'Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump': Experts say POTUS is a 'malignant narcissist', not fit to run a country
Psychiatrists who have been watching Trump's rather erratic behavior claim that he is indeed a malignant narcissist and even meets the four criteria that classify the disorder
The rumors swirling around President Donald Trump's mental health have been at an all-time high in recent times. While leading psychologists cannot confirm a diagnosis with regard to POTUS' state of mind, they believe that he checks all the boxes for someone who suffers from DSM-5 (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) personality disorder. In a new documentary titled 'Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump', psychiatrists and mental health experts give significant insight into what they perceive from Trump's behavioral pattern and whether he is fit to be the president and Commander-in-Chief of the country.
Dr John Gartner PhD, psychologist; Dr Lance Dodes MD, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst; and Dr Justin Frank MD, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, discuss a pathology of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) known as malignant narcissism and liken its symptoms to the president's behavior. Dr Gartner is also the founder of Duty to Warn, an organization of psychologists who believe that Trump should be removed because he is psychologically unfit to run the country. The Goldwater Rule prevents psychologists from diagnosing a public figure or patient without a personal consultation or examination, but that does not mean they don't recognize signs of a disorder when they see one. And just as the Tarasoff rule lays it down, it is a psychologist's duty to warn the possible victims (the people of the country) of the threat.
Personality disorders are stable maladaptive patterns of behavior. It comprises four areas — cognitive or thought patterns, affective or emotional patterns, interpersonal or patterns involving others and impulse control, as per the American Psychological Association.
According to Very Well Mind, an estimated 10 percent of the total US population is affected by personality disorders that impair how people function in their lives. When it comes to narcissism however, NPD has variants of which malignant narcissism has been found to be the most damaging. It transcends beyond being extremely self-centered and held in high regard by everyone they ever come in contact with, to a darker and more sinister side of self-absorption.
Malignant narcissism was coined by psychiatrist Erich Fromm, a Holocaust survivor who escaped Nazi Germany and wanted to understand the behavioral pattern of his enemies. He said that the disorder led people to think that they are inherently special and superior simply because of "for instance, his body, his looks, his health, his wealth". He added, "Malignant narcissism, thus, is not self-limiting." Malignant narcissists can be highly manipulative and don't have an ounce of empathy. They don't care who they hurt in the process as long as they can get their own way or may even enjoy inflicting pain upon others, experiencing it as something empowering. Their perception of the world is strictly black and white, and they always seek to emerge as winner at all costs, leaving behind a great sense of pain, frustration, and heartache.
Unlike most personality disorders that stay stable through the course of life, Fromm said malignant narcissism "tends to grow in the lifetime of the afflicted person". He said, "The more he tries to be a god, the more he isolates himself from the human race; this isolation makes him more frightened, everybody becomes his enemy, and in order to stand the resulting fright, he has to increase his power, his ruthlessness, and his narcissism." Dr Gartner, Dr Dodes, Dr Frank, and many more psychiatrists who have been watching Trump's rather erratic behavior claim that he is indeed a malignant narcissist and even meets the four criteria that classify the disorder — narcissism, anti-social personality disorder (sociopathy or psychopathy), paranoia and sadism.
Narcissism is a personality trait that has been around for ages, and while these aren't necessarily diagnosable, narcissistic personality disorder is. The possible traits include a “grandiose sense of self-importance", “fantasies of unlimited power", demands for “excessive admiration" and lack of empathy. According to Gartner, these are the traits that are almost synonymous to Trump and his behavior. For instance, Trump's tweets about himself throughout 2019 have sounded excessively narcissistic at best. "What you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius," he tweeted in July of last year. "There are those that think I’m a very stable genius, okay? I watch my words very, very closely," he said in a White House briefing in October.
