Mental health issues are often discussed with great care, in part due to its sensitiveness and how devastating the diseases are for the people suffering them and their relatives. But when it comes to President Donald Trump the conversation must not be avoided, nor should be out of the equation either. As a public servant, people hold authority over him (theoretically) which means his work and actions should be scrutinized closely, this includes the public debate about his mental condition which has intensified recently.
At 70, Trump is one of the oldest presidents in US history that has ever taken office, when couple with the many early dementia signs he shows, the age-risk factor, and the fact that his father Fred developed Alzheimer’s in his 80s (family history puts him at risk of developing the condition), the issue takes high new relevance.
In a powerful study, scientists at Arizona State University analyzed cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease in Presidents by going through their press conferences’ speeches while in office. Transcripts of Ronald Reagan (1981–1989) and George H.W. Bush (1989–1993) have been diligently examined.
The results showed, that while President Bush didn’t show any relevant signs of dementia, Reagan — diagnosed in 1994 with Alzheimer’s — however, showed a significant deterioration in the number of unique words over time, a noteworthy proliferation in conversational fillers (well, so, um, ah, basically, literally, actually) and non-specific nouns (thing, something, anything) rose over time, that suggested he was suffering from dementia during his tenure as president, and we never knew about its existence.
Based on the rapid deterioration of his cognitive functions — which he has been displaying in the last 2 years. Many of Trump’s physical characteristics point toward dementia: forgetfulness (leaving an executive order blank without signing it); incoherence speech, irritability, anger, impulsivity, and paranoia; degraded syntax: reliance on placeholders (‘great, great, great’), limited vocabulary and reduced concentration.
Some experts think he is incapable of being in office. Some of them have even published a book concerning the issue. Last April, a prominent group of psychiatrists also warned the public during a conference at Yale University stating that the president was unfit for presidency due to mental illness. All these mental health professionals coming forward to talk about the president’s cognitive functions is unprecedented, according to the New Yorker since the Goldwater rule was added to the American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics back 1973, professionals in the field have been forbidden to diagnose a person without examining them in person. But since the arrival of Trump to the spectrum, some of them have been skipping the rule by using the “duty to warn” term— often used in law — a concept that arises when a subject may be an imminent of danger to society.
Professionals have also argued that the Goldwater rule serves only to protect the guild from lawsuits and conflict of interests. But to others, this represents a huge issue. Recently professionals from the fields of psychiatry, psychology, medicine, public policy, and social work — just to name a few — have come together to register the phrase “Duty To Warn” as an organization to advocate for Trump’s removal under the 25th Amendment and warn people about the President’s mental instability.
President’s Trump mental health is the elephant in the room, and we should be talking openly about it. If you have heard his rants, read his tweets or seen his awkward encounters on TV, you can tell how often Trump forgets facts and people’s names, how he wanders around press conferences seemingly not having an idea ‘how to behave’ or what he is ‘there’ for, how his spoken and written vocabulary limitations are blatantly noticeable — the latter being worthy of a fourth-grader according to the Boston Globe. All these behaviors are frequently linked to the early onset of dementia.
If Trump’s signs lead to the develop of a more serious condition, not only his job, his position as geopolitical leader are at risk, but if it worsens, and if it’s not addressed accordingly by the Congress or the people, a mentally-ill individual in the White House serving as President could bring calamitous consequences, not only for the US economy and democracy but also for the entire world.
Even North Korean “Supreme leader” has come at him in a silver-tongued statement calling him “dotard” and “mentally deranged” (ouch). In what world are we living now that the Dictator of NoKo — Trump’s new hype term — has more eloquence and a better rhetoric than (what is supposed to be) the leader of the free world?
Now let’s take a closer look at the three most relevant symptoms of early dementia stage that Trump has showed so far:
1. Difficulty finding the right words
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably seen the poorly functional use of language, and the lack of coherence of Trump’s rhetoric. The gradual loss of the ability to understand and use of speech is one of the crucial factors of dementia according to the Mayo Clinic.
It doesn’t matter if he continues to shout from every corner that he has “the best words” — which is another symptom in itself. Trouble finding the right words is a huge — yuuge — red flag, and that, as a high-level politician leaves much to be desired.
Being the leader of one of the superpowers of the world, Trump has to be careful with the language that he uses and his discourse should show some coherence at least. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case, although has he been always like this? Apparently not, in the video embedded below you can tell that his speech has vastly changed since the 90’s. You can see him speaking very calm, lucid, almost articulate in an interview on Letterman back in 1988, his gestures and movements are quite different as they are now. Spoiler alert: he was still an arrogant back then. The linguistic decline is striking though.
2. Being repetitive
An important deficit. Trump may have a substantial vocabulary and might be not using it as a conscious strategy, instead using a simple repetitive rhetoric — one that is widely used in advertising. But it seems that sometimes he’s not even aware of it, and no, chanting “Make America Great Again” does not qualify for this category. Below some examples.
3. Behavioral problems
There is no doubt of Mr. Trump’s lack of social awareness. He constantly engages in irrational and hostile outbursts, shows lack of tact (telling President’s Macron wife that she was in ‘such a good shape’), and aggression. These actions are in fact, an indicative of the state of his mind and its lack of rationality. Judging from his behavior Donald Trump might be excelling in this category. Some of the signs include:
Becoming suspicious of other people and paranoia
Emotional impediments are a threat for national security, and when you have a dementia-stricken individual who clearly doesn’t know how to behave, taunting nuclear power when confronted by an insane military dictator, one can only argue that Trump’s mental deterioration could put us all at extreme risk, his actions are dangerous from a geopolitical point of view. Nobody needs an unpredictable ‘leader’ in a world full of perils and challenges.
The questions around President’s Trump mental health should never go away, But, can we use the 25th amendment to invoke him on the basis of dementia? Are Donald Trump’s actions carefully calculated or is he showing the world a side of him that even he is not aware of? It would be interesting to see the results of a mental status examination on him, and him being impeached for it.