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Normalizing the Abnormal: How Trump Has Affected the Mental Health of the United States


The intersection of political leadership and societal mental health has become increasingly pronounced in the contemporary political climate, particularly during the tenure of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

The psychological bond between Trump and his followers, the impact of his policies on various demographics, and the broader societal implications of divisive politics highlight the profound influence of political narratives, personalities, and policies on collective mental health.

This essay delves into the psychological and societal consequences of the normalization of extreme political behaviors and rhetoric, offering insights into the repercussions on American politics, governance, and public well-being.

The Psychological Impact of Political Leadership

Shared Psychosis between Donald Trump and His Followers

The concept of “shared psychosis” (also referred to as “folie à plusieurs”) provides a framework for understanding the psychological bond between Donald Trump and his followers. This phenomenon involves a contagious sharing of delusional beliefs, emanating from a dominant personality to his followers. Trump’s charismatic authority and his followers’ adulation created a symbiotic relationship, wherein his narcissistic and destructive behaviors were mirrored and amplified among his base.

This mutual reinforcement of deleterious traits led to an escalating cycle of radicalization, culminating in events like the Capitol riot. Trump’s refusal to concede the election, his propagation of unfounded claims of electoral fraud, and his incendiary rhetoric served as a catalyst for his supporters’ actions, illustrating a mutual psychosis that endangered democratic norms and public safety.

Mental Health Diagnoses among QAnon Followers

The intersection between extreme political beliefs and underlying psychological issues is exemplified by the QAnon conspiracy movement. Research reveals a significant prevalence of mental health diagnoses among QAnon adherents, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety.

These findings suggest a link between the susceptibility to conspiratorial thinking and existing psychological vulnerabilities. The movement’s embrace of unfounded and fantastical claims reflects a deeper need for belonging and meaning among its followers, many of whom have experienced psychological trauma or social isolation. The radicalization of individuals with mental health issues, attracted by the promise of insider knowledge and a grandiose battle against evil, underscores the importance of addressing mental health care as part of broader efforts to combat the spread of extremist ideologies.

Mental Distress in Response to Trump’s Policies

The presidency of Donald Trump has been associated with increased mental distress across various demographics, particularly among LGBTQ individuals and racial minorities. Studies have documented the exacerbation of mental health issues in these communities, driven by the administration’s policies and rhetoric. The rollback of transgender protections, the implementation of the Muslim ban, and the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border are examples of policies that have directly harmed the mental well-being of affected populations.

The emboldenment of hate crimes and the normalization of discriminatory rhetoric under Trump have further contributed to a climate of fear and anxiety, necessitating a concerted effort to support the mental health of marginalized communities in the aftermath of his presidency.

Societal Consequences of Divisive Politics

The role of political leadership in shaping societal divisions is pivotal, and nowhere has this been more evident than during the tenure of the United States’ 45th president. His administration’s policies and rhetoric have not only deepened societal fissures but have also had profound effects on the mental health and societal cohesion of both marginalized communities and the general population.

Democratic Erosion and Societal Divisions:

Research underlines a concerning trend of democratic erosion in the United States, characterized by election manipulation and executive overreach. This erosion is manifested in laws reducing voters’ access to ballots, politicizing election administration, and extreme gerrymandering, which collectively serve to deepen societal divisions. The executive power expansion, underpinned by actions aimed at subverting election results and diminishing civil service independence, directly threatens the principles of democracy and fosters a climate of division and mistrust within society.

The Role of Partisan Politics:

Findings suggest that the partisan dynamics, particularly with certain party controls of state governments, significantly reduce democratic performance and integrity. This political landscape, marked by attempts to restrict ballot access, has not only alienated vast swaths of the electorate but has also contributed to a sense of disenfranchisement among marginalized communities. The politicization of election administration and the judicial system, coupled with the judiciary’s conservative tilt, further exacerbates societal divisions by undermining faith in democratic institutions and eroding the protections of voting rights.

Mental Health Consequences:

Insights into the “traumatized” nature of American society highlight the mental health consequences of divisive politics. The rise of platforms dedicated to discussing trauma and the popularity of trauma-related content reflect a collective grappling with the traumas inflicted by political divisiveness. The concept of trauma related to the political climate, underscored by policies and rhetoric affecting immigrants, LGBTQ people, and people of color, has significantly contributed to the stress, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed experienced by many Americans. This traumatic landscape is further compounded by the pandemic, racial justice protests, and the overall climate of polarization and violence, which not only strains the societal fabric but also necessitates a comprehensive approach to healing and rebuilding.

