Friday, March 31, 2017

Feeling sad is ‘new normal’ in Trump’s America, therapists say


Jewish mental health professionals like Rubenstein say they have seen an unprecedented increase in stress, sadness and other negative feelings that clients are directly tying to the election and its aftermath.

Their testimonies speak to a larger trend: A January study by the American Psychological Association found that more than half of all Americans cited the political climate as a very or somewhat significant source of stress.

Elections usually lead to discontent from the losing side, but not anxiety and depression, said Sam Menahem, a psychologist based in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

“Every election people might talk about it a little bit, they don’t like the candidate that won, but it doesn’t make them more anxious or depressed,” said Menahem, who has been practicing psychology for 44 years. “They didn’t get their way, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat, but I’ve never seen anything like this — never.”

He estimated that 60% of his patients were “experiencing exacerbation or worsening of symptoms after the election.”

Indeed, the APA survey found that the average stress level saw its first “statistically significant increase” since it was first conducted a decade ago: from 4.8 to 5.1 on a 1-10 scale in the period of August 2016-January 2017.

Much of the anxiety can be traced to the surprise victory of an unusually polarizing candidate over the apparent front-runner and more conventional politician, Hillary Clinton. Jewish voters supported Clinton over Trump by a margin of 3-1. Consequently, they are overrepresented among people disappointed by Trump’s victory.

As to the degree of that disappointment, mental health professionals and patients point to all the things that make Trump unconventional: his impulsive tweets, his thin skin, his embrace of various conspiracy theories, his lack of political experience and the apparent chaos surrounding his inner circle in his first months in office, to name a few.[...]

Political polarization has spilled into people’s personal lives, threatening to tear apart close relationships, said Nancy Kislin, a social worker in Chatham, New Jersey.

Kislin said that she had clients who had ended romantic relationships based on disagreements over Trump.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Kislin, noting that she had worked in private practice for 13 years, during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Seth Grobman, a clinical psychologist in Davie, Florida, said patients have ended relationships with family members and friends due to post-election political disagreements. To be sure, political polarization isn’t the only factor in play, he said, noting that widespread social media use was also to blame.[...]

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