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The president's mental health was a topic of conversation throughout the campaign, but now that he's sitting in the Oval Office with the nuclear codes, perhaps it's time to revisit the topic. (Photo: AFP/Timothy A. Clary)

Analyzing the Mindset of President Trump: Does Antisocial Personality Disorder Fit?

Katherine Van Wormer

Because so many of his executive actions and remarks on Twitter and in interviews seem rash, commentators, including psychiatrists and psychologists are raising questions about the stability of President Donald J. Trump’s mind. Reportedly, there is a good fit with Trump’s personality characteristics and the DSM-5’s (Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Characteristics of this trait include a desire for unwarranted admiration, obsession with one’s own success and accomplishments, and a sense of entitlement.  Certainly, these traits can be said to apply, even just based on Trump’s speeches alone.  

But another, more serious diagnosis might also be worth a look. This is Antisocial Personality Disorder, a  diagnosis assigned to individuals who habitually violate the rights of others without remorse. Psychopathy is an earlier term that was used for the same personality traits.  Like Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the antisocial disorder is a personality disorder, which denotes an enduring pattern of behavior or mindset that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture. Both the Narcissistic and Antisocial Disorders are associated with males more than females. Although the latter disorder is prevalent among the male prison population, it is also found among people in the general population by persons who have avoided prosecution. They are prone, however, to get into trouble, for example, through violent relationships or as a result of shady business practices. Let us review the DSM criteria in light of our president’s actions and statements.

Disregard for others' needs or feelings

Throughout the debates, candidate Trump lashed out with highly personal insults, such as “crooked Hillary”, “lying Ted,” and “Little Marco.”  He famously mocked a reporter who had a physical disability and implied that a female reporter was bleeding somewhere. Reports of Trump’s groping of women’s bodies have been highly publicized.

Persistent lying, stealing, using aliases, conning others

A few examples of Trump’s persistent lying are his continuous accusations that President Obama was not born in America, his claim that he couldn’t release his tax records because they were under audit, his misrepresentation of the size of his crowd at the inauguration, and his statements on voter fraud that were without foundation. A new term “alternative facts” has been introduced to describe his claims. There have been reports from Trump’s earlier business life that he did indeed use an alias in phone calls and that many of his business practices were unethical.

Recurring problems with the law

Because of his vast wealth, so far, President Trump has managed to pay off individuals and companies that have filed lawsuits. Numerous reports of sexual harassment surfaced during Trump’s presidential campaign.

Repeated violation of the rights of others

The sexual harassment complaints and the released tape of Trump’s bragging that he could get away with groping women’s bodies because of his celebrity status are relevant here.

Aggressive, often violent behavior

See above. In addition, Trump’s biography reveals that he was sent to a tough military academy due to a pattern of aggressive and bullying behavior as a boy.  Today, Trump’s repeated remarks in favor of using torture as an interrogation procedure are reflective of his mind set. His expressed willingness to kill and even target family members of terrorists would be considered extreme even in military circles.

Disregard for the safety of self or others

Executive orders banning refugees from entering America, and his callous statements concerning their well-being and even risks to their lives if deported show a disregard for human life and safety.

Impulsive behavior

The rash acts emerging from the White House have been criticized by members of Congress and have led to confusion within government circles.

Consistently irresponsible

Some of Trump’s personal attacks on others—both political rivals and foreign leaders—are indicative of both impulsiveness and irresponsibility.  Denial of the need to prevent global warming can be considered as an attitude that borders on the irresponsible as well.

Lack of remorse for behavior

No signs of remorse have been expressed. Nor is there any evidence of a sense of embarrassment when Trump’s lies have been exposed through media investigations.

Readers can form their own conclusions to what extent the diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder applies to President Trump.  And one can only fear for the fate of America and for the world to the extent that even some of these personality characteristics apply.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Katherine Van Wormer

Katherine Van Wormer

Katherine Van Wormer, PhD, MSSW, is Professor of Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa and is the author of 15 books in the fields of women and criminal justice, addictions treatment, social welfare in a global perspective, and confronting oppression.

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