International Policy Digest

Joyce N. Boghosian
Politics /14 Mar 2020
03.14.20

Trump, COVID-19, and Delusion

In July 2016, well before the presidential election, I was one of the first to note that Donald J. Trump suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in an article I published in the HuffPost. I am not a mental health professional, but since then, thousands of such professionals have publicly agreed. I now propose that we create a new mental health category, inspired by President Trump, called Delusional Narcissistic Personality Disorder (DNPD), because Trump has proven by his many statements and actions over the past 4 years that he is delusional.

The Mayo Clinic defines NPD as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Behind a mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism.” Among the condition’s symptoms are the need to be recognized as superior – even without achievements that warrant it, a tendency to exaggerate achievements and talents, and a preoccupation with fantasies about success. I propose that a definition of DNPD include “delusions that are in direct contrast with reality, potentially imperiling the well-being of the person suffering from the condition, as well as that of others.”

That is exactly what Trump is doing as a person suffering from this disorder in the context of the battle against COVID-19. To have stated, as he did just a few weeks ago, that only 15 people were believed to be infected in the U.S. and that the number would soon whittle down to zero, he obviously was delusional. Whether he knows that someone can be asymptomatic and contagious with COVID-19 or not, he knew he had been exposed to the virus and refused to get tested until days later. Failing to get tested is the height of irresponsibility and borders on criminal behavior, particularly given the example he sets for the country, and that too many of his supporters will blindingly follow the example he sets, potentially imperiling the lives of millions.

Like tens of millions of my fellow American citizens, I am deeply angry that our government has responded so dreadfully to this virus. Trump has acted like a narcissistic sociopath, hyper-preoccupied with how anything he does or doesn’t do might impact his poll numbers and re-election prospects, and seemingly devoid of any genuine concern about the well-being of America or fellow citizens.

He appears incapable of calling a meeting of his cabinet, as any normal president of a country would do, recognize that the country and its people are in serious jeopardy, and lead a discussion about which sensible, logical, forward-thinking actions need to be taken to avoid a calamity. This president has created an information distortion field around himself, filled with self-serving propaganda, which tens of millions of his supporters lap up on a daily basis. The administration is dysfunctional in part because Trump has hired a bunch of “yes” men and women who dare not question anything he says or does, or express an opinion that would contradict him.

America First fails spectacularly in times of crisis and when international cooperation is essential. Having unilaterally closed air traffic between the U.S. and Europe, without any discussion or advance warning – either with European heads of state or the airlines – gives no other country any incentive to cooperate with the U.S. to coordinate collective action going forward. Trump is not only impulsive at a time when careful, deliberate, thoughtful action is required, but happy to remain blissfully ignorant about the true nature of this virus. He is a disgrace.

What I still do not understand is why there have not been mass protests over the past 4 years about his outrageous behavior. Perhaps Americans have come to expect nothing else from Trump, or perhaps they believe that publicly expressing their anger will only make them feel better, since nothing he has said or done over the past 4 years has resulted in any meaningful repercussions. He’s still standing. That creates its own form of hopelessness about the depths to which the American presidency has sunk and the degree to which the American populace has become numb in the process.