The Crossroads of Mental Health and Politics The Crossroads of Mental Health and Politics

The Crossroads of Mental Health and Politics

Is there a link between your mental health and politics?

Let’s think about it.

You log on, you feel your heart rate increase, you can feel yourself getting defensive, and your mind starts racing trying to find the right response to that so-called friend who just insulted your favorite politician.

The comment was made on social media and your first instinct is to unfriend that person right away.

You are sick of reading their nasty posts about a candidate you think can be a great leader. The rest of the day you spend thinking about what you will say to that friend next time you see him or the next time he wants to argue over political candidates. Before you know it the entire day has gone by and your thoughts have been focused on this one person. You realize you have been stressed out all day over a comment someone posted online. You feel almost embarrassed that you let your emotions control your day.

Mental Health and Politics

Mental health professionals from all over America are recognizing the emotional burdens appearing during recent elections. There is an enormous amount of negativity swirling around this recent election, from all sides of the political box. This negativity is placing huge burdens on the mental health of all our citizens. You begin to dread even getting online for fear of what may or may not make you angry when looking at the posts.

Why does this happen?

Why do you get so emotional when it comes to political views and opinions?

You may be dealing with common mental health issues that many people face during political events.

Voter Emotions

Emotions help you decide on what candidate you want to vote for in elections. People are very passionate about their political values and most people only see red or blue, with no other color in between. There is such a division in this country when it comes to politics that it is only natural for your mental health to be affected.

Anytime you are passionate about a topic, you become alert and ready to defend your beliefs. This is not a bad thing, by the way. But when this anger causes you to lose friends or family members and miss days from work due to coping with election results, there is an issue. When this happens, everyone suffers.

While the election may affect areas of your life on a larger, indirect scale, there are more immediate matters that only you can take care of. No politician can make your mental health better. No matter what laws they enact regarding mental health that does not excuse you from being responsible for your own problems. You have to find a way to resolve your own issues despite what is going on around the world.

Fear is another emotion associated with voting and political elections. Fear and anger are closely related. They both incite people to act out of irrational thoughts. This can become dangerous.

Along with fear and anger, politics can bring out the sore loser syndrome. You know those people who turn into narcissist know-it-alls just because their candidate won? Yea, nobody likes that person.

Taking the time to learn about emotions and how they affect your reactions during important times such as elections, allows you to also learn how to control your reactions.

Anger’s Destruction

Anger is defined as an emotion that happens when a person feels they have been wronged or treated poorly. This can happen almost daily, whether when we are driving, at work or even at home when one of our loved ones says or does something we don’t like. Many times you react out of anger, allow that anger to control you, engage in a huge fight and by the time it is all over you can’t even remember why we are mad.

Anger is a secondary emotion to feelings such as hurt, rejection, or humiliation. So when protests turn into rage filled fights, it is important to remember the initial feelings of the people involved. If they are protesting women’s rights by marching in Washington that means the women are most likely feeling hurt and scared that their rights will be violated.

Anger has three different components. One deals with our physical state, including increased heart rate, feeling flush, short breaths, and becoming tense. Another component involves your cognitive reactions or how we perceive what is happening to us, which leads to anger. And the third is the behavioral reactions such as slamming a door, punching someone in the nose, or full on cat fights. Most of the time none of these benefit us due to the fact that anger is unhealthy but it is not hard to recognize.

It helps to know what type of anger you are dealing with before you begin the process of dealing with anger. There is chronic anger which lasts for a long period of time and impacts physical and emotional health. Passive anger, overwhelmed anger, self-inflicted anger, judgmental and volatile anger are also types that can cause you to suffer both physically and emotionally.

If you think getting angry is smart and good for you, you are wrong. In fact, anger can cause a lot of damage to various parts of your body.  It raises your blood pressure and puts you at a higher risk for anxiety. Anger can cause depression and anxiety, insomnia and digestion problems. Plus, a person is just more attractive when they are happy. Angry faces are just that, angry.

Anger can resemble fear and even though they seem similar, there are some major differences. For instance, anger makes you feel hot while fear makes you cold and clammy.

Fear Hurts

Fear, like anger, raises your blood pressure. However, fear can also weaken your immune system. Long-term fear can cause memory problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Fear associated with political events such as elections is different than the fear connected to being mugged. When you are mugged, your brain is triggered to release a surge of adrenaline, giving you more power to fight or flight. This also causes your body to release more cortisol, a stress related hormone that spikes your blood sugar. Your body tells your digestive system to stop working so you can have more energy to survive.

