diagnose trump

Illustration by Max Fleishman

Trump has displayed some worrisome behavior

An online petition calling for a mental health evaluation of Republican nominee Donald Trump has met its goal. 

As of Thursday morning, a Change.org petition created by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) to #DiagnoseTrump hit its initial goal of 10,000 signatures. It claims that Trump fits the DSM-IV criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, which include a lack of empathy, a grandiose sense of self-importance, and a need for excessive admiration. Supporters of the petition want a mental health professional to confirm or rule out their amateur assessment.

It states: 

"Donald Trump is dangerous for our country. His impulsiveness and lack of control over his own emotions are of concern. It is our patriotic duty to raise the question of his mental stability to be the commander in chief and leader of the free world. Mr. Trump appears to exhibit all the symptoms of the mental disorder Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Mental health professionals need to come forward and urge the Republican party to insist that their nominee has an evaluation to determine his mental fitness for the job. It is entirely possible that some individuals with NPD can successfully function in many careers, but not the Presidency of the United States. We deserve to have the greatest understanding of Mr. Trump's mental health status before we head to the polls on November 8th, 2016. #DiagnoseTrump "

Bass, a former physician's assistant, is a popular congresswoman whose district includes South Central Los Angeles.

"Mental health professionals are the only people qualified to diagnose any individual with a mental health disorder. Our #DiagnoseTrump campaign is a very serious attempt to draw attention to Trump's erratic, offensive, and often compulsive behavior," Bass spokesman Derrick Rogers told the Daily Dot in an email. "Congresswoman Bass and many of her supporters are calling on mental health professional around the country to demand the RNC conduct a mental health evaluation on their nominee. For us, that’s a victory."

Rogers also noted that there wasn't a specific Trump misfire that provoked the petition, but rather Trump's "historical and consistent display of compulsivity in public."

This isn't the first time a public official has questioned Trump's mental health. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his Democratic National Convention address called for America to elect a "sane, competent" person as president. Judging from the particularly awful week that Trump has had so far—which includes boasting about seeing a "top secret" video linked to hostages in Iran at a rally, kicking a baby out of another rally, and refusing to endorse key members of the GOP leadership—Bass won't be the last. 

But many raised concerns about making Trump the face of mental illness—not to mention the fact that there is no evidence to suggest his critics' claims are supported by fact. 

Pinning the more loathsome parts of Trump's persona to a mental illness has been a favorite topic of the media. Vanity Fair had no problem finding mental health professionals who believed Trump had narcissistic personality disorder. One mental health expert studied over 600 hours of Trump footage and reached the harsh conclusion that Trump was a "malignant, and perhaps psychopathic, narcissist." 

Psychologist Dan P. McAdams conducted an in-depth profile of Trump in June for the Atlantic, in which he also concluded that Trump exhibited signs of the disorder. He noted that the narcissism could be a "double-edged sword" among presidents in that it could help with powers of persuasion and agenda setting. At worst, narcissism among presidents could result in unethical behavior and public backlash. In short, people will often put up with an individual's narcissism if they end up achieving more good than harm. McAdams also listed Steve Jobs and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel as other narcissists. 

But there are several dangers to chalking up Trump's racist tirades or sexist comments to a mental illness, as many have argued. Paramount among them is the fact that the American Psychiatric Association's ethics rule, known as the Goldwater Rule, forbids psychiatrists and psychologists from diagnosing public figures from afar.

Beyond that, focusing on mental health ignores the fact that Trump has attracted a massive following and dismisses the uglier truths that has revealed about the nation. It also cashes in on a mental health stigma that Trump himself has taken advantage of, calling opponents names like "basket case" and "nut job". 

"This is the legacy of mental illness," Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist in New York City, told the Washington Post. "When we knew nothing about brain wiring and causes of mental illness and we believed it was a moral weakness rather than an illness and it was scary to people to see more extreme cases of it—that is where those words come from. Those words still hold that meaning. It is a way of deprecating your behavior, it’s a way of dismissing you."

Update 12:43pm CT, Aug. 4: Added comment from Rep. Bass's office.

Promoted Stories Powered by Sharethrough
2016 election
Here are the odds that Donald Trump will drop out of the presidential race
America really wants to know whether Donald Trump will drop out of the presidential race—and some are betting on it.
From Our VICE Partners

Pure, uncut internet. Straight to your inbox.

Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter!