THE BLOG
08/01/2016 12:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Is Donald Trump Hiding Brain Damage?

Observers have used all sorts of labels to describe Trump's highly unusual behavior in speeches, interviews, and his now-infamous tweets--like "narcissist," "sociopath," "paranoid personality disorder."

Those are psychological diagnoses.

Whether any of those fit or not, could there also be something medically, neurologically wrong with him? That's a serious question.

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Without the benefit of a teleprompter, his speeches are wildly repetitious and unstructured, not entirely coherent or logical, filled with easily proven untruths. Likewise his interviews.

Most recently, he apparently did not seem to know what the word "sacrifice" meant and claimed that he had sacrificed by creating jobs and working hard. This was in response to Khizr Khan, whose son was killed serving our country.

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Just as startling--but in a different way--when he was asked about his reaction to Mr. Khan, Trump made the bizarre statement that Khan "was, you know, very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me."

Think about that "probably." Either Khan did or did not look like a nice guy. Trump expressed a disturbing sense of confusion and distance from his own perceptions in his answer. Why would anyone who thought clearly say that? How could he not know what he thought about Mr. Khan? And how could he say he was "viciously" attacked by Khan and keep saying it day after day?

Listen to him talk about whether he knows Vladimir Putin or not. The story changes dramatically. It could be because he's a pathological liar, but it could also be because words like "friendship," "friend," and "relationship" don't register with him the way they do with healthy people. He's actually even said, "I don't know who Putin is."

Those are just a few of many examples you can find in any of his interviews and speeches where things simply don't connect in normal ways. At times Trump doesn't seem to process information correctly, as if he and his interviewer are speaking different languages.

Then there's the more extreme problem of his constant attempt to squash people who say anything negative about him, whatever their party affiliation, even when it makes him look crazed and self-destructive. This is not rational behavior as Robert Kagan of The Brookings Institute put it in The Washington Post:

Why denigrate the parents of a soldier who died serving his country in Iraq? And why keep it going for four days? Why assail the record of a decorated general who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan? Why make fun of the stature of a popular former mayor of New York? Surely Trump must know that at any convention, including his own, people get up and criticize the opposition party's nominee. They get their shots in, just as your party got its shots in. And then you move on to the next phase of the campaign. You don't take a crack at every single person who criticized you. And you especially don't pick fights that you can't possibly win, such as against a grieving Gold Star mother or a general. It's simply not in your interest to do so.

Does Trump have a brain tumor?

Is he suffering from Alzheimer's like his father?

Has he had a stroke or a series of mini-strokes?

Any one of these might explain why he acts so erratically, can't unhook from grievances, why he's so aggressive, why he has trouble speaking clearly and putting thoughts together coherently, why he keeps contradicting himself over and over, and why he doesn't seem to comprehend what certain words actually mean.

We need to be suspicious because the vague letter about his health issued by his doctor sounded more like a press release from his campaign than an objective report.

Until now, whatever might be wrong with him would have been successfully covered up by his family, his business associates, his success, and his bombastic style. But he's never had this much press scrutiny, never been under so much pressure before.

Trump is running for President. Americans have a right to know, as he likes to say, what's going on. To quote him exactly: "Because we do have a problem."

Lev Raphael is the author of The Vampyre of Gotham and 24 other books in genres from mystery to memoir that you can find on Amazon.