Implications for Policy and Society:

The societal consequences of divisive politics, as manifested during the presidency in question, underscore the urgent need for policies that foster unity, respect for democratic norms, and protection of marginalized communities. Addressing the root causes of division, including systemic inequalities and the erosion of democratic institutions, is crucial for healing the societal wounds and rebuilding trust among the citizenry. Moreover, enhancing access to mental health care and supporting initiatives that promote understanding and reconciliation can serve as vital steps towards mending the divisions and ensuring the resilience of the democratic fabric.

The Role of Media and Information Dissemination

The complicity of media in normalizing extreme political behavior, through both the amplification of divisive rhetoric and the portrayal of abnormal behaviors as contentious political strategies, has had profound implications for societal discourse and democratic processes. This normalization has facilitated the entry of previously marginalized extremist views into mainstream political discourse, contributing to the polarization of society. The media’s role in this process can be understood through two primary mechanisms: amplification of divisive rhetoric and portrayal of abnormal behavior as political strategy.

Amplification of Divisive Rhetoric:

The media, including both traditional news outlets and social media platforms, have played a pivotal role in amplifying divisive political rhetoric. By giving undue attention to sensational, controversial statements and actions, media outlets have contributed to a political environment where extreme views gain visibility and legitimacy. This coverage not only sensationalizes the political landscape but also emboldens individuals and groups with extreme ideologies by providing them with a platform to reach wider audiences.

Portrayal of Abnormal Behavior as Political Strategy:

The portrayal of extreme and abnormal political behavior as merely another strategy within the political game has further normalized such actions. By framing these behaviors within the context of political maneuvering, the media diminishes the perceived severity of actions that would, under normal circumstances, be considered undemocratic or authoritarian. This framing encourages a perception among the public that extreme political behavior is a legitimate tactic in political contests, thereby eroding norms of democratic discourse and conduct.

Influence of Social Media in Spreading Conspiracy Theories:

The role of social media in spreading conspiracy theories and false information has been particularly concerning. Platforms have facilitated the rapid dissemination of “alternative facts,” undermining the shared basis of reality necessary for democratic debate. Social media algorithms, designed to engage users by promoting content that elicits strong emotional responses, have inadvertently favored the spread of sensational, often unfounded narratives. This has created fertile ground for the proliferation of conspiracy theories, which, once relegated to the fringes of political discourse, now find themselves at the center of political debates.

Consequences for Democratic Discourse:

The consequences of these media dynamics for democratic discourse are profound. By undermining the shared reality upon which democratic debate depends, and by normalizing extreme political behavior, the media contribute to the erosion of democratic norms. This erosion makes it increasingly difficult to engage in constructive political dialogue, resolve conflicts through democratic means, and maintain the social trust necessary for democratic governance.

The Impact on Democracy and Governance

The normalization of extreme political behavior has profound implications for democracy and governance, challenging the foundational principles and institutions that underpin democratic societies. The growing polarization and the entrenchment of such behaviors undermine the integrity of electoral processes, the impartiality of the judiciary, and the principle of checks and balances that are essential for the functioning of a democracy.

Undermining of Electoral Integrity

Electoral integrity is compromised through various means, including but not limited to, restrictive voting laws, politicization of election administration, and extreme gerrymandering. These actions not only disenfranchise voters but also erode trust in the electoral process itself. For instance, legislative actions aimed at reducing voter access, such as strict voter ID laws and reductions in early voting opportunities, disproportionately affect marginalized communities, thereby tilting the electoral playing field in favor of certain political interests. Additionally, attempts to politicize election administration and the push towards foreclosing electoral competition via extreme gerrymandering further degrade the democratic principle that elections should be free, fair, and reflective of the will of the people.

Judicial Impartiality and Checks and Balances

The expansion of executive power and the efforts to undermine the independence of the civil service and judicial system represent a direct threat to the principle of checks and balances. When the executive branch seeks to assert undue influence over the judiciary or when it disregards the legislative branch, it disrupts the balance of power that is essential for democracy. The politicization of the judiciary, especially seen through the appointment of judges based on political loyalty rather than merit, compromises the impartiality of the courts. This, in turn, affects their ability to serve as a check on the other branches of government. Moreover, the erosion of civil service independence further undermines the ability of government institutions to function effectively and without undue political interference.

Challenges to Governance

The polarization of the political landscape presents significant challenges to governance, particularly in terms of achieving bipartisan cooperation for the public good. Polarization fosters an environment where compromise is often viewed as weakness, leading to legislative gridlock and an inability to address pressing national issues. This environment diminishes the capacity of democratic institutions to respond effectively to the needs of the populace and to implement policies that have broad societal support.

The difficulty in achieving bipartisan cooperation is further compounded by a political climate that encourages loyalty to party over policy or principle. Such loyalty can lead to the support of policies that are detrimental to the democratic process and the general welfare of the citizenry. The result is a governance model that is increasingly unresponsive to the needs and desires of the broader public, undermining the very essence of democratic governance.

Coping Mechanisms and Societal Responses

The normalization of abnormal politics, characterized by divisive rhetoric, misinformation, and the undermining of democratic norms, has elicited a wide range of responses from both individuals and societies. These responses, aimed at coping with the growing political discord and promoting a healthier public discourse, vary from grassroots activism to increased engagement in political discourse, and from mental health advocacy to educational efforts aimed at enhancing media literacy and critical thinking.

Activism and Public Demonstrations

In response to the rise of abnormal politics, a resurgence of activism and public demonstrations has emerged as a powerful form of societal pushback. People across various demographics have organized and participated in marches, protests, and rallies to voice their concerns about policies and political behaviors they find detrimental to democratic values and human rights. These movements have not only served as a platform for raising awareness about critical issues but have also fostered a sense of community and solidarity among participants. For instance, the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter protests have become emblematic of the widespread desire for social justice and equality, rallying millions globally around shared causes.

Increased Engagement in Political Discourse

Another significant response has been the noticeable increase in public engagement with political discourse. Social media platforms, despite their challenges, have played a crucial role in this by enabling people to share information, engage in discussions, and mobilize around important issues. This democratization of political discourse has empowered individuals to voice their opinions, challenge misinformation, and hold public figures accountable. While the digital landscape can sometimes amplify divisions, it has undeniably facilitated a broader participation in political conversations, encouraging more people to become politically informed and active.

Mental Health Support and Advocacy

The mental health implications of abnormal politics have led to heightened advocacy and support initiatives. Mental health professionals have recognized the stress, anxiety, and trauma associated with political polarization and social unrest, prompting calls for more comprehensive mental health resources. Organizations and mental health advocates have emphasized the importance of addressing the psychological toll of political climate, promoting strategies for coping with political stress, and ensuring that mental health support is accessible to all. This includes efforts to destigmatize mental health issues and provide spaces for people to discuss the emotional impacts of the political environment.

Educational Efforts: Critical Thinking and Media Literacy

Educational efforts aimed at fostering critical thinking and enhancing media literacy have become vital in combating the spread of extremism and misinformation. Schools, universities, and non-profit organizations have developed programs and resources to help individuals critically evaluate information, understand media bias, and discern credible sources from fake news. By equipping people with the tools to navigate the complex media landscape, these educational initiatives aim to build a more informed and resilient citizenry capable of resisting manipulative narratives and contributing to a more constructive political dialogue.


The normalization of extreme political behavior under Donald Trump’s leadership has underscored the intricate relationship between political leadership, societal divisions, and mental health. The psychological phenomena of shared psychosis, the prevalence of mental health diagnoses among extremist followers, and the distress experienced by vulnerable communities elucidate the profound impact of political rhetoric and policies on the nation’s mental well-being. The rise of divisive politics, further amplified by the media and information dissemination, has not only eroded democratic norms but also contributed to a widespread mental health crisis.

Addressing these challenges necessitates a multifaceted approach, prioritizing the restoration of democratic norms, fostering a political culture of mutual respect and tolerance, and enhancing the accessibility of mental health care. Future research and action must focus on mitigating the long-term effects of this period on societal well-being and governance, emphasizing the need for empathy, inclusivity, and integrity in political leadership to heal and fortify the fabric of American society.


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