Trump's mental health, or lack thereof, is a trending topic on the internet, on the air, and in newspapers. A petition requesting he be required to submit to a psychiatric evaluation has already received 8000 signatures. This is well meaning, but inaccurate and misguided.
Trump's consensus diagnosis among amateur, at-a-distance diagnosticians is Narcissistic Personality Disorder. They have reviewed the DSM definition (which I wrote) and found him to meet all the criteria: grandiose self-importance; preoccupations with being brilliant and successful; feeling special and having to hang out with special people; requiring constant admiration; feeling entitled; being exploitive; lacking empathy; being envious; and being arrogant. Bingo. Trump is all this in spades.
But they carelessly ignored the further requirement that is crucial in defining all mental disorders - the behaviors also must cause clinically significant distress or impairment.
Trump is clearly a man singularly without distress and his behaviors, however outrageous and objectionable, consistently reap him fame, fortune, women, and now political power. He has been generously rewarded for his Trumpism, not at all impaired by it.
It is an unfair insult to those who really are mentally ill to be lumped with Trump. Most of them are well behaved and well meaning, both of which Trump decidedly is not.
Medicalizing Trump's behavior is to underestimate him and the realistic threat he represents to our democracy. We must not let inaccurate speculations about his person distract attention from the dangers of his policies.
We shouldn't medicalize as mental disorder every behavior that is stupid, mean, destructive, selfish, cruel, shortsighted & self-destructive. Dismissing Trump as simply mad paradoxically reduces our ability to deal with just how bad he is.
Trump isn't crazy, but our society certainly is - for electing someone so manifestly unfit and unprepared to be responsible for mankind's future.
The American Psychiatric Association has a useful ethics policy that explicitly prohibits the diagnosis of politicians at a distance. In the 1964 presidential election, liberal psychiatrists had taken cheap shot against the radically conservative Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater- publicizing their "diagnosis" that he was too mentally ill to be a safe custodian of the nuclear button. They had no right to use a professional credential to slur Goldwater in this way- medicalizing what was essentially no more than a political disagreement.
The psychiatrists and psychologists who are now publicly diagnosing Trump feel compelled by the higher call of national interest to break any restrictions against diagnosis at a distance. But the argument fails because their diagnosis is poorly informed and simply wrong.
Please stop calling Trump mentally ill and please stop talking about psychiatric evaluations or impeachment. This embarrasses us more than it does Trump. And the people around Trump are even more dangerous than he in the long run, because they espouse the same dangerous policies, but more plausibly.
We must fight Trump's obnoxious policies with all our might, not be too distracted by the obnoxiousness of his person.
Allen Frances is a professor emeritus at Duke University and was the chairman of the DSM-IV task force.