Voters are on an emotional rollercoaster with their candidates -- from the euphoria of incremental delegate gains one week to the dysphoria of gaffes and momentum shifts the next. Millions of voters are headed for a mood crash -- and we're not even out of primary season!
After an important election, one that really grips the country, I see an interesting trend in my clients during their therapy sessions -- if there were actual diagnoses for this trend, we might use terms like "election mania" or "post-election disorder."
Of course, this diagnosis only applies to those who have emotionally invested in their candidate and are wrapped up in the electoral process. One of the criteria for "election mania" is an insatiable appetite for political punditry to the extent that it affects social and occupational functioning i.e. you pick a fight with your spouse because he agrees with Pat Buchanan or you stay up way past your bedtime on a primary night to hear every word Tim Russert has to say.
The day after, I can always expect clients who backed the winning candidate to show me their victory like proud kids show parents their report card. However, for those on the losing team, I can expect to see an exacerbation of their current mental health diagnosis.
Depression and anxiety are the most prevalent. At its core, depression is about hopelessness and helplessness and anxiety is dread of an unknown future. After voters pour their trust and expectations into a candidate and that candidate doesn't make it, hope for the future can seem lost to them . . . and they worry.
Female supporters of Hillary Clinton are particularly vulnerable at this time with her campaign winding down. Not only did they view her as opening new policy doors, they saw her as rising up to smash the ceiling for women. From a mental health perspective, it's a good thing that it's a wind down rather than being an abrupt shock.
So what is the mood stabilizer for election mania? Here are a few suggestions:
--Developing insight into the condition is key. Recognize the impact the race is having on you emotionally. If you have a hard time with this try keeping an election diary so you have a place for your thoughts and feelings.
--Don't drop out of the political process if your candidate doesn't win. One of the best cures for hopelessness and helplessness is to get out there and keep doing.
--Maintain some objectivity. It's okay to pour your heart into this election -- it shows your passion. However, you also need to create a bit a distance so that you don't see things though a distorted lense.
--Distract yourself. Yes, that means watch a movie one night rather than Hardball with Chris Matthews.
--Focus on some of the positive gains your candidate has made i.e. changing the national dialogue, bringing important issues to the forefront.
--Recognize that history and the political process are often cyclical -- your turn will come around.
--Don't fall into the logical fallacy of catastrophe -- If x doesn't happen, then y is the end of it all. It's not the end . . . it's the beginning of a bumpy ride. Fasten up!