What's more is that he has often claimed that "nobody knows more than me", adding suffixes like “in the world", “than any human being on earth", and “in history", to his sentences when addressing issues like taxation, campaign finance, construction, technology, the environment, the press, healthcare and even ISIS. Some of these statements are so far fetched that they also raise doubts on whether he believes them himself or is aware that he is making misleading statements. Similarly, with the coronavirus outbreak that the US had been unprepared for, especially in terms of deficit testing, Trump addressed the shortage in March 2020, saying “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
In addition, he said that he was not personally involved in the dissolution of the pandemic-planning body Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which his administration had ended in 2018. If still in function, the two bodies could have saved thousands of lives during the pandemic. Later, in April, at a Covid-19 press briefing, when asked about the metrics he would consider when the country opens up and people go back, his response was to point to his head and say, "The metric's right here." Despite the fatal threat that the disease posed, he refused to follow his own administration's facemask guideline.
When Fox News host Neil Cavuto slammed Trump's announcement claiming hydroxychloroquine could be a preventive measure (when in reality it is the opposite), his response was an angry tweet: “Fox News is no longer the same. We miss the great Roger Ailes. You have more anti-Trump people, by far, than ever before. Looking for a new outlet!”
Anti-social personality disorder
Anti-social personality disorder is also called sociopathy or psychopathy. The key feature of this condition is the tendency to consistently disregard other people and their feelings. The traits also include manipulation and deceit. Trump has been deemed a “pathological liar” several times. According to a July 2020 report by the Washington Post, POTUS has made over 19,127 false or misleading claims since his inauguration. Another primary component is the lack of remorse or regret for wrongdoing and neither do they care about the consequences of their actions. Trump has displayed signs of aggression, recklessness and even vengefulness, especially when he is quick to dismiss administration employees who he considers have displayed disloyalty.
Instead, he has made an effort to only surround himself with those that comply to his every word and whim — those he can dominate. These are characteristics of anti-social personality disorder. At a Covid-19 press conference in April, upon being asked about his authority to reopen the country, he reportedly said: "I have the ultimate authority. When somebody is the President of the United States, the authority is total and that’s the way it’s got to be… It’s total. The governors know that.” He had to be told that the constitution’s separation of powers lets states make their own decision with regard to this. Later, he also tweeted as insurgent citizens took to the streets to oppose the shutdown orders from their respective states and governors.
Dr Gartner deemed that Trump’s paranoia is through the roof if one were to consider his crazy conspiracy theories. Not to mention that he is convinced he is surrounded by disloyal people, hence the number of administration employees being fired. In the days after he was acquitted of the impeachment case that was largely based on testimonies of officials who had worked for him, his view that the government is filled with whistleblowers, plotters and traitors was only reinforced. He has been very vocal about his conspiracy theories as well. Furthermore, Dr Gartner opines that he is very quick to turn the situation around to make it seem like he is the real victim.
Trump said in May that former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden should be investigated for “Obamagate”, a criminal conspiracy that was likened to the 1970s ‘Watergate’ scandal. He claimed that this was planned in 2016, to undermine his election and presidency. He told a reporter: "Obamagate. It's been going on for a long time. It's been going on from before I even got elected. And it's a disgrace that it happened.” He also said in a tweet that Obamagate was "The biggest political crime in American history, by far!" He requested his attorney general, William Barr, to investigate Obama and Biden, to which bar declined saying, “As long as I’m attorney general, the criminal justice system will not be used for partisan political ends.”
Sadism simply means taking pleasure in humiliating someone or causing them pain. While DSM-5 does list sexual sadism disorder as a condition, sadism itself is not a mental health diagnosis and neither is it always sexual. Dr Gartner called Trump a sadist because he takes pleasure in harming, humiliating and degrading another human being. A valid example for this is the several clips of him mocking the press, especially that one time he targeted a diabled reporter. A book published in 2020 also highlights Trump’s tendency to publicly humiliate his employees. In one incident he is said to have yelled at his generals in front of the rest of the staff saying, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”
On another occasion, the book say he publicly reprimanded his Attorney General Jeff Sessions who had been the first major politician to render his support to Trump’s candidacy. “It’s your f****ng fault," Trump reportedly yelled. “You’re weak. This is all your fault… You should f****ng resign.” Sessions had been holding back tears as others bore witness to the incident.
'Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump' directed by Dan Partland will be available on-demand from September 1.