Dr. Allen Francis chaired the task force that wrote the DSM-IV, the book that defines behavioral and psychiatric disorders. He sent Trump a Valentine’s Day gift in the form of a letter to the New York Times, explaining that the President does not has Narcisissitic Personality Disorder, a claim that has been widely made by many doctors over the past months. Instead says Dr. Francis, Trump is just ignorant, incompetent, impulsive, and a power-hungry narcissist.
Dr. Francis’ Letter to the Editor
The following letter appeared in the Feb. 14, 2017 edition of the New York Times.
To the Editor:
Fevered media speculation about Donald Trump’s psychological motivations and psychiatric diagnosis has recently encouraged mental health professionals to disregard the usual ethical constraints against diagnosing public figures at a distance. They have sponsored several petitions and a Feb. 14 letter to The New York Times suggesting that Mr. Trump is incapable, on psychiatric grounds, of serving as president.
Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.
Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).
Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.
His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.
Why do people keep labeling Trump with a slew of psychiatric disorders?
Following the sage advice of Dr. Francis, trying to diagnose Trump from a distance demeans those who genuinely suffer from psychiatric disorders. They are victims to medical afflictions and do not rationally choose their behavior.
As Dr. Francis noted, the news is replete with claims from medical professionals that Trump has a variety of psychiatric disorders, like this article from Jan 29, 2017, saying he has “repetition compulsion” similar to alcoholism. Or this one from two days earlier saying Trump has incurable “malignant narcissism” and that “Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.”
Perhaps so many real and armchair psychiatrists are diagnosing Trump because it feels comforting to find a rational justification for his behavior. The alternative to him having some sort of psychiatric disorder is that he is just innately how Dr. Francis described: an ignorant, incompetent, impulsive, and power-hungry narcissist. That isn’t “better” than having a mental disorder, it is worse.
Otherwise stated, Donald Trump is temperamentally incapable of being president. But, he is the President. So yes, everyone needs to turn their attention to finding political solutions. Right now, that means applying relentless pressure on a do-nothing Congress to investigate the revelations of widespread ties between his team and senior Russian Intelligence.
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