Back in the day, like last summer, most people went to therapy to talk about depression, about loss, about breakups and family pressures.
Now, however, mental health professionals report that there has been a sharp rise in politically caused anxiety in their patients. The surprising outcome of the election was only the start, as people are also struggling to deal with the rapid changes being made by the new administration.
Ethan Seidman is a psychologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He told the Boston Globe:
“What’s happening in the world is affecting people a lot, and it’s showing up in therapy a lot.”
He added that a lot of patients report feeling helpless and worried, saying:
“What it reminds me of is 9/11.”
The American Psychological Association releases an annual report called Stress in America. For the first time in its ten year history, the report this year shows an sharp increase in anxiety among Americans. The jump in anxiety is recorded between August and January.
Interestingly, the majority of both Democrats and Republicans are expressing anxiety related to politics. Some people say that they are worried about the earth itself, fearing the rollback of environmental protection regulations. Others are anxious about immigration and about civil rights in general.
A lot of people are worrying about the possibility of war.
But many therapy patients are reporting that the words of our new President have brought back traumatic memories of bullying or abuse. Trump’s language about women, about grabbing and assaulting them, was particularly upsetting for women who are survivors of sexual abuse. His apparent normalizing of abusive and degrading language toward women and toward his opponents brought on floods of shameful and terrifying memories.
There are also specific groups of people who are now living with increased anxiety. Immigrants, Muslims, LGBT citizens and African Americans are among the patient groups now living with increased fear.
Therapists are also reporting an increase in their own anxiety since the election. They are worried about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, something that the President has promised to do in the next few weeks. For therapists, such a huge change in patient insurance is a threat to their own practices and livelihoods.
Many therapists share the same fears and anxieties of their patients. And that, I’m sure, makes for some very stressful therapy sessions, for both sides.