Since Donald Trump has been sworn in as the 45th President of the United States he has tried to ban Muslims from America, banned scientists from publishing papers and information, began the repeal of the affordable care act and much, much more.
However, since he first began to campaign to become President, and even long before, psychiatrists have been worried about the mental state of the new President. Mr. Trump displays signs of something called malignant narcissism, a personality disorder that makes it difficult for him to empathise and accept criticism, among other things. This can be seen using the American Psychiatry Associations checklist for narcissistic personality disorder
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes.
After he was elected a group called Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism was created, and in their manifesto, they warn of Trump’s actions to banish people from entering the US, the degrading of rivals and critics and the little concern for the well being of others. And in December of last year three leading Professors of psychiatry wrote to the then President Barack Obama to express their concerns over Trumps mental stability, in the letter they talk of his symptoms and suggest that he have Trump undertake “A full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation”.
This, however, got me thinking; how common have personality disorders and mental illnesses been in world leaders been throughout history?
In October 2005, theatlantic.com published an article on Abraham Lincoln and how he suffered from almost crippling depression. By today’s standards Lincoln would not be declared fit for office. He is not alone however, according to a study by Johnathan Davidson of the Duke University Medical Centre et al, half of the first 37 US Presidents suffered from a range of illnesses such as alcoholism, bi-polar disorder, anxiety and depression.
This doesn’t just apply to US Presidents either, Churchill, Stalin and Hitler to name a few also suffered from personality disorders and mental illnesses, Churchill is thought to have had bi-polar disorder and looking at biographical evidence of Stalin, it’s thought that he may have suffered from paranoia and depression. Finally, of course, the elephant in the room, Hitler. Hitler was also thought to have narcissistic personality disorder coupled with a methamphetamine addiction amongst other things.
It’s important to bear in mind that Trump and all of the people discussed in this article have never been formally diagnosed with any mental illnesses and that most of the claims are speculative and based on biographical evidence. However, it makes for an interesting topic of discussion.
This article does not intend to trivialise mental health, just to facilitate a discussion.