It’s been a trend since the beginning of the 2016 election — medical professionals expressing their concerns about the health, both physical and mental, of our now Commander-in-Chief. From a distance, he’s been diagnosed with everything from clinical narcissism to being a full-fledged sociopath. Is it possible Donald Trump is truly a sociopath?
What Is a Sociopath?
The term sociopath is an outdated term for a condition now referred to as antisocial personality disorder. Symptoms vary from person to person, but it is generally characterized as an individual who habitually violates or simply disregards the rights of others. Lying, lawbreaking, fighting and indifference to the safety of themselves or others.
Individuals with antisocial personality disorder also tend to be extremely paranoid and believe any aggression toward them is both unfair and arbitrary. Antisocial personality disorder can only be diagnosed by a trained psychologist or psychiatrist.
Social Media Behavior
Trump is perhaps most famous for his behavior on social media websites like Twitter. He hasn’t stopped tweeting or started editing his tweets since becoming president, and his Twitter feed is full of tweets about fake news, witch hunts and how he is being treated unfairly.
He’s recently taken to blocking anyone on Twitter who disagrees with him or criticizes him, which may actually be a violation of the United States Constitution.
Examples of Sociopathic Behavior
According to professionals, President Trump has demonstrated symptoms of both antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. These two mental illnesses tend to overlap and are frequently found in the same person.
Trump has repeatedly demonstrated examples of behavior that could be classified as either one of these disorders, including:
- Compulsive lying. According to PolitiFact, an impartial fact checking website, upwards of 70% of Trump’s statements about factual occurrences appear to be false. Even many of his recent statements about current events such as healthcare and the Paris Climate Accords have all been rated as false.
- Dishonesty in business dealings. The president has a history of refusing to pay service providers and vendors for services or products provided. Trump University, which is in the midst of a series of lawsuits, is also an example of that dishonesty.
- Intolerant of criticism. Trump is utterly intolerant of criticism, whether it’s the kind he can learn from or angry words from frustrated constituents — he also can’t distinguish between these two types of criticism. He responds brutally to any perceived criticism directed at him.
- Inability to apologize. The president never apologizes for any mistakes he makes. He has no sense of accountability and demonstrates a distinct lack of empathy.
- Violent tendencies. He both praised violent behavior perpetrated on his behalf during rallies and conventions and has threatened the physical safety of protestors. This is indicative of antisocial behavior.
You don’t need a Twitter account to see certain aspects of this behavior. His lack of empathy is apparent in his behavior toward immigrants, particularly those from Mexico, Syrian refugees and Muslim travelers.
Without empathy, it may be difficult for him to see that, in many cases, the people trying to enter the country from Syria and other similar countries are trying to get away from the extremist terrorists that he wants to keep out of the country. He is unable to differentiate between terrorists and the people trying to escape them.
Speculation and Guesses
All this, of course, is speculation based on the President’s behavior in public. His personal physician, Harold Bornstein, stated when Trump was elected president that he was the healthiest individual ever to hold the office of President. What he doesn’t specify is whether that referred at all to the president’s mental health.
While the individuals offering these remote diagnoses may be mental health professionals, they are breaking a fairly new rule of psychology — the Goldwater Rule. When Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1974, many mental health professionals weighed in on his ability to govern. It was during this time that the rule became a part of the psychiatric field.
It isn’t an official rule, but those in the field take it seriously.
The essence of the rule is this — psychiatrists shouldn’t offer their opinion on the mental health of public figures unless they’ve had a session with them, have conducted an examination of the public figure and received permission to make a public statement about their mental health.
None of the professionals offering their opinion on the president’s mental state have ever actually sat down with him. Despite this, psychologists all over the country continue to argue about the mental state of the president of the United States and whether he is a narcissistic sociopath.
Caution Before Public Diagnosis
History will tell whether Donald Trump is actually a sociopath or just another politician in over his head. His behavior does appear to emulate behavior that would be indicative of either narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder, but, without an official diagnosis, it could be dangerous for professional psychiatrists to continue to speculate publically about the mental health of the commander in chief.
Kate Harveston is a political writer and activist. She enjoys writing about issues related to social justice and policy reform, but she also writes about a variety of other cultural topics. If you like her work, you can follow her on Twitter for updates or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.