Unstrange Mind

Autistic Author, Artist, Advocate, and Speaker

Stop “Diagnosing” Donald Trump

campfire

[image description: a small campfire burning in the dark night. Copyright Sparrow R. Jones, 2017]


Everywhere I turn, it seems, someone is calling the current United States presidential administration “crazy” or “insane.”

Do you not realize that these are slurs along the lines of The R Word? Do you not realize that everything I have ever said about the R Word applies to the C word and the I word as well? Using words that describe vulnerable populations to describe the actions of those who are not members of that population who are engaging in behavior that displeases or distresses you is the verbal equivalent of picking up a disabled person to use them as a bludgeon. You’re not likely to hurt your target but you are crushing those of us who become your lazy go-to when you can’t find the words you really want.

“But wait!” someone always responds. “You don’t understand! He really is crazy! He’s got Narcissistic Personality Disorder! A psychology professor said so!”

First off, that professor was behaving unethically if they diagnosed Donald Trump without even meeting him.  There is a rule in the psychiatric professions called the Goldwater Rule, so called because it arose after similar speculations were made about Goldwater.  Section 7.3 of the APA Code of Ethics says:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.

That means that it is unethical for a professional to announce a diagnosis of Donald Trump. And if you are not a professional, you are not qualified to diagnose Donald Trump.  The only people qualified to determine if a person has a psychiatric disability are trained professionals and the individual themselves.  Furthermore, revealing a person’s diagnosis without their explicit permission is a violation of HIPAA regulations specifically and a violation of privacy in general. No one has the right to disclose another person’s medical information without their consent.

Secondly, if someone you view as having authority has told you that Donald Trump has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)  (or if you have taken it upon yourself to  lay-diagnose him as such), you are wrong.  The doctor who wrote the diagnostic criteria for NPD  has publicly stated that Donald Trump does not meet the criteria. Dr. Frances goes a step further and explains why these casual lay-diagnoses of public figures are so harmful. You really should read his words: This Doctor Nailed The Problem With Diagnosing Donald Trump With Mental Illness.

I have even seen some people suggesting we “push for Trump to submit to psychiatric evaluation.”  Forcing psychiatry on an unwilling person is the height of human rights violations.  I never thought I’d find myself in the position of defending and protecting Donald Trump, but society has put me here by insisting that the basic human rights we hold so dear do not apply to him. Call him evil, call him authoritarian, call him a fascist …. but do not suspend his human rights unless you are willing to see your own human rights suspended next.

It is unethical to diagnose a person without an examination, regardless of credentials or lack thereof.
It is a human rights violation to attempt to force a person to submit to psychiatry against their will. Some reading in the psychiatric survivor literature will help you to understand what a gross violation it is.
Fighting dangerous leadership by weaponizing psychiatry against the president will only serve to hurt vulnerable Americans as those arrows will be twisted by the government and turned against us.
We already have a Vice President who supports the use of involuntary “anti gay therapy” against minors. We do not need to use their evil tactics against them. We can fight evil without becoming evil.
Study authoritarian regimes in other countries and other decades and you will see psychiatry repeatedly being weaponized against the resistance.  Audre Lord said “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”  Nick Walker brought that philosophy into the battle against the pathology paradigm with the essay “Throw Away the Master’s Tools.”
Authoritarian dictators are the ones who routinely weaponize psychiatry to silence the Resistance. Those aren’t the tools we need to be using to dismantle the master’s house.

5 Comments

  1. Thanks. I understand the impulse that makes people want to believe that a human being couldn’t be so evil without having some sort of serious disorder. It is possible that Trump has some sort of personality disorder or is perhaps in the early stages of dementia. And the latter, especially, could become a significant issue. While those might impair his functioning, though, they are not an explanation for his authoritarianism and general disregard for others. That’s simply who he is and it’s who he is independent of any other factor. It’s also unlikely that someone with an untreated significant mental disorder could function well enough to accomplish something that creates as much pressure as seeking the presidency does. The most likely explanation is simply that he is a typical person who holds the set of terrible beliefs he espouses. Great wealth and celebrity status has provided him a broader platform than most such people have, but he’s unremarkable in other ways. Yes, he appears to be a terrible human being intent on doing awful things. That doesn’t mean he’s mentally ill.

    From some of the ideas and proposed bills, he may actually be planning to focus on things like loosening HIPAA requirements for mental illness and forcing “treatment” on people. Those are things that should be fought rather than normalized by trying to apply them to Trump.

