This presidential season has certainly had more than its fair share of bizarre and strange moments. Understandably, there has been a lot of attention and focus placed on Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE as he has become the Republican party presidential nominee.

Recently, psychologists and mental health professionals, alike, have been weighing in with their input regarding the psychological makeup of Donald Trump and the meaning behind his political ascendency.  

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However, it is not good enough to call somebody a narcissist or any other medical term simply because one does not have a political or personal inclination towards the given candidate. Throwing around of such terms can reveal more of the name-callers psychology than it does the political target.

I believe that this is actually a worthwhile pursuit, but it should be undertaken carefully and with as much knowledge about psychology and human behavior as possible. Otherwise, we will only be speaking our own prejudices.  

As somebody who takes the process of looking into and deciphering the plans and intentions of political actors, seriously, I am an advocate for politico-psychological attempts at understanding the nature of political and associated affairs.

It is not accurate to label Donald Trump as somebody suffering with narcissistic personality disorder. What we see repeatedly in the media and the public domain does not necessarily correspond to how he actually is and functions in private settings.

In order to meet the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder one would need to see a steady, rather consistent, and predictable set of behavioral patterns manifest themselves in a variety of social, professional, and private settings.

Therefore, I cannot diagnose a personality disorder solely from media reports. Trump may have narcissistic and aggressive tendencies, but it has been said that the most powerful are the most paranoid. He is a victim of his own self-aggrandizement; there does not appear to be anyone within his campaign who can respectfully challenge his opinions or positions.

How many of our political officials and others within trusted positions are psychologically balanced and stable? I would argue that some are simply better at concealing their pathology than others, but pathology is still there and informs much of our political decision-making processes—more than what most others would be able to stomach, if it was all public knowledge.

One main reason that people wonder about the psychological dynamics of Donald Trump, is that time and time again he violates or simply ignores political decorum. In other words, his words and behaviors do not line up neatly with the expected norms of political comportment, especially for an American presidential candidate. Of course this is part of his political appeal to much of the public. 

Trump is simply being who he is and he knows full well that this is part of his political appeal.  The unfortunate piece is that he very rarely questions his own self or positions, and does not truly listen to his advisors. 

I would argue that Donald Trump suffers more from having a deficit in an authentic ethical grounding that informs his perspective, than he does somebody exhibiting all the clinical signifiers of a narcissistic personality disorder.  

This combined with the fact that he grew up around cutthroat business models where materialism was celebrated.  

In a sense, Trump has not really been able to move and grow past those emotional-psychological limitations.  And so much of what he says and does in the public sphere is an extension of his psychic barriers. This understandably has much of the public worried and concerned.  People are able to see this and Trump has no hesitations about putting this on display. 

Dmitri Oster is a clinical social worker and a licensed criminal profiler.  


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.