There’s an article going around titled “A neuroscientist explains: Trump has a mental disorder” that is based off of the Vanity Fair article that explains how Trump has some narcissistic characteristics. I don’t like Trump at all, but these articles (especially the first one) piss me off.
1) A neuroscientist is NOT qualified to give a clinical diagnosis of anyone
Neuroscientists study how the brain works. They never see patients and don’t learn psychotherapy. They can go their entire career without learning about clinical psychology at all so it’s rather foolish to care if a neuroscientist thinks someone has a mental disorder.
2) It’s impossible to do clinical assessment just by watching video clips of someone
Yes, showing video clips of Trump may highlight some narcissistic personality traits. But to then conclude that he has a mental disorder based off of those videos is simply not how clinical psychology works. If that were the case, anyone could diagnose anyone with anything they wanted! Usually diagnosing someone requires extensive testing and actually meeting the client in person.
3) We shouldn’t share pseudoscience just because it makes someone we don’t like look bad
I know it’s tempting to share something that sounds like Trump is unfit for president. But there is plenty of material we can use to explain why Trump is not presidential. Additionally, we don’t need to marginalize people with mental illness to make that point.
Going off of my last point, we should never use mental illness as an insult as it marginalizes those with mental health problems. Also, many people with mental illness can be extremely successful so it’s not like having a mental illness would automatically preclude anyone from being president anyway.
5) Presenting speculation as science doesn’t help anyone
I think it’s perfectly fine to say Trump exhibits some characteristics of narcissism, but we certainly can’t diagnose him with a personality disorder based off of some videos (of course nuanced titles won’t get writers as many clicks). When we present our speculation in a way that sounds like scientific fact, it makes it seem like clinical psychology isn’t based on any research at all. That is certainly not the case and while it may seem intuitive to diagnose people, it is thankfully a very complicated process.
Featured image from Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia commons