Trump and Mental Health Discourse, Part 4392

So Comey said Trump is “crazy,” but before that George Will said Trump is “disabled” by Hubris. Will, of course, is the famous father of a man with Down syndrome, so this is particularly disappointing.

One of my critiques of the mental health discourse is that by all accounts Trump has spent his life acting in perfectly consistent ways and has been incredibly rewarded for it. He’s always been a liar. He’s always been an abuser. He’s still a liar. He’s still an abuser. This is not a narrative of progressive mental health transformation.

Evan Osnos, with the New Yorker, has more on hubris as disability.

First “Hubris syndrome:”

In February, 2009, the British medical journal Brain published an article on the intersection of health and politics titled “Hubris Syndrome: An Acquired Personality Disorder?” The authors were David Owen, the former British Foreign Secretary, who is also a physician and neuroscientist, and Jonathan Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, who has studied the mental health of politicians. They proposed the creation of a psychiatric disorder for leaders who exhibited, among other qualities, “impetuosity, a refusal to listen to or take advice and a particular form of incompetence when impulsivity, recklessness and frequent inattention to detail predominate.”

Although they say that the Greeks warned as about this, I think the lesson of the Greeks is that hubris is a core aspect of human neurology, not a pathological abnormality.

Second, does it apply to Trump? The creators aren’t so sure:

When I asked Owen if Trump meets the threshold of hubris syndrome, he replied that Trump was a hard case, because he reigned over a family business for so long before entering politics. “He has obviously got hubris, but did he acquire it in his business? What was he like when he was twenty? I refuse to put a label on him because I don’t know enough.” Owen added, “Watch him very carefully. It’s a phenomenon that needs to be analyzed, but it will not be very revealing to put labels on it that are inappropriate just because you desperately want to say, ‘He’s crazy.’ ”

This I like, of course. Regardless of the truth of Trump’s mental health, it will not be useful to label Trump crazy. It will, however, spread stigma.

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