It’s easy for non-professionals, journalists and anyone with eyes and ears to label President Trump as a narcissist and pathological liar, but what do mental health professionals have to say about him?
A reader sent me a fascinating 32-page academic paper by Vincent Greenwood, PhD, executive director of the Washington Center for Cognitive Therapy, with the catchy subtitle, “The Substance Behind the Assertion the President Has a Serious Psychiatric Condition.” Click here to view the full 32-page document, or click here to read a shorter 12-page version of it. It’s worth checking out, whether or not you’re a supporter of President Trump.
The full-length paper is so long because it’s incumbent upon the author to justify his attempt to diagnose someone without a personal interview. Normally, that would be hard to justify, and would be considered a violation of Sec. 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics, which states that it is unethical to offer a professional opinion on a public figure who has not been personally examined and where consent has not been obtained.
Dr. Greenwood, however, cites a 2017 paper which argues that a diagnosis is possible and reasonable when there is substantial information available from the subject himself, from informants and from archival data such as “speeches, tweets, taped interviews, autobiographical efforts, court records, real-time observations, etc.,” which is certainly the case with President Trump. Although Dr. Greenwood doesn’t say it directly, one could surmise that the APA opposes diagnosis of public figures at a distance because of the damage it could do to the reputation of the mental health profession.
In his paper, Dr. Greenwood describes at length the instrument he used to diagnose the president, something called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist Revised, which he describes as a “reliable instrument that yields a valid diagnosis, but also spells out a rigorous process for how to go about making a possible diagnosis. This process involves the collection, integration, and interpretation of multiple sources and types of information. The process is comprehensive and detailed and strives to go well beyond just citing examples of Trump’s more outlandish behavior as definitive proof of a psychiatric disorder.”
So how does President Trump score on the 20-point checklist for psychopathy? I don’t have the space here to relate Dr. Greenwood’s thorough documentation of each of the 20 items on the checklist. I encourage you to click on the link above for either the 12- or 32-page paper and see how persuasive his reasoning is. Suffice it to say that Dr. Greenwood concludes that the President “is a clinical psychopath (in the moderate to severe range).”
Personally, I was shocked at the severity of the diagnosis, although convinced by Dr. Greenwood’s analysis. Previously I had been convinced of an alternative diagnosis, that of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). On page 26, Dr. Greenwood describes “the low-hanging fruit of narcissism,” noting that many of the nine criteria of NPD “seem to be written almost with the President in mind” and that only 5 of the 9 criteria are needed to warrant the diagnosis. However, Dr. Greenwood writes, “To highlight Trump’s narcissism is misleading because the psychopathic elements of his personality are more central to who he is and how he operates.”
Another and related must-read is A Warning, liked by 83% of Google users. It is described by Wikipedia as “a 2019 book-length exposé of the Trump administration, anonymously authored by someone described as a ‘senior Trump administration official.’ It is a follow-up to an anonymous op-ed published by the New York Times in September 2018.” It provides countless additional “datapoints” to support Dr. Greenwood’s diagnosis, and is reinforced by what former National Security Advisor John Bolton has written in his best-selling book, The Room Where It Happened. It is liked by 80% of Google users.