Joy Victory is deputy managing editor of HealthNewsReview.org. She tweets as @thejoyvictory.
I had hoped it would be tongue-in-cheek, but Kaiser Health News and CNN very earnestly brought us a trend story this week on the apparent newfound epidemic of “post election stress disorder.”
Hinging mostly on anecdotal statements and this November essay that ran in Psychology Today, the CNN story says “Mental health professionals around the country, especially those working in Democratic strongholds, report a stream of patients coming in with anxiety and depression related to–or worsened by–the blast of daily news on the new administration.”
It’s one thing to talk about how some people are struggling to adapt to the nation’s shift to a right-wing, conservative administration.
It’s another to slap it with a label–one that that sounds similar to the very real, very hard-to-treat mental diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
First, it medicalizes a normal state of existence, explained psychiatrist Dr. Allen Frances, professor and chairman emeritus of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine.
He sympathized with people who are upset by the election results, but issued an “oy vey” to the notion that they have a disorder.
“Everyone should feel worry at Trump’s election–he is the greatest threat to U.S. democracy in our 240-year history. But the appropriateness of the feeling is precisely what makes the reporting so inappropriate. It is not a mental disorder to feel normal emotions in response to life stress,” he said via email.
Also, dubbing it a disorder is demeaning to those who are struggling with PTSD. “Medicalizing daily life trivializes psychiatric disorders,” Frances said.
This point was made somewhat less eloquently by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, a Republican and injured veteran from Florida, who was interviewed by FOX News. In 2010, he was severely injured by an improvised explosive device and lost both his legs.
“There was a big missed opportunity in naming it ‘Post-Election Stress Disorder,'” he said. “I would have preferred they name it ‘Post-Inauguration Stress Disorder,’ that way they could have called it ‘PISD.’ There’s a big difference between being pissed off about things and what happens on the battlefield.”