Trump Anxiety Disorder (and Other Maladies)

Upon visiting New York’s Times Square earlier this year, it struck me how pointless the whole place is. What is billed as a “must-see” by people keen to broaden their like counts into the magic three-figures, is really an epileptic seizure.

Of course, I jostled among the gawkish lemmings, paid $2 for a selfie stick as disposable as the memory itself, and selfied my own faux-excitement for the apparent benefit of those not lucky enough to spend hours submerging themselves in the flicker and folly of hashtag paradise.

I learned a lot. McDonald’s sell hamburgers. Friendships are built on Coke. Buy a Jeep and one will explode as an atomic devastation of testosterone.

Later on, I learned real New Yorkers detest Times Square. Can’t blame them. That pulsing narcotic neon: Buy! Buy! Buy! Each convulsion inducing a Pavlovian drooling upon the targeted.  Or perhaps I am mildly cynical.

Leaving the seething looming maddening Times Square, I felt denuded. Did I really need to buy a Jeep? It is enough to push anyone to the sauce.

Admittedly, my “ordeal” hardly warrants a $5 monthly donation. Nor a few hours with a therapist. I doubt they’d have the time, anyway. There are apparently far more pernicious first-world problems flopping across the chaise longues of Planet Xanax.

Donald Trump said he’d be the “greatest jobs president this country had ever seen.” And he is right. Jobs figures are undoubtedly strong. Even New York Times journalists recently had to admit it. So, en route to his nearest practice, a bewildered New York therapist probably puzzles while his Trump-supporting cab driver no doubt smirks.

Because therapists are inundated with patients “suffering” from “Trump Anxiety Disorder.” Frazzled liberals have gummed up therapy offices ever since President Trump waltzed into office.

They report problems like: feeling a loss of control, helplessness, fretfulness about daily life, and spending excessive time on social media. One patient said she often woke at night to check headlines.

TAD also affects the president’s supporters. Many of whom say they’ve been cut off from friends and family, even divorced, for supporting President Trump’s agenda, even if most of them wince at his flame-throwing tactics.

Therapists, no doubt coining it in, say their patients often resemble children raised by personality-disordered parents—those imbued with “grandiosity, excessive attention-seeking, and a severe lack of empathy.”

There’s little doubt we live in what often seems like a computer simulation commandeered by perennially bored and curious teenagers guffawing at our daily renewed puzzlement. I’m not the only one to still double-take when “President Donald Trump” emblazons along the chyron.

The American Psychological Association even reports a 5 percentage point rise in anxiety during the Trump era (from  52 to 57 percent) over six months before, during, and after his 2016 election. American stress levels are at a 10-year high. Two-thirds say they are “stressed” about the future.

It’s not a mystery as to why a nation is fraying into sickness—psychologists have established links between politically-related stress and digital news consumption.

Log on to Facebook, or if you really are a masochist, Twitter, and count how long it takes your face to harden, or your eyes to roll. Worse yet: see how long it takes before you actually log off and end the torment.

Social media compounds our misery. President Trump, to those seeking therapy at least, is not the real issue. Rather it is what therapists call the “presenting problem.” Americans, indeed citizens across the West, were frazzled long before Trump began lighting up Twitter.

Much is said about my own Millennial generation. And, yes, the majority of us probably do deserve the “snowflake” moniker. All jokes aside: Millennials aren’t inured to the strange tapestry of modern times. The average millennial reports anxiety levels on par with the average 1950s psychiatric patient.

But it isn’t President Trump making people ill. It’s the system he is trying to overturn, without much help from those it poisons.

Resoundingly strong economic figures are dusted with salt between the pages and pixels of virtually the entire old media. Imagine if Obama hit 4.1 percent growth. He’d be World King.

Everything Trump does is amplified to the extreme. Yes, the all-caps Twitter tirades are deeply upsetting to those who appreciate the English language. The errant capitalizations rob my lungs of air. Those exclamation marks! Trump tweets like a sugared-up problem child.

But he wasn’t elected for his grammar. Americans didn’t vote for a pastor, but a disruptor tasked with bringing down the last 25 years of economic, social, and cultural rot.

Call it what you may. The populist realignment raging across Europe and America is a flat rejection of globalism and neoliberalism, and their corruption in service to special interests.

Indeed, far worse than a little Trump-induced flutter is the specter of despair deaths. Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton found that death rates amongst non-Hispanic White Americans without a college degree (the apparently white-privileged) were surging.

In 1999, white men and women ages 50-54 with a high school education had a mortality rate 30 percent lower than that of black Americans. By 2015, it was 30 percent higher. Something is not right.

Watch the video, here. The standout quote underlines the current malaise: “If we can only generate good lives for an elite that’s about a third of the population, then we have a real problem.”

Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s pathbreaking study of mortality and morbidity in the 21st century found that the erosion of blue-collar jobs led to a frightful increase in suicides, overdoses, and drug and alcohol-related deaths. This haunting reality has hardened since the 2008 financial crash—the danse macabre of the neoliberal age.

And those counties with the highest rates of despair deaths? They overwhelmingly voted for Trump. They will continue to do so, given the president’s agenda to bring back the jobs entire communities depended upon until some bright-spark market fundies got their way.

Perhaps those seeking therapy for a few salt-mining tweets should “check their privilege.” Myself included.

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images

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