Part of what my LCSW license permits me to do is make psychological diagnoses. However, the American Psychiatric Association says that it would be unethical for me to diagnose a public figure like Donald Trump without a personal interview. But during this election season, this so-called “Goldwater Rule” is being brought into question by many.
Personally, I believe that in rare instances, if using our specialized knowledge can help protect our country from a malevolent individual who can cause great harm, this good supersedes what the APA recommends. With Donald Trump just one step from the Presidency, this is one of those times.
In fact, Donald Trump has such an extensive public record, that simply by using the endless examples we have on video, audio, and transcript, we can make a better case for a diagnosis than with individuals who self-report in just a few sessions.
DONALD TRUMP HAS AN ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY DISORDER
It is abundantly clear from that record, that if we use the criteria as laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), that Donald Trump has a full-blown Antisocial Personality Disorder.
What does this mean and why does it matter? First, let us define “personality disorder.” When people are under the grips of anxiety or depression, they say they do not feel like “themselves,” and they want to get rid of these distressing states. That makes these conditions “ego-dystonic.” On the other side, people with personality disorders generally believe the problem is with everyone else. Despite the distress they may cause others or the havoc they may create for their own lives, they believe that if everyone was like them all would be good with the world. These conditions are called “ego-syntonic.” When individuals are asked about these personality characteristics they will say that this is just “who I am.”
People with diagnosable personality disorders show deeply ingrained, inflexible, pervasive and maladaptive patterns of relating to and perceiving both the environment and themselves. This means they can’t, don’t, and won’t change irrespective of the harm they cause. Because people like this don’t acknowledge the pain they bring about, they are usually impervious to recovery.
Specifically, antisocial personality disorder is defined by a disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others. Individuals with this disorder often engage in serious violations of standard rules of conduct.
Antisocial personality disorder can be difficult to detect because of the ability of the person with this disorder to manipulate and deceive others. Even the most seasoned clinicians can be fooled. Antisocial personality disordered patients are highly represented by so-called con men. They are extremely manipulative and are frequently able to talk others into participating in schemes that involve easy ways to make money or to achieve fame or notoriety, which may eventually lead the unwary to financial ruin, social embarrassment, or both. Promiscuity and spousal abuse are common. The person appears to have no conscience, and so any act is possible, without consideration of consequence.
What are the specific criteria for anti-social personality disorder and why am I so certain that Donald Trump has one?
LYING, DECEPTION, MANIPULATION, AND EXPLOITATION
· Central to this condition are lying, deception, manipulation, and exploitation for personal profit or pleasure. Individuals with this personality disorder will typically have no compunction in exploiting others in harmful ways and can be manipulative and deceitful towards other people, achieving this through wit and a facade of superficial charm, or through intimidation and violence.
LYING - Fact checkers rate that 70% of Trump’s statements are lies. His lies are so common and numerable that it is mind numbing. Politico reported that in a given week of public statements he lied 78 times. He doesn’t care if his lies are recorded on video and then played back – he simply denies having said what he said. He lies about his lies. He said that climate change was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese, which is a lie. Then he said that he didn’t say that. He claimed that he saw hundreds of people in New Jersey cheering when the World Trade Center came down. This never happened. He promoted the lie that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and claimed he had irrefutable evidence to prove this, which didn’t exist. In the end, he blamed Hillary Clinton for this conspiracy lunacy, which was a lie. He lied when he stated that he was always against the Iraq war when there is recorded evidence proving otherwise.
He claims that his recorded statements about sexually assaulting women were “locker room talk.” He claims that the many women who are coming forward to report having been subject to the very behavior that Trump admits to on audio are lying. Either Trump was lying when he made these claims of sexual assault (and what kind of person would make something like that up?) or he is lying now by saying he was lying then. And are we really supposed to believe Trump’s denials when he stated in an interview that, as The New York Times reported, he contended that infidelity was “never a problem” during his three marriages, though his first ended in an ugly divorce after Mr. Trump began a relationship with the woman who became his second wife? One way or the other, he’s lying.
