As I talk to colleagues I hear virtually all of them saying that they themselves have been highly stressed by recent political events, and that their clients are all talking about the presidential election and politics in an unprecedented way. People talk about old, terrible feelings being stirred up which relate to past experiences of being marginalized or hurt by bigotry and prejudice — or harassed, raped or abused. People talk about anxiety, fear and anger — and a determination to “not let things go back to the way they were before.” People talk about feeling more stressed than usual, or more shaky, or having more headaches, or feeling kind of out of focus or overwhelmed. Some of these friends, colleagues and clients are from immigrant families or are part of the first generation of their families to be born in the United States. Some are Muslem or part of the LGBTQ community. Some are women.
I am calling this Chronic Political Stress Disorder, while some authors have called this Post-Trump Stress Disorder (PTSD) (would that we were actually post-Trump). Either way you label it — it is real and people have been writing about it for some time (for example, “Therapists and Their Patients Are Struggling to Cope with the National Nervous Breakdown that is the 2016 Election” in Slate Magazine.
On February 15th The American Psychological Association published the results of its most recent Stress in America (TM) survey. APA added election-related questions to its annual poll (conducted in August by Harris Poll on behalf of APA), and found that 52% of Americans saw the 2016 election as somewhat or very stressful, and that stress levels were on the rise. The results of the 2016 poll motivated APA to commission a second poll in January 2017 “asking Americans again to rate the sources of their stress, including the political climate, the future of our nation and the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.” Results showed Americans to find the following very or somewhat significant sources of stress:
Current political climate – 57%
Future of our nation – 66%
Outcome of the election – 49%
Notably, for those of us living and working in very blue states, when looking at Democrats, the poll showed that 72% found the outcome of the election to be very or somewhat stressful and 76% said the future of the nation was a significant source of stress to them.
Further, the election outcome was seen to be more stressful the more urban the environment (cities > suburbs > rural areas).
To read or download the full report, which includes statistics about other sources of stress as well as breakdowns by gender, age, ethnicity and other variables, go to stressinamerica.org