The Psychiatric Question: Is It Fair to Analyze Donald Trump From Afar?

Benedict Carey in The New York Times:

DonIn the midst of a deeply divisive presidential campaign, more than 1,000 psychiatrists declared the Republican candidate unfit for the office, citing severe personality defects, including paranoia, a grandiose manner and a Godlike self-image. One doctor called him “a dangerous lunatic.” The year was 1964, and after losing in a landslide, the candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, sued the publisher of Fact magazine, which had published the survey, winning $75,000 in damages. But doctors attacked the survey, too, for its unsupported clinical language and obvious partisanship. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Associationadopted what became known as the Goldwater Rule, declaring it unethical for any psychiatrist to diagnose a public figure’s condition “unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

Enter Donald J. Trump.

The 2016 Republican nominee’s incendiary, stream-of-consciousness pronouncements have strained that agreement to the breaking point, exposing divisions in the field over whether such restraint is appropriate today. Psychiatrists and psychologists have publicly flouted the Goldwater Rule, tagging Mr. Trump with an assortment of personality problems, including grandiosity, a lack of empathy, and “malignant narcissism.” The clinical insults are flying so thick that earlier this month, the psychiatric associationposted a reminder that breaking the Goldwater Rule “is irresponsible, potentially stigmatizing, and definitely unethical.” Putting a psychiatric label on a candidate they oppose can be a “seemingly irresistible tool for some in the field,” said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a professor of psychiatry, medicine and law at Columbia University who disapproves of the practice. “This year, perhaps more than most, they’re persuaded they’re saving the nation from a terrible fate.” William Doherty, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, believes exactly that. In June, Dr. Doherty posted an online manifesto against “Trumpism” that has been signed by more than 2,200 mental healthspecialists. “Yes, for me this is an exception,” Dr. Doherty said. “What we have here is a threat to democracy itself.”

More here.