Perhaps Trump’s most ironic lie is about Hillary’s lying. Independent analysts report that Clinton has been the most honest candidate in this whole election season. Yet Trump’s smears have managed to bamboozle the public into believing that he is more honest than she.
EXPLOITATION – Trump has an endless history of exploitive behavior. He has consistently ripped off contractors. He has destroyed endless small businessmen by hiring them and either not paying at all, or paying a much lower fee than promised. He sold innumerable innocent people snake oil with Trump University, trying to get as much money as he could from them, promising a “get rich quick scheme,” and providing nothing. He has even exploited the government he is intending to lead, manipulating his finances so that he doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes.
DECEIT AND THEFT - Trump University is just one egregious example of Trump engaging in “deceit and theft.” Eric Schneiderman, New York’s Attorney General stated that this was, “straight up fraud,” on Trump’s part.
Trump’s disregard for “standard rules of conduct” has been going on for decades. He was trained by a master, Roy Cohn. As the New York Times reported on June 21st, “Mr. Cohn . . .had been Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red-baiting consigliere. He had helped send the Rosenbergs to the electric chair for spying and elect Richard M. Nixon president. “(He was) New York’s most feared lawyer, (and) had a list that ran the gamut from the disreputable to the quasi-reputable: Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno, Claus von Bulow, George Steinbrenner. “But there was one client who occupied a special place in Roy Cohn’s famously cold heart: Donald J. Trump.”
Cohn taught Trump how to be vicious in legal wrangles, and how to get away with nearly everything. This began with Trump and his father being brought up on charges of discriminating against people of color in their housing projects. In the end, Cohn was disbarred, after being charged with conspiracy, bribery, and fraud. Virtually all of his wealth and assets were confiscated upon his death to pay his tax debts.
Trump admitted to behavior that would be considered sexual assault. Though he claims this was only “talk,” many women have come forward to corroborate his own assertions. Not only that, in this one example, he instructs this woman on how to cheat the banks! (About 5:40 on the attached video.)
· Those with antisocial personality disorder are often impulsive and reckless, failing to consider or disregarding the consequences of their actions.
Journalist Allan Sloan, who has covered Trump for over 25 years, says that “what has always struck me is his lack of impulse control. It was his biggest problem when I first started dealing with him in the 1980s, and it’s his biggest problem now.” This is consistent with a diagnosis of a personality disorder – the behaviors are enduring and persistent. Sloan details how Trump’s financial impulsivity led to terrible decisions that ended up in six bankruptcies. Because Trump’s psychological condition allows him to act without concern for others, it was mostly others who paid for his mistakes. The $140 million investors paid into his publicly traded company was wiped out with the investors losing all of their money.
It is well admitted, even within the Trump campaign, that Trump is uncontrollable. Give him a provocation, and he goes off message. His impulses have led him to retaliate against any perceived attack, whether it is against a Gold Star family, a disabled reporter, or Paul Ryan, the leader of his own political party. His tweet storms, sent in the middle of the night, irrespective of their consequence, are legion. His reaction to Hillary Clinton’s easy trap over Alicia Machado shows just how easy it is to get Trump to react impulsively. Here’s his notorious 5:30am tweet:
Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?
