Election Stress Disorder
The Washington Post recently wrote an article about what the American Psychological Association is calling Election Stress Disorder.
Here is my take on the issue and what I have seen in my professional and personal life.
How has this election season taken a toll on Americans' mental health?
In part this depends to what extent people are following the news. For those who are more highly engaged and watch cable news, are on social media a lot or listen to talk radio it seems to have a greater effect. Those individuals appear to be more emotionally invested and thusly the election has brought about more frustrations, strains on relationships, and in some situations, increased anxiety.
As eluded to above, there appears to be a correlation between level of emotional involvement in the election and political process and increase of anxiety or anger. I have not seen the election as a catalyst for depression (that might come for some AFTER the election) ;)
It seems that many are feeling as if they have no power or control in the election process. There is such an emotional involvement but they don't feel empowered. This can lead to increase frustration and anxiety. For others (many on both sides) they simply don't understand how the "other side" can't see their side. Trump supporters don't understand why the Clinton folks don't see how corrupt she is and the Clinton supporters can't fathom how the Trump followers can't accept how unsuitable he is for the presidency. Again, most of these intense emotions come from the understandable investment in this historic and important election.
There is another huge factor that plays into fueling that emotional fire...social media and the 24-hr news cycle! Politics used to be one of two subjects you didn't really discuss with friends and family (religion begin the other). That premise and the social norm that accompanies it has long been thrown out the window.
With outlets, such as Facebook, people's political views are front and center. And often times because people can have a buffer between what they are saying and the people who are reading their posts, they tend to be a little more direct and in-your-face with their opinions. We now know and are daily faced with the objections to our own views and beliefs and conversely are forced to face the differing views of our friends and family.
Additionally, with the cable news cycle and online news feeds we are inundated with information on a daily basis. This adds to the feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious.
So, one might ask, how can we help with this anxiety and the fears surrounding the election and our nation in general?
Unplug, deactivate, or unfollow! Limit your time watching the news or scrolling through social media. Be informed but not inundated. Deactivate your Facebook for a week to give yourself a break. Unfollow people on social media who are upsetting you or with whom you disagree...maybe just until after the election!
We all must come to a realization that in less than 1 month we will have an answer to the election question and start the process of acceptance. Additionally, in less than a couple of months when our new President is sworn into office, the homeostasis of our lives that have been disrupted by this election will find a new normal. Yes, things are going to change depending on who is elected but the daily catastrophizing and uncertainty of our government will settle a bit. We will begin to understand and live in a new normal...for at least the next 4 years until the campaigning starts again.