Now 'Election Stress Disorder' Is a Thing: Do You Have It? If so Here Are 3 Ways to Cope With It

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Move over, Trump Derangement Syndrome, there’s a new mental disorder in town. That’s right; as if 2020 were not already stressful enough, “Election Stress Disorder” is a real thing.

Dr. Steven Stosny, a Washington D.C.-based therapist and relationship expert, coined the term after the 2016 election, after observing “pervasive negativity of the campaigns, amplified by a 24-hour news cycle and social media,” which he said, “created a level of stress and resentment,” as reported by NBC News.

As Stosny recently explained to CBS News,  Election Stress Disorder symptoms range from increased amounts of anxiety, restless nights of sleep, to difficulty concentrating in other areas of life. “You know you have election stress disorder if you feel your body tense before you turn on the news,” he said. “That’s your body preparing you for a sabertooth tiger with lots of cortisol.”

“Anxiety is the general central nervous system response,” Stosny explained. “And the way that most people deal with anxiety is to blame it on someone, and unfortunately the law of blame is it will eventually go to the closest person — your partner or children.” “They don’t just disagree” with people around them, he said, they “devalue as they disagree.”

“Anger comes when people feel disrespected. Social media gives you a voice, but not an individuality, so people are frustrated on it,” Stosny said.

To Stosny’s point about social media, is it any wonder? I’ve often compared interaction on social media between strangers to road rage incidents, in the sense that people who might otherwise behave perfectly normal when interacting with a stranger in a grocery store can go gonzo in a nanosecond on Facebook or Twitter over Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

Rather than channeling inherent frustration and making someone else feel “disrespected,” Stosny urged people to “focus on deeper values” like compassion, equality, and justice. Besides, he said, “People tend to agree on the values. They disagree on the policies.”

Stosny’s best advice for Americans feeling anxiety over the 2020 election is to focus on things within their control when the magnitude of everyday life — see: 2020 — and politics gets overwhelming.

He also encouraged people to “focus on making your life better and more meaningful” through social connections, or for those so inclined, “seek political empowerment through lobbying Congress, writing letters to officials or participating in demonstrations.” Wait — haven’t we had enough protests in 2020 to last a lifetime?

Finally, Stosny says, keep things in a proper perspective. Remember that the election cycle is fleeting, he advises, and try not to lose sight of real priorities when frustrated with politics.

Stosny is right, of course, but 2020 just feels different. No — 2020 is different. Looking back on the 2016 general election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — and I loathe the ground on which Hillary walks — it seems a veritable walk in the park compared to the viciousness of the 2020 election cycle.

So why is that? Why are family members estranged, best friends no longer friends, and pitched battles and suspended accounts on social media? Why is 2020 so much worse than 2016 — which at the time we thought was the worst election cycle in recent history?

The answer is the other mental disorder afflicting America — on a much grander scale. The disorder we’ve seen since the very nanosecond Donald Trump — the “buffoonish,” “mentally unstable,” “racist,” “xenophobic,” “misogynistic” “reality TV host” — was declared the winner over Hillary Clinton — the “most qualified person in the history of mankind to seek the presidency of the United States.” The affliction we call Trump Derangement Syndrome. As is the case with Election Stress Disorder, TDS is visceral.

Those who are afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome, particularly those in the grip of Stage V TDS — think Nancy Pelosi — are completely consumed by it. They are incapable of rational thought. Pelosi has demonstrated for months that she would rather hold up legislation on a second round of COVID stimulus checks than agree on a package with Trump because as she sees it in her TDS-riddled mind, she cannot agree to anything with Trump out of fear that he might benefit politically from any such agreement.

Election Stress Disorder will soon subside. While some of the symptoms will linger, the thought of Donald Trump winning reelection and Nancy Pelosi & Co. undergoing four more years of Trump Derangement Syndrome will make the whole thing worth every minute of it.