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Personality Disorders and President Trump

August 27, 2018

Since Trump became President the question of personality disorders mental health have been topics of concern, or more accurately there has been a lot of discussion of the mental health of the president. I majored in psychology in college and have maintained an interest in the field. It is an interesting field of study. More interesting is how the acceptable concepts in the field of psychology have changed over the years due not to developments in the field itself but due to changes on the political concepts of what is fashionable or acceptable at the time. For a while the trend was toward the thought that our brain growth and behavior was governed by our DNA. That lead to some conflicts with fashionable political thought and political correctness. The prevailing thought was that our behavior was independent of our DNA and was the result of our environment, culture and training. Now the trend is back in the other direction, emphasizing a combination of DNA and environmental factors.

When I was in college in the early sixties very little was known about the workings of the brain. I took a course in brain anatomy and learned the names of the different parts of the brain but not much about what each part did. There was some knowledge but it was limited. Almost sixty years later that has changed to a considerable degree. Most of the additional knowledge is based on brain images and brain scans. We now know much more about the working of different parts of the brain and to a large extent how the degree of functioning of different parts of the brain contribute to our overall behavior.

In my college classes we learned about different types of behaviors of normal personalities and then learned about the behaviors of people with abnormal personalities. We had discussions on definitions of normal personalities versus abnormal personalities. There were divisions and disagreements among psychologists on whether mental illness was a disease or a differential adaptation of behavior. Mental illness was defined as a behavior that deviated from normal behavior as defined by society. People who acted strange or different were considered mentally ill and in those days could be locked up for years in large mental hospitals, sometimes for like with little treatment or expectiom of release.

Sometime shortly after I graduated  the decision was made to close those large hospitals and release the patients back to the local communities where they could get better care and treatment. Unfortunately the local care and treatment was never funded or provided and many people with mental health issues are now homeless or confined in our prisons with the general inmate population and getting little care or treatment. To a large extent prisons function as the asylums did in the past.

Now let’s go back to President Trump. His behavior is certainly outside the boundaries of normal. He has problems with impulse control and anger management. He does not see any reason to be bounds by normal ethical behavior. He does not see the need to tell the truth and instead appears to state facts as he would like them to be rather than what they are. I don’t know if he believes what he is saying or says things as exaggerations that he hopes other people will believe or that they want to hear and believe. He is ruthless in taking revenge on people who have opposed him. He does not recognize the boundaries he normal behavior. That leads me  to wonder what has caused him to behave the way he does. I have read summaries of his behavior and articles about his parents and influences on his development. I wonder if there is something in his DNA that is the problem or if his early interaction with his parents has been the defining influence. Psychologists notwithstanding the advances they have made in the last fifty years still disagree. The latest thought that nears a consensus among psychologists seems to be that we are born with our DNA that acts as a blueprint for brain growth and our behavior development but that as we develop we are affected by factors around us which also influence how our brain grows and thus our behavior develops. The thought now is that a combination of factors lead us to develop into the persons we become.

As to whether he is crazy there is no definition of crazy other than acting in ways that have no apparent basis in reason or rationality. Trump’s behavior fits into those parameters. He does things for no apparent sane reason. That is not to say he is mentally ill or fits into any of the definitions of known mental illness or disorders. Psychologists still have a probem in defining behavior or personality disorders or in understanding their causes. There is still a ways to go in understanding human behavior.




From → Observation

  1. Interesting post.. and I don’t recall that we’ve interacted before. I just happened to see your icon over at McDaniels’ blog.
    This is the essence for my own blog… my reason for denying Trump.

    • Thanks for the comment. I have seen some of your comments on various blogs.
      I agree that Trump shows symptoms of Narcissism and of other personality disorders. I don’t think he is mentally ill. Those terms and labels overlap and are misleading and are somewhat arbitrary. I known someone who has been diagnosed with at least four different disorders by different doctors. That seems to be true of a lot of people. There is some movement by some psychology to change the way people are diagnosed. Diagnosing and describing disorders were seems to be a continuing process in the field.

      • Yes.. you’re correct. That’s the main reason I disclaim what I write and opinion only as I am not a qualifies psych person. I wouldn’t suggest that Trump is in the range of the 25th Amendment.. but, having stated that, exercising the 25th does not require a psych review.. simply a judgement call approved by consensus from the others. I think we are way too divided to use the 25th.. his base might get a little violent on that one. Bad enough impeachment is being tossed about but the guy is so erratic there might be no choice.
        Not sure if you’ve picked up on my posts where I try to promote a large scale national mental health program… but this is going to be the most important endeavor since Kennedy and NASA. But so far… few care.
        Gotta have a reason to live and have a purpose when we get old. 🙂

  2. I discovered you on the blog that a lady writes who invited bloggers to tea. Anyway, I clicked on your name and just finished reading this informative post.

    I agree with you that Trump is likely not mentally ill but he really has a problem in a “bigly” way. He repeats words within the context of a certain theme, can not tell the truth, exaggerates, and attacks anyone that does not agree with his rhetoric, pats himself on the back and, takes credit for things with which he never had a connection. Furthermore he surrounds himself with a good many folks who are dubious in character. This is just a short list among behaviors that I have observed.

    In my little “ole” humble opinion, the man heading our country is a disaster waiting to happen.

  3. I am going to add my character just because I like your writing and it helped me to make up my mind to write once again in the general arena of politics, psychology, and psychopaths so to speak.

    OK, I am, amongst many other things in my long years, a former paraeducator and teacher for all ages of special needs – physically/developmentally/emotionally challenged children of all ages and adults as well (generally juvenile delinquents) for more than 15 years. Sometimes they have a combination of all of these issues.

    So when I run up against an adult with any of these symptoms, I seem to be able to pick up quick something about that issue. I believe that the Pres. as we would call him, has a form of autism, albeit high-functioning autism. One of his sons has it as well, so it is not entirely without foundation. His would likely be a degree of Asperger’s, in which his symptoms would fit very well.

    Ok, this is just food for thought. As I said, I was not going to post any more in a political context, but I showed up. If it does turn out that my beliefs about what he has are correct, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that a lot of equally mentally unsound people are supporting him. It is as though every white supremacist, every other person with a personal ax to carry has come out of the woodwork. Thank you all for your contributions, and again, I do not think the whole issue lies on the back of a single individuals, but our entire society in this country. People have become very comfortable believing they can just sit back and let Big Brother take care of everything. Freedom is NOT free. The sooner we can get to that understanding, the sooner we can get going. Discussion is good and healthy, but it is not ever the solution.

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