Which leads us to our next criterion for the diagnosis of Anti-Social Personality Disorder:
IRRITABILITY AND AGGRESSION
· The Antisocial Personality Disorder is characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of other people that often manifests as hostility and/or aggression. They often display a disregulated temper, and can lash out violently with provocation or frustration. They may engage in hostile acts such as bullying or intimidating others. They may display arrogance and think lowly and negatively of others,
Do I even have to list examples of this characteristic? Is there anyone that Trump hasn’t cruelly attacked? Let’s make a short list, and just for fun, let’s begin with Republicans: Ted Cruz, Ted Cruz’s wife, Ted Cruz’s father, Jeb Bush, John McCain, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, and the rest of his opponents. Let’s move on to women: Hillary Clinton, Alicia Machado, Rosie O’Donnell, Megan Kelly, Elizabeth Warren, The Gold Star mom, the women who have accused him of sexual assault. Other people Trump has insulted include: everyone in the media except for Sean Hannity; Mexicans and Muslims; the Chinese. Need I go on? Here’s a short list of the words that he most likes to use: Stupid, weak, loser, moron, dummy, dopey, dumb, dangerous, a clown, a low-class slob, bad, lightweight, terrible, horrible, the worst, disgusting, ugly, crooked, worst in history.
The New York Times has been keeping a running list. As of October 13, 2016, he had insulted 274 people, places, and things on Twitter alone. Following are a few of my favorites:
He’s a clown with zero credibility; weak like a baby; one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics; A disaster candidate who had no guts and choked; looks more like a gym rat than a United States senator; I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo because that wouldn’t be politically correct; has hate in her heart; a nasty guy with no heart.
A October 25, 2016 article from the New York Times reports that in a 2014 interview Mr. Trump said the following:
MR. TRUMP: I was a very rebellious kind of person. I don't like to talk about it, actually. But I was a very rebellious person and very set in my ways.
INTERVIEWER: In eighth grade?
MR. TRUMP: I loved to fight. I always loved to fight.
INTERVIEWER: Physical fights?
MR. TRUMP: Yeah, all kinds of fights, physical ...
This further validates the diagnosis, which states that the behavior should begin before the age of 15.
· Irresponsibility is a core characteristic of this disorder: they can have significant difficulties in maintaining stable employment as well as fulfilling their social and financial obligations.
Trump has shown gross irresponsibility throughout his life. He purchased the Plaza hotel for $400 million until it was repossessed by the bank. He built four casinos at a cost of $3 billion; then he filed for bankruptcy, went out of business, and stiffed his contractors and employees. Trump Airlines, Mortgage, Vodka, Steaks, all went out of business. In 1995 he reported a $916 million loss, which, he admits, led him to not pay taxes for years. He has a long history of ripping off his workers. On June 9th, USA Today reported that hundreds of workers allege that he doesn’t pay his bills, including dishwashers, painters, and waiters.
His claim that climate change is a hoax risks the survival of our planet. His statements, made without any knowledge of the facts, that more countries should get nuclear weapons risks the survival of the world. He is irresponsible in inciting his audience to violence. Now he is showing his irresponsibility by calling the election ‘rigged,’ undermining the very foundations of our democracy.
LACK OF REMORSE
· Persons with Antisocial Personality Disorder typically do not experience genuine remorse for having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from, or in other ways have caused harm to others. However, they can become quite adept at feigning remorse when it is in their best interest to do so (such as when standing before a judge). They take little to no responsibility for their actions. In fact, they will often blame their victims for “causing” their wrong actions, or deserving of their fate. The aggressive features of this personality disorder make it stand out among other personality disorders as individuals with this disorder take a unique toll on society.
Trump has shown no capacity for remorse or taking responsibility for his harmful actions. He lives in a state of perpetual blame of others. When his polls are down and all respected analysts predict he will not win the presidency, he goes so far as to blame a “world-wide conspiracy” against him.
Though he posted an apology for saying that he grabs the pussy of any woman that he wants and can get away with anything, within twenty-four hours he was minimizing his behavior and when accused, blamed and demeaned the accusers.
Tony Schwartz, his ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal stated that, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” Schwartz said that if he was writing the book today he would title it, “The Sociopath.” After listening to endless phone calls of Trump’s, Schwartz said of Trump that, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”
Trump is shameless. We have witnessed the endless numbers of people he has hurt during this election cycle. Only under the worst duress has he come close to something even resembling remorse or contrition. One time was after the revelations of the “Pussygate” tapes. In a Facebook video he said, “I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. . . .I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” But he then disqualified his apology by stating that, “I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”
His other half-hearted expression of regret came on August 17th when his campaign was cratering after he attacked the Gold-Star family. He then said, “Sometimes in the heat of debate, and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.” And then, incredibly, “But one thing; I can promise you this: I will always tell the truth.” Trump did not say what he regretted, and did not apologize specifically to anyone. He then attacked Clinton for her presumed lies.
