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Is Donald Trump mad?

Ever since Donald Trump declared himself candidate to the U.S. presidency, psychologists and psychiatrists have debated over his state of mind. Is he mentally ill? Is he fit to be president? In November 2016, barely three weeks after the election, three professors of psychiatry sent an open letter to Barack Obama, in which "they express [their] grave concern regarding the mental stability of our President-Elect." According to them, his symptoms of mental instability include "grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality." As a result, they "strongly" recommended "a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation".

Since then, various newspapers editorials have asked the same questions. As an example, the many bombastic statements Trump made towards North Korea in recent weeks have prompted journalists to wonder whether the 45th president is actually fit to occupy the Oval Office. After all, the man is impulsive and reacts quickly when he feels he has been insulted. To make matters worse, he has a tendency to come up with lies, "alternative facts" or conspiracy theories. On November 14, the Washington Post (fast checker) noted that Trump had made 1628 false or misleading claims since he took office, "an astonishing 9 claims a day", and concluded he was a "pathological chronic liar".

Last October, Rosemary K.M. Sword and Philip Zimbardo, who both hold a PhD. in psychology, wrote an article in Psychology Today: "The Elephant in the Room". They observed Trump's "schoolyard-bully tactics" which they associated with an "obvious narcissistic personality". The article was viewed over 1 million times. In October, they revisited the issue, this time with the help of 27 other specialists in mental illnesses, in a book titled "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump". This time they outlined "Trump's extreme present hedonistic behavior" and his tendency to multiply lies and "immature remarks" (his comments over the size of his genitalia being one example among many).

Meanwhile, the group "Duty to Warn" founded by psychotherapist Dr. John Gartner has managed to gather nearly 70 000 signatures on a petition which calls for the removal of Donald Trump from office due to "serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States". This petition proved controversial, however, even among mental health experts. "Is it ethical or appropriate for mental health professionals to venture into public acts of diagnosis?" asked the editor of Psychology Today. Should discussing Trump's mental sanity be considered a breach of professional integrity? Some argue the answer to that question is clearly Yes, in the name of the so-called "Goldwater Rule". The rule was established in 1973 by the American Psychiatric Association. It makes it a violation for mental health experts to offer their professional opinion of any person they have personally examined. In 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater, then candidate to the presidential election, was deemed unfit to be president by several psychiatrists. He counter-attacked, sued the psychiatrists and won!

For those experts who have voiced their opinion that Trump presents all the signs of a dangerous "sociopath" and should, therefore, be removed from office according to article 4 of the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, it is precisely in the name of Ethics that they have chosen to speak. A powerful man who keeps lying, cheating, manipulating and can't be bothered with the consequences of his acts is not only cynical in his approach but clearly lacks empathy, they argue. Their conclusion: he should not be president.

Food for thoughts...

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