Months after the election, psychologists say their clients, both Democrats and Republicans, still have tons of political-related stress and anxiety.
Therapists are working overtime to make America feel great again.
Psychologists say the Donald Trump era has created a bipartisan boon for their businesses. Online therapy site Talkspace saw traffic to its site triple right after the election and remain high (at about 150% of expected January volume). Talkspace attributes this spike, in part, to America’s current fraught political climate. Many traditional therapists say demand is up as well: New clients are booking sessions and current clients are coming more regularly, says Chicago-based psychologist Nancy Molitor, a professor of psychology at Northwestern, who says her colleagues are seeing a similar trend. “Almost all patients are talking about what is going on politically,” she says. “I have never seen anything like this.”
Americans’ stress levels are so high they are registering on the American Psychological Association’s anxiety meter, according to a Bloomberg report. The results of a January poll show that there has been a statistically significant increase in stress — for Americans of all political persuasions — for the first time since 2007, when the study was first given.
Some of this, of course, is a holdover from an especially contentious election. Both candidates insulted the other to a degree Americans haven’t seen in years. Hillary Clinton called Trump the most dangerous presidential candidate in history, and Trump threatened to put her in jail, and they both used cruel phrases about the another: Remember “Trumped-up trickle-down economics” and Trump’s hashtag #CrookedHillary? Plus, a number of issues came to light that deeply worried Americans including Clinton’s use of a private email server, and a videotape of Trump talking about grabbing women without their consent, something he later dismissed as locker room talk. So it’s probably no wonder that a survey by the American Psychological Association in October found that 55% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans said the election was a source of stress.
But this isn’t just about leftover election stress: “While I was hoping the end of the election would bring about less stress, it has actually increased even more. The first week of President’s Trump presidency has been marred by protests, with hundreds of thousands of people gathering for the Women’s March the day after his inauguration and at airports last weekend with people objecting to Trump’s immigration ban. “People are even more angry and frustrated, on both sides of the aisle,” says psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, author of self-help book “Better Than Perfect.”
Michael Wetter, the chief executive of Wetter Psychological Services, estimates that even now roughly 80% of his patients consult him about some kind of political-related stressor or issue they are facing. “It’s on all sides,” he says — and impacting even daily shopping decisions. For example, if you’re pro-Trump, you can’t get a morning Starbucks (SBUX) without guilt; if you’re anti-Trump, Uber is a no-no. It’s even impacting people who tend to avoid political issues, he says. The uncertainty and change, protests, animosity on social media, it’s all creating “an uptick in anxiety,” says Beverly Hills psychologist Fran Walfish.
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The feelings seep into even our most treasured relationships, as people are still struggling to understand the views of their friends, colleagues and family members who belong to the opposing party, says Molitor. “There is greater tension among some family members, friends, colleagues, social media acquaintances,” says Lombardo. “More arguing, more insults and more unkindness ensue.”
This issue is in part due to the political divide in this country. Data from the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., show that “views of the opposing party are now more negative than at any point in nearly a quarter of a century” with majorities in both parties expressing not just unfavorable “but very unfavorable views of the other party.” And adding anxiety to injury, sizable numbers of both Democrats and Republicans say they fear the other party.
|Half of Americans are afraid of the party they didn’t support|
|I’m afraid of the opposing party||49%||55%|
|I’m angry at the opposing party||46%||47%|
|I’m frustrated at the opposing party||57%||58%|
|Source: Pew Research Center, 2016|
And these feeling may be here to stay: Wetter says this the constant coverage — on TV, social media and other outlets — of political-related events means people can’t avoid it. “It’s there no matter where you turn,” he says. “People feel lost.”
This story was originally published on MarketWatch.
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