As you well know, 2020 has been a year like no other. Between the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the continued civil unrest and protests, and the upcoming November 3 election, there has been plenty to talk and stress about. But apparently, this year, or at least this election cycle and all the drama it has brought on, is enough to create a whole new mental disorder.
Enter Election Stress Disorder.
That’s right. If you feel stressed out or a bit anxious about the election or just politics in general, it turns out, you might just have a mental problem!
Dr. Steven Stosny is the therapist behind the disorder or at least its name. After the 2016 election, which was deemed the most controversial and stressful of its time, Stosny observed that people were more and more stressed about politics, and it was causing some abnormal behavior in their daily lives.
He observed to NBC News, “pervasive negativity of the campaigns, amplified by a 24-hour news cycle and social media created a level of stress and resentment.”
Basically, the thought is that politics are nasty. Because of increased media attention to it and the ever-present influence of social media, people let it affect their personal lives.
So how do you know if you have Election Stress Disorder or not?
Well, as Stosny recently told CBS News, “You know you have election stress disorder if you feel your body tense before you turn on the news. That’s your body preparing you for a sabertooth tiger with lots of cortisol.”
Stosny continues his description of the disorder by saying that most who have it usually show anxiety symptoms, which tend to lead to bouts of anger and extreme disagreement.
He says, “Anxiety is the general central nervous system response. 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.” And when disagreements occur, “They don’t just disagree, they devalue as they disagree.”
And apparently, social media only makes this worse. Shocking, I know.
Stosny reports, “Anger comes when people feel disrespected. Social media gives you a voice, but not an individuality, so people are frustrated on it.”
Well, we’ve definitely seen evidence of that. I mean, how many times have you recently seen nasty, entirely uncalled for remarks on Facebook or Twitter from people, who in just about any other circumstance, are usually relatively calm and collected?
Somehow, the platforms and the impersonal feel of them make attacks of this kind much more prevalent, and sadly, they are usually over the silliest things.
Now, to me, the solution to this seems simple. Turn off the TV and take time to disconnect from social media. However, that’s not exactly what Dr. Stosny recommends, although it’s not all bad.
Instead, he suggests focusing on the values that really matter and not the policies that seem to rule the days of late. He notes that paying attention to the people in our lives, to the connections we can make, and what we can actually control is best.
And I do have to agree with him, at least on this part.
However, he also suggests that if you are one to push for national change, you begin to put your frustrations with the election or policies to work for you. Write to your congress members, lobby even if you feel like it, and don’t be afraid to participate in “demonstrations.”
However, it seems this last bit of advice might only serve to make matters worse.
As I already mentioned, people are angry and frustrated enough with the “stress” of the election to protest in the streets and even riot. And that has only added to the stress on the nation. People are now worried about the politics of the election and what the outcome will bring for communities that have already seen massive amounts of destruction and chaos.
Isn’t encouraging people to do this more only going to increase stress? I mean, what part of running through the streets setting fire to buildings and trying to evade police is calming and supposed to be good for your already “anxious” nerves?
It certainly doesn’t sound very therapeutic to me. Then again, I’m not one crazy enough to let some politician rattle me to the point of being deranged, which is far more likely what is going on here.