You haven’t heard much from me these past few months. I’ve found it hard to write. While my life continues apace, and I doubt that I look different to casual observers, I’ve found it difficult to get anything done. Some days I spend more time than anyone should on the internet, checking the up-to-the-second status of the race for the U.S. Presidency on sites like Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight.com. I know the results of just about every Presidential election poll, often minutes after the results are released. Clinton trails Trump by only 3% for Alaska’s three electoral votes? Great! But what’s happening in Arizona?
I wish I were joking, but I’m not. This isn’t fun for me. The politics of 2016 has me profoundly unhappy and anxious, and I’m not alone feeling this way. Political Anxiety Disorder is a thing, even if it doesn’t always go by that name. Sometimes I see it called “Election Stress Disorder.” This malady is not listed in DSM, at least not yet. But its effects are real. One author calls it “the national nervous breakdown that is the 2016 election.” “We’re hearing a higher level of concern and dismay than I’ve probably heard in any election cycle, in 25 years of clinical work,” says one therapist. Therapists describe the fear many of their patients feel at the prospect of the election of Clinton, or Trump (usually, Trump), including nightmares, insomnia, digestive problems, and headaches. Couples report increasing tension. According to a study from the American Psychological Association, political discussions at work this election season have resulted in at least 1 in 10 working Americans feeling tense or stressed out (17 percent), having more difficulty getting work done (10 percent), and being less productive (13 percent).