These were the only times Trump expressed regret throughout his entire campaign, after an untold number of hurtful statements, lies, and egregious acts. He has not expressed remorse for the victims of Trump University, to Mexicans and Muslims whom he has maligned, for the women who he has verbally abused and possibly physically assaulted, for the disabled who he has mocked, for his fellow Republicans whom he has ridiculed, to Barack Obama for his birther lies, to his family for his indiscretions, or to his fellow Republicans whom he maligned throughout the campaign season.
One awful example of Trump not taking responsibility for his mistakes is the case of the Central Park Five. In 1989, five boys of color were arrested for assaulting and raping a white woman in Central Park, New York. Donald spent $85,000 for full page ads in the four major New York newspapers stating that the death penalty should be reinstated. He never mentioned these boys by name, in his usual way, but the implication was clear – these boys – who were 14 to 16 years old – should be executed. It turns out that after spending years in jail the boys were exonerated by DNA evidence and the confession of someone else. Fourteen years after being freed, Trump not only did not apologize for his mistake, but continues to claim that the boys are guilty. At least one fears for his life as a result.
He has unequivocally stated that despite being a Christian, there is nothing he has ever done in his entire life that he needs to ask God’s forgiveness for.
WHY DOES TRUMP’S DIAGNOSIS MATTER?
The notion that Trump can, and would, change – hoped for, or asserted by, his Republican supporters, either reveals a complete ignorance about psychological facts or a willful cynicism meant to deceive the electorate. Evidence has now proved that, given his diagnosis, such a possibility was a complete fantasy.
Obviously, handing a person enormous power who has no conscience, takes no responsibility for their behavior, eschews all moral norms and is impulsive is extremely dangerous. Imagine, if you will, that while renegotiating the Iran deal Trump is offended by something the President of Iran says. Trump responds by calling him a weak moron. There goes the negotiation, and the next thing you know, Iran has nukes and we go to war with consequences that make the Iraq war seem like a trip through the daisies. Or, as is clear to anyone who listens, Trump has been lying all along when he uses that old con line that he is going to solve all of America’s problems quickly and easily, when he really has no idea what he is doing. One cannot even begin to fathom the consequences of such incompetence. Finally, look at the damage that Trump has already caused to the Republican Party. If elected President, what if he irresponsibly does the things he has said he will do? He’ll throw eleven million people out of the country, ban Muslims, torture and kill innocent families, punish women for having abortions, lower people’s wages, destroy the value of the dollar by negotiating our debt by paying a nickel on the dollar, throw his political opponents in jail, ban and sue the press for expressing opinions he doesn’t like, and grabbing the pussy of any woman he wants to, because he is Donald Trump, President of the United States.
Yes, it is true that I am risking my professional reputation by going against the recommendations of the APA. Aristotle says that the good is doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. Each of us needs to do what we can to prevent this horror from coming about. With the knowledge and expertise that I have, I cannot stand by. This is what I am qualified to do, and is the small thing I can do, to prevent the disaster of a Trump presidency.
Make no mistake about it: Donald Trump has an Antisocial Personality Disorder, and this poses a grave threat to our civilization.
Oh, and one last point. By the same examination of the available evidence, Hillary Clinton does not have a personality disorder.
Glenn Berger, PhD is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Manhattan, Mt. Kisco and around the world by Doxy. He is also the author of a memoir, NEVER SAY NO TO A ROCK STAR: IN THE STUDIO WITH DYLAN, JAGGER, SINATRA AND MORE, published by Schaffner Press.