THE OTHER EPIDEMIC OF MENTAL ILLNESS
By Richard Davis
I have been trying to understand why so many people seem to believe all of the lies and inaccurate statements that surround Trump and his loyal band of criminals. The only conclusion I could come to is that I don’t have an explanation for this kind of thinking and that it is impossible to explain this mindset in rational terms.
But I have not been satisfied with my conclusions, so I tried to approach this bizarre situation from a different angle. I am now starting to realize that we may be experiencing the largest wave of mental illness that has ever developed in this country.
Consider this definition of a delusional state from the National Institutes of Health. “A delusion is a fixed false belief based on an inaccurate interpretation of an external reality despite evidence to the contrary. The diagnosis of a delusional disorder is made when a person has one or more non-bizarre (situations that are not real but also not impossible) delusional thoughts for one month or more that cannot be explained by any other condition. An individual’s cultural beliefs merit consideration before coming to the diagnosis. Cultural beliefs also impact the content of delusions. In patients with delusional disorder, delusions(s) do not impact the functionality and the patient’s behavior is not overtly bizarre.”
One of the more obvious applications of this definition relates to the outcome of the 2020 election. Trump and his supporters defy reality and continue to say that he won the election. There is no proof of that contention and there is ample evidence to prove that he lost. But despite the facts, the Trumpers persist. This is clearly delusional behavior.
Then there is the January 6 insurrection. The attack on the capitol is based on a number of delusions relating to the 2020 election as well as a belief system that does not match the reality of American law. One of the more twisted concepts is that the attackers are patriots because they are taking over the government by force.
That army of insurrectionists created their own definition of patriotism by breaking a number of laws and subverting the letter and spirit of the Constitution to suit their own agenda. What they did was not patriotic. It was criminal and seditious and to characterize their actions any other way is to harbor yet more delusion.
Now we have the claim by Trump that he had a right to keep top secret and sensitive documents relating to national security after he left the White House. His claim is contrary to the law. He defied efforts to have him return those documents and dug in as the FBI and other national security agencies asked him to return them. This is a black and white issue and, to my way of thinking, another example of a delusional state.
One of the reasons that the delusions and the legions of people who harbor these delusions are able to thrive has a lot to do with politics. When you mix politics and mental illness the world becomes a place where reality is distorted and where the truth no longer has any meaning. It happened in Nazi Germany as Hitler rose to power and it is happening again as Trump has been able to use his delusional state to drive a political movement.
Would psychiatrists be inclined to diagnose Trump and his supporters as suffering from a delusional state severe enough to be considered a mental illness? I don’t know, but maybe it doesn’t matter. Our political system is being driven by too many delusional individuals and until we make them accountable for their behavior in the courts their particular brand of illness will continue to taint all of society.