'Trump Derangement Syndrome': Is it real?

'You lose your filter, you lose your prefrontal cortex,' Dr. Robert Lustig explains. 'Prefrontal cortical dysfunction is the hallmark of basically all of the societal behavioral problems that we have experienced in the last 50 years.'

Updated: June 5, 2020 - 9:49pm

In the wee hours of the morning on Nov. 9, 2016, Donald Trump cemented his improbable victory by capturing enough electoral votes to secure the presidency. For Phillip Imanlihen, watching the results come in at his home in Southern California, the only thing Trump’s unlikely victory secured was a speedy trip to the bathroom. 

“When the media outlet I was watching projected that he would win, I threw up,” Imanlihen tells Just The News. 

Three years of Trump has made it even worse. He just can’t watch the president on television anymore.

“It's hard for me to deal with yes,” Imanlihen admitted.

His story of mental and physical anguish has become all too common since Trump took office. 

“The presidency of Donald Trump has affected my mental health,” Fred Robbins from New Jersey tells Just The News. “I have cut back on watching and reading news articles because anything about Trump is upsetting." 

Robbins is ready to do just about anything to make sure this president is removed from office. “I'd crawl across broken glass and vote for a tuna fish sandwich over Trump,” Robbins says.

On social media, the anti-Trump vitriol and griping reaches new heights. A cursory recent stroll through Twitter saw President Trump painted as “worse than Hitler” or “The White Devil,” one person losing sleep over him, and another even wanting to see the president drop dead and die of a massive stroke. 

Trump supporters view such sentiments as extreme, unhinged — tantamount almost to alien possession. Often, they write it off to what they call “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” or TDS.

To the anti-Trump crowd, of course, TDS is a disparaging term. “I don't think there's a mental code or mental diagnosis for Trump Derangement Syndrome,” says Imanlihen.

The truth of course seems to be in the eye of the beholder. In plain terms, Trump's critics see the president as sick in the head. Trump supporters say he’s making his far left critics ill in the noggin.  

While you won’t find "Trump Derangement Syndrome" in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), that doesn’t mean there isn’t an underlying validity to it. 

“Just because it's not in DSM, it doesn't mean it's not a real mental condition,” Dr. Rob Whitley tells Just The News. Whitley, who has published over 100 papers in the field of social psychiatry, points out that the conditions of burnout and nervous breakdowns aren’t official mental disorders either, but they exist. 

“We have many cases throughout history of certain psychological phenomena really debilitating people and making their life difficult but not being officially recognized as a mental disorder,” Whitley explains. “So it's important to keep an open mind about what is and what isn't a mental disorder.”

Research on the topic of mental health, stress, and Trump has been fairly conclusive. The American Psychological Association conducted its "Stress in America" survey after Trump’s election in 2017 and found that 63% of Americans regarded the future of the country as "a significant source of stress.” In 2018, that same survey showed even more citizens ( 69%) stressed out.  

Such stress about the future of the country, of course, is largely predicted by political ideology. The American Psychological Association survey shows just 26% of Republicans feel stressed over the political climate, compared to a whopping 72% of Democrats.

Psychiatrists have seen more Americans coming in to therapy complaining about angst over President Trump. Typically, such patients feel a large sense of worry, helplessness and overall anxiety.   

“It's pretty bad,” says Dr. Robert Lustig, author of an article entitled "This is Your Brain on Trump" in MedPage Today. “I'm very worried. People are going to be going to psychiatrists for years because of Trump.”

Lustig, professor emeritus of pediatrics, division of endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, is very clear that he is no fan of Donald Trump. 

“I'm pretty upset for myself and for my family and for everyone else,” he told Just The News. In our interview, he even compared Trump to the genocidal, totalitarian warmonger Adolf Hitler, minus the entrenched philosophy.  

“Hitler had a very specific ideology,” Lustig said. “Trump has ... zero ideology. Trump just wants to dominate and rule."

While Lustig is adamantly anti-Trump, he can still step back and acknowledge that the president has afflicted people with the unofficial “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” He says there’s a science behind it.  

“It's all about two chemicals: dopamine and cortisol,” says Lustig. Dopamine is the reward or pleasure neurotransmitter. Cortisol is the chemical that is released in response to fear. It all goes to the prefrontal cortex, a filter that comprises the thinking part of the brain. When stress becomes persistent, your mental state changes. 

“You lose your filter, you lose your prefrontal cortex,” Lustig explains. “Prefrontal cortical dysfunction is the hallmark of basically all of the societal behavioral problems that we have experienced in the last 50 years.”

Those behavioral problems are addiction, depression, anxiety, inattention, and hate. “When your prefrontal cortex doesn't work, all of those five go hog wild,” he says “Those are the five components that people call ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome.’” 

Lustig is convinced Trump has a non-working thinking portion of his brain too.

“He has no prefrontal cortex," he says, "and guess what? He's making sure none of us do either, and that’s ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome.’”

 

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