If Monday’s presidential debate has you feeling hopelessness, angry or anxious, you’re not alone.
After weeks of writing about politics, Slate columnist Michelle Goldberg had trouble sleeping and developed nightmares about the campaign. So she decided to “sublimate” her anxieties into her work and reached out to therapists to see if others were also feeling the stress.
Turns out they were.
But what is it about this election that is affecting our mental health? Goldberg joined Morning Shift to share what she discovered researching what she called “Trump-induced anxiety.”
On the rush of responses after reaching out to therapists in the admittedly liberal-leaning New York area:
As a journalist, you kind of know that’s when you’ve hit a nerve, when you have more people wanting to talk to you than you have time to make phone calls. It’s not just that they were saying this comes up in their practice occasionally. One therapist said that if she has seven sessions in a day, five or six of them are people talking about Donald Trump.
On why this kind of anxiety is hard to treat:
Part of the reason they’re struggling is, as one of the therapists said to me, this anxiety is not pathological. These aren’t irrational fears. This is something unprecedented, and potentially violent and chaotic. It’s not as if you’re trying to talk a patient down from spinning out unlikely catastrophes, you’re trying to help them navigate their way through a moment of really unique historical peril.
On the stress that comes with Hillary Clinton’s candidacy:
The idea that she is somehow so much more disappointing or compromised than John Kerry or Al Gore, or even her husband … for myself, and for women and for patients of some of the therapists I talked to, it’s really a reminder of how much people really don’t like to hear women talking. It really has changed my own sense of my value in the world in a negative way.
On therapists’ tips for dealing with election anxieties:
Focus on your loved ones, turn off the news cycle in order to be present with the people in your life. Breathe. Understand that you’re afraid, and it’s OK, and you’re right to be afraid, and you kind of have to sit with it. It also helped for their patients to talk about it.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click play to hear the full conversation with Goldberg, including how anxiety manifests with stress around police brutality and why Trump reminds some of “bad ex-boyfriends.”