Psychology Magazine

Election Stress Disorder

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
If not already, and certainly after last night's presidential election debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I suspect you have joined me in suffering full blown "Election Stress Disorder" - by now a syndrome worthy of inclusion in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition). Linda Bolt does a piece in SALON on the po litical anxiety and fear that used to be a health problem only in the developing world. Some clips:
Steven Stosny, Ph.D, author of “Soar Above: How to Use the Most Profound Part of Your Brain Under Any Kind of Stress,“ recently identified a phenomenon he dubbed “Election Stress Disorder” ...“This election appeals more to the toddler brain — emotional, all-or-nothing thinking — with more of the toddler coping mechanisms: blame, denial, and avoidance. The body can’t distinguish kinds of stress very well, especially when blame, denial, and avoidance are used as coping mechanisms. If you get peeved at something a candidate says, you’ll tend to look for oversimplified solutions at work, drink more, drive more aggressively, and suffer the physiological and mental effects of general stress.”
Stephen Holland, the director of the the Capital Institute of Cognitive Therapy in Washington, D.C., recently told The Atlantic that “probably two-thirds to three-quarters of our patients are mentioning their feelings about the election in session.” For many, those feelings are related to one candidate in particular...
Stress caused by election fatigue isn’t a new, or even uniquely American phenomenon — most previous documented cases come from politically unstable developing countries. In Thailand during a 2014 military coup and resulting social media controversy, the Public Health Ministry warned citizens that consuming too much news media could be harmful to mental health
It’s clear that all this stress is not only taking a demonstrable toll on the public’s well-being, but it could also affect the election itself. A 2014 study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior found that individuals with higher concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol were actually less likely to vote (regardless of which party they supported) — which means those experiencing severe anxiety over a Trump presidency might actually help make it a reality if they don’t make it out to the polls.
So, is there any remedy for Election Stress Syndrome? Stosny recommends voters try to shift to the adult brain and “hold other people’s perspectives alongside your own. Weigh evidence, see nuance, plan for the future and replace blame, denial, and avoidance with appreciation of complexity.” Of course, that won’t stop a large number of people from obsessively Googling “how to move to Canada.”

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