Politics has always been something that has evoked passion from many people all over the world, on all sides of the political spectrum. The discussion of how to run the country (and the world) is a topic that involves a lot of different beliefs and decisions that need to be made by a large group of people with different upbringings and thought processes, so it is no wonder why it can become a heated and difficult topic to discuss! Adding in the overwhelming constant access that we have to information, thanks to the Internet and social media, it is hard to get away from politics and the drama that results from it.
Although politics has always involve highly conflictual battles between the parties of the United States based on contrasting ideals, it can often feel like the inauguration of President Donald Trump has amplified this to an extreme degree. Everywhere you look it seems someone is upset about something that the President or someone around him has said or done. Each day, a new Tweet from the President can send America into a frenzy, where people rush to either attack him or defend him. The news outlets would make you believe that the fate of the country seems to dangle on every decision the President makes, and as a result many Americans have been experiencing an increased level of anxiety and concern about what is to come.
Researchers are finding that American’s are seeing a rise in anxious symptoms since the 2016 election. The findings show that more than half of Americans surveyed said that the current political climate is a source of stress and worry. It also found that, while Democrats obviously seem to have identified their anxiety and stress to the results of the 2016 election, Republicans also identified an increased feeling of anxiety regarding the future of what the nation would become. So, is there such thing as Trump Anxiety? It’s obviously not a clinically diagnosable condition (yet), but it does seem that the political current events we are experiencing are causing more stress than before. The question is: why?
It’s possible that one of the main reasons is the increased access and ingestion of news that we all take in; it’s everywhere! Television, radio, internet, social media… Everywhere you look there is someone saying something about the news of the day. It’s hard to get away from conversations about border security and separating families at our borders, or the mass shootings that bring up gun rights discussions, or the special counsel investigation looking into how the 2016 election may have been impacted by the Russians. As a result, it seems like the inability to separate from the toxicity of the news lately could have definitely increased the feelings of helplessness in many people around the country.
Helplessness is a key feeling that can contribute to many different mental health conditions, particularly anxiety and depression. Feeling like you cannot control what is happening around you can make you feel powerless, and powerlessness can cause you to begin to develop other mental health symptoms, like anhedonia (lack of interest in things you used to enjoy), sadness, lethargy, lack of sleep, difficulty concentrating, nervousness, worry, panic, and all sorts of things!
So what can you do if you’re experiencing “Trump Anxiety”? The most important thing is moderating your social media and news intake. While knowing what is happening in the world can be useful and important, try to limit the amount of time you spend seeking out information that causes you stress. If you realize that the content of the media is making you feel stressed, turn your attention to something relaxing, calming, and enjoyable! Reading an unrelated book for pleasure, watching an uplifting television show, exercising, spending time outdoors, meditation, and taking a bath are some suggestions of things to do to get your mind off of the political drama of the day.
In addition to distraction and relaxation techniques, a cure for helplessness is doing what you can to make a difference! Writing to your representatives, going to marches or protests, sending donations to organizations who are fighting for causes you believe in, and volunteering to help those organizations and others in need can help you see that there are many other people who feel the same way and who see the world like you do. Finding connections with people who have the same values can help you feel more united with the causes you believe in, thus making them feel more powerful! Overall, it’s important to remind yourself that the “Trump Anxiety” or politically motivated anxiety symptoms you’re experiencing are temporary and to be kind to yourself and others until the dust settles.
Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events