    With that said, I’m as guilty as anyone of sometimes using “crazy” or “insane” in its colloquial sense of something “outrageous”. I can distinguish when someone just means something like that rather than an actual lay diagnosis or wish for forced evaluation or treatment. It’s the latter that’s most concerning.

  2. Perfect. I just made a very similar (though less informed) point and someone sent me the link to your article. Regarding “the C -word,” we do need a word to mean “acting or thinking in an erratic and irrational way” that is not a medical term and in fact does not comment on a person’s medical status one way or the other. “Crazy” is a good word for that, and should not be erased or abandoned. But it should be clarified–most crazy people aren’t mentally ill, and most mentally ill people are not especially crazy.

    • unstrangemind

      February 5, 2017 at 5:55 pm

      The only people with the right to try to reclaim the C word are people with psychiatric disabilities and that community seems to have overwhelmingly chosen “mad” as the reclaimed word of choice. The Mad Pride community also tends to dislike the term “mentally ill” and I am one of those Mad folks who choose not to use that phrase. My mentation is my mind, my mind is me, my existence is not ill. I am not metally ill; I am psychiatrically disabled with depression and anxiety.

      Please don’t use the C word here.

      If you need a better word that is not ableist and sanist, there is a great list of alternate words here:

      http://whatprivilege.com/replacing-crazy-for-ableism-and-preciseness-of-language/

  3. Hi, UMind,

    To my own surprise I still have to – respectfully, of course – disagree with you on this one. I’m actually surprised with myself because I agree with almost éverything you wrote in this article.
    I’m surprised with myself because, in this specific case, I ám willing to lower my ethics/principles standards, and as far as I remember this is the first time in my 64 years on this planet I’ve done anything like it. 🙁 (mind you, I’d always stay within the rules of the law)
    Most of all I’m surprised (ánd afraid) that probably nó-one can change my mind regarding my believe that this man is indeed psychologically ill.
    I’m from the Netherlands, we’re known to be very down to earth, most of us fact-check what we’re about to say and/or what we share with other social media ‘addicts’. 😉
    I vividly remember the moment I saw and heard this dispicable man say – without ány reason leading up to it – that he could go stand on 5th Ave., shoot someone and not lose óne vote/follower cuz of it.
    From then on I knew he was dangerous, and due to everything I saw and heard him say and do along the way to where he is now, I’ve come to agree with those three psychiatrists who did the unethical thing (yes, I agree with you on thát too) of diagnosing him without actually testing him personally.
    This disgusting, vile, empathy lacking criminal hás to be stopped (legally) before we’ll have to face a third World War. (after he and his followers will have created a civil war in your country)

    I hope I didn’t use any ableistic (sp?) expression in this post.
    I’m still learning what is allowed and not allowed in the autistic world. (I was only diagnosed 2 years ago, never even thóugt of autism in connection with me until that point)
    .
    I’ll stop blabbing now and will get off my soap-box, wishing you a great remainder of this Sunday.
    Bye.
    Fruttel.

    • unstrangemind

      March 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Hello, Fruttel

      You say you hope you didn’t use any ableist expression in the post. Unfortunately, the entire post is ableist.

      “in this specific case, I ám willing to lower my ethics/principles standards, and as far as I remember this is the first time in my 64 years on this planet I’ve done anything like it”

      translation: there is one person on this planet so horrible that I am willing to risk damaging millions of people with psychiatric disabilities in order to get at that one person.

      “probably nó-one can change my mind regarding my believe that this man is indeed psychologically ill”

      We will see what your criteria for being “psychologically ill” are as your post progresses and this will speak volumes about how you view people with psychiatric disabilities.

      “From then on I knew he was dangerous”

      That is your definition of psychiatric disability: those people are dangerous. It might surprise you to hear that psychiatrically disabled people are very vulnerable and you are the one who is adding to their danger by feeding the stigma and fear they encounter every day when they try to find a place to live, medical care, a job, etc. You are adding to the burden of people who are already overburdened by acts of violence against them, a high suicide rate, a high rate of homelessness, etc.

      “disgusting, vile, empathy lacking criminal”

      This is your evidence for why he is psychiatrically disabled? And yet you feel there is a chance that your post might not be ableist? Out of curiosity, what do you think ableism is?

      “I’m from the Netherlands, we’re known to be very down to earth, most of us fact-check what we’re about to say”

      Your facts could use some more checking.

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