mental impairment) without ever meeting the person in question, which is why the Goldwater Rule exists. To do so while hawking a book to sell, well, that’s just slimy capitalism. Dr. Oz-worthy slime. Perfectly legal. But not a danger to their license. Just not very ethical.

    Other articles managed to be a little more nuanced about the conference where the Goldwater Rule was discussed. Again, a perfectly reasonable thing to discuss. The conference mentioned may even be worth reading about, but not lying to promote her book. And the rule still seems sound. Don’t make a professional diagnosis without meeting the person in a clinical setting. Given the damage done by pop-psychology quacks, it seems a reasonable limitation.

    Being sensitive to such issues isn’t that hard. You can still complain about the narcissistic traits of the tiny tyrant, and point out the dangers, without actually making a professional diagnosis of a specific disorder.

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