When you have fears associated with the wrong man or woman being elected to a political post, your fears are unwarranted, meaning you are fearful of something that has not come to fruition. You are creating worry and fear in your own mind. These fears can be considered irrational. By definition, irrational fears are persistent thoughts about something fearful that may or may not happen or that are not in proportion with the actual fear you should have about a situation.

If you are dealing with irrational fears, you may try to avoid any situation that involves your fears. When discussing fear and politics, you will participate in activities that prevent your fearful situation from happening. This may include signing petitions, getting on social media to plead with others not to vote for the candidate you fear, and worst case, you threaten to not be friends with people who do not vote your way.

This type of fear leads to anxiety disorders and full blown panic attacks. Just discussing political matters can send make you anxious and ruin your day. This type of fear can be harmful to your mental health.  Anxieties have been known to create obsessive-compulsive behaviors in some people. They can also make a person have depression or suicidal thoughts, relationship problems, and changes in personality that can lead to consequences such as job loss.

You really need to get these irrational fears under control before they ruin important parts of your life. There are many great therapists out there who are capable of helping you conquer your fears. They do so through cognitive behavioral therapy, behavior modification, desensitization and sometimes medication.

Sore Loser Syndrome

Another type of mental health issue that arises during political elections is the sore loser syndrome. The way people handle loss says a lot about their character and their mental health. Some people connect winning or losing to their self-worth. If they win, they feel like they are valuable. If they lose, they feel like they are worthless.

Some people believe so strongly in their own thoughts and feelings that they develop egocentrism. They are arrogant in thinking that everything they think, feel or do is correct. When they are proven wrong they feel threatened and can lash out at others around them or at those who disagree with them. This is similar to the narcissist personality but they tend to focus more on the outward beauty of themselves versus inner thoughts and feelings.

Rejection hurts and because people tie themselves to one candidate or another, when that candidate is rejected, they feel rejected also. You pick that one person to represent you, the citizen, in a national political election. You put all you have into supporting that candidate. You argue with friends over this candidate. When he or she loses, you feel you lose too. You start to think that everyone who doesn’t like your candidate will stop liking you as well. While this is rarely true, you convince yourself that it is.

Being a sore loser can make grown adults act like children. Professionals can turn into pouting, crying babies. In almost every election people are shown on the news to be crying and needing therapy due to their candidate losing an election. This just goes to show you how much a person can invest in the idea of something. So much that they did not even consider they could have a loss. When that loss happened, shock quickly turned into sore loser syndrome.

While some of the signs associated with a sore loser are obvious like the crying, protesting, belligerent attitudes, there are other signs that are much more subtle. If you feel like you are always underappreciated, you think you are always right, you feel justified in being mean to people, you feel like you are the greatest leader, and you like to do all the talking rather than listening.

Some say narcissists make good leaders, or at least they think they do. Donald Trump is probably the most well-known person who is constantly being called a narcissist. And he definitely would have been considered a sore loser if he had lost, as do man leaders. In fact, Trump refused to agree with Clinton that he would accept the outcome of the election had he lost. That is sore loser syndrome at its best.

Being a sore loser is ridiculous. Winning is good, yes. But losing has benefits also. It teaches you how to appreciate winning more rather than feeling entitled to it.

Emotional Motivation

Because people are motivated by emotions, it is natural that these emotions will help choose candidates running in an election. People seek to avoid pain rather than seeking out pleasurable experiences. It is painful for people to imagine their candidate losing. If you think about it; people show the most passion and vigor when they are talking about the candidate they hate versus being calm when discussing their candidate of choice.

The next time you go to vote, take notice of your emotions. How are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? Are you voting based on your emotions or solid research and fact checking?

By becoming aware of your psychological presence when discussing politics, you can be a better advocate for or against particular candidates. You have every right to your feelings; it’s your reactions that can become dangerous. With practice and help from a counselor, you can work through any anger or fears you may have regarding politics. You can also learn how to avoid being a sore loser.

Motivation is your willingness to put forth an effort to help you reach a goal you set for yourself. It is just as important to put forth the effort needed to make changes.

You can rise above any emotions, rational or irrational, surrounding politics and learn to cope with rejection or win with dignity.