I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychoanalyst, social worker, or any kind of trained therapist. I am a congregational rabbi who has worked in three large congregations in three major American cities over the course of the last nearly 40 years, and I have encountered people with all kinds of emotional and psychological problems.
Since Donald Trump began his presidential campaign, I have asked a number of therapists what they believe is the nature of Donald Trump’s psychology. All of them said that without being able to personally interview, question, and examine him they could not offer anything precise or definitive.
“OK,” I have said to them. “I respect that, but nevertheless, can you venture a considered judgment of his psychology that can offer insight into the man given your many years of experience working with people?”
Each one, as we’ve heard in so many places, said that Trump exhibits signs of classic narcissism.
The Mayo Clinic reviews the common symptoms and causes of a wide range of personality disorders – see http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/symptoms-causes/dxc-20247656 and http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/home/ovc-20247654.
Here are some highlights:
Antisocial personality disorder
- Disregard for others’ needs or feelings
- Persistent lying, stealing, using aliases, conning others
- Recurring problems with the law
- Repeated violation of the rights of others
- Aggressive, often violent behavior
- Disregard for the safety of self or others
- Impulsive behavior
- Consistently irresponsible
- Lack of remorse for behavior
Histrionic personality disorder
- Constantly seeking attention
- Excessively emotional, dramatic or sexually provocative to gain attention
- Speaks dramatically with strong opinions, but few facts or details to back them up
- Easily influenced by others
- Shallow, rapidly changing emotions
- Excessive concern with physical appearance
- Thinks relationships with others are closer than they really are
Paranoid personality disorder
- Pervasive distrust and suspicion of others and their motives
- Unjustified belief that others are trying to harm or deceive you
- Unjustified suspicion of the loyalty or trustworthiness of others
- Hesitancy to confide in others due to unreasonable fear that others will use the information against you
- Perception of innocent remarks or non-threatening situations as personal insults or attacks
- Angry or hostile reaction to perceived slights or insults
- Tendency to hold grudges
Narcissistic personality disorder
- Belief that you’re special and more important than others
- Fantasies about power, success, and attractiveness
- Failure to recognize others’ needs and feelings
- Exaggeration of achievements or talents
- Expectation of constant praise and admiration
- Unreasonable expectations of favors and advantages, often taking advantage of others
- Envy of others or belief that others envy you
Rabbi Mark Samath posted on the Reform Rabbi list-serve a series of statements about President Trump made by therapists, journalists, current and past government officials, and political leaders. Some of the office holders are Democrats and some are Republicans. Rabbi Samath gave me permission to list what he provided to my colleagues:
- Ted Lieu, Los Angeles Democratic Congressman, will introduce legislation requiring a psychiatrist to serve at the White House: “I’ve concluded he is a danger to the republic.”
- Ruben Gallego, Arizona Democratic Congressman: “The President is mentally unstable.”
- Bernie Sanders, Vermont Democratic Senator, said Trump’s obsession with non-existent voter fraud is “delusional…totally insane.”
- Elliot Cohen, a senior State department official under President George W. Bush and a member of his National Security Council: “I’ve been in this town for 26 years. I have never seen anything like this… I genuinely do not think this is a mentally healthy President.”
- Paul Krugman, Economist and New York Times columnist: “This is looking less and less like a political strategy and more and more like a psychological syndrome… If you had an employee acting this way you’d immediately remove him from any position of authority and strongly suggest that he seek counseling.”
- John Gartner, a NYC psychologist and expert on personality disorders: “Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.”
- Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican Congressman and Chair of the House Oversight Committee, supports psychiatric evaluation of Trump: “If you’re going to have your hands on the nuclear codes, you should probably know what kind of mental state you’re in.”
- Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House Minority Leader, questioned Trump’s mental competence calling him a fraud, a bully, and a very sick man.
- Al Franken, Democratic Minnesota Senator: Trump’s behavior is “not the norm for a human being.”
- Ben Michaelis, clinical psychologist: Trump suffers from “textbook narcissistic personality disorder.”
- Joseph Burgo, psychologist and author of “The Narcissist You Know”: Trump is an example of an “extreme narcissist.”
- Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism noted: “As psychotherapists practicing in the United States, we are alarmed [by Trump].” See http://citizentherapists.com/manifesto/
- Timothy Egan, New York Times columnist: “Millions of reasonable people are appalled that a madman is in charge of the country.”
- Judith Herman, M.D. Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, in a letter joined by Drs. Nanette Gartell and Dee Mosbacher, as reported in “Grave Concerns About Donald Trump’s Mental Stability: Harvard Doctors”: Trump’s “widely reported symptoms of mental instability [include] grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.”
- Julie Futrell, NYC clinical psychologist: “Narcissism impairs [Trump’s] ability to see reality;” he falls “toward the pathological end of the narcissistic spectrum.”
- Jean Fitzpatrick, a NYC relationship therapist: “Trump lacks proper reality testing.”
- Gersh Kuntzman in the New York Daily News: “It’s a dangerous, pathological detachment from reality.”
- Steven Rattner, former Obama administration adviser and economic analyst: “Somebody’s gotta do a psychological profile of the guy and find out why he acts the way he acts.”
- Howard Stern, Trump’s good friend: it’s going to get worse and that the presidency “is gonna be detrimental to his mental health.”
- David Brooks, NY Times columnist: “The guy will probably resign or be impeached within a year. The future is closer than you think.”
The question for the country is whether a President with this kind of mental condition can be trusted to act in the best interests of the United States, setting aside for the moment Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, to divest from all business concerns and put everything in a blind trust, and his violation of the emolument clause of the Constitution.
There are, of course, many other reasons that Trump should be investigated and brought up on impeachment charges in the Congress.
Veteran reporter J.J. Goldberg reviews the challenges in this opinion piece in Today’s Forward. I recommend it.
Note: I represent only myself and not my congregation or any other organization.