Photo: Michael Vadon | Wikimedia Commons
The editor of Vanity Fair magazine has a simple explanation for what you might be feeling.
In his summer 2017 editor’s letter, Graydon Carter wrote that the United States is suffering from PTSD.
As in “President Trump Stress Disorder.”
The stress and anxiety level of the country has reached such a high level that Harvard University was compelled to publish an article in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month.
In it, the authors said the reaction to the Trump presidency could be having deep and long-lasting health effects on the nation.
Those include higher disease risk, premature births, and earlier deaths.
“Elections can matter for the health of children and adults in profound ways that are often unrecognized and unaddressed,” David R. Williams, PhD, MPH, lead author of the article, professor of public health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and professor of African and African-American studies at Harvard University, said in a press release.
And these so-called Trump Disorders aren’t just affecting those who dislike the president.
Elaine Ducharme, PhD, a board-certified clinical psychologist in Connecticut, told Healthline that supporters of the president are feeling stressed over the current investigations into the White House, as well as the constant criticism of Trump by opponents.
“The level of venom coming out of people’s mouths on both sides of the aisle is kind of disturbing,” Ducharme said. “It’s like a hotly contested divorce.”
It’s more than just stress
The New England Journal of Medicine article was written by Williams and Dr. Morgan Medlock, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital.
In their posting, the authors quoted a number of studies that detailed the potential effects of election results, in particular the 2016 contest.
One is a survey by the American Psychological Association released in February, that revealed 57 percent of the country feels the current political climate is a significant or somewhat significant source of stress.
In addition, two-thirds of respondents said they were concerned about the future of the nation.
Williams and Medlock said marginalized groups such as racial minorities are likely to be affected most.
They said that is because they are facing hostile environments in the wake of the Trump presidency.
The authors noted that after President Barack Obama was elected in 2008 one-third of white Americans in one survey said they were “troubled” that a black man was in the White House.
They said there was a “marked increase” in racial animosity on social media after that historic election.
The authors added that Trump’s victory last November appears to be bringing “to the surface preexisting hostile attitudes toward racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and Muslims.”
They also quoted one survey of 2,000 elementary and high school teachers in which half of the instructors said that since the 2016 presidential campaign began many of their students have been “emboldened” to use racial slurs and name calling.
Stress is one of the outcomes of this heated climate, but Williams and Medlock say it goes beyond that.
They referred to an August 2016 study of 1,836 U.S. counties, conducted by the University of California at Berkeley. The results revealed an elevated risk of heart disease among both black and white residents in what were termed as “high prejudice counties.”
They also spotlighted a 2006 study by the University of Chicago. Researchers stated that six months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks there was an increase in babies with low birth-weights, as well as premature births among Arab-American women. Researchers chalked that up to the hostility toward this group after the attacks.
The authors also warned that cuts to health and social service programs could further exacerbate some of these health effects.
They urged healthcare providers to better recognize some of these physical and mental health issues. In addition, they said medical professionals should create “safe spots” for patients, as well as advocate for helpful policies and programs.
How can you cope?
Ducharme said there are a number of things people can do to relieve stress they might be feeling about the Trump presidency.
One strategy is to simply take a break from it.
“Go ahead and listen to the news, but then shut it off,” she said. “There’s only so much you can say hour after hour. Do something more pleasant instead.”
Ducharme said doing something positive that is also physical is a great stress reliever.
Activities such as taking a walk or doing yoga are alternatives.
She even mentioned The Wrecking Club in New York. That’s where you pay to use a sledgehammer to break apart old furniture and other items before they’re carted off to the landfill.
Officials at the club, which opened in February, told Healthline most of their customers come in simply for fun or as part of a dating group or bachelor party.
They did say a few people have paid to relieve their anger from a divorce or, yes, the current political climate.
Ducharme said doing relaxing things you enjoy is another stress buster. Watching a movie or doing a crossword puzzle are good distractions.
She also advises people to keep things in perspective.
Our political system, she notes, has checks and balances.
“The reality is we have a democracy and the president isn’t a dictator,” she said.
She also tells people not to take dire predictions too seriously. After all, not many experts predicted Donald Trump would win the presidency.
Most of all, Ducharme says to stay informed but also adopt a “wait and see” attitude.
“Sometimes we have to live with uncertainty. The reality is we don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen,” she said.
She recommends people look for the positive.
“Try looking at what’s stable instead of what’s unstable,” she said.
She says you can’t control what is happening in Washington, but you can control how you behave.
Speak respectfully to others, get involved in a positive local effort, or assist others.
“It helps for people to hear and see things that are reassuring,” she said.