Is Donald Trump a ‘white collar psychopath’?

From the beginning of his presidential mandate, the question of his mental health and his ability to govern was raised. But there seems to have been confusion among many between two concepts: that of mental illness and that of personality disorder. To be clear, Trump is not “crazy”, at least in the clinical sense of the term, that is to say that he does not a priori suffer from psychotic-type symptoms, such as a disconnection with the reality that would manifest itself in delusional thoughts or hallucinations. Even if many of Trump’s ideas seem irrational, he is a very pragmatic person and he has demonstrated on many occasions that he knows how to be very adept at manipulating reality in his own interest.

Narcissism, paranoia and antisocial behavior

There are several personality disorders. Among the most well-known disorders, we can cite the antisocial, psychopathic or even narcissistic personality. Although psychologists and psychiatrists never make a diagnosis on a person they have not met, many specialists have looked into the case of Donald Trump and deduced that he had a narcissistic personality, probably a particular form called “evil narcissism”. According to John Gardner, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, this disorder is still debated, but it would have three dimensions: narcissism, paranoia and antisocial behavior.

It is known that certain personality types are found more frequently in certain professions than in others. We thus find many narcissistic and antisocial personalities in the world of politics, business or finance, for example. History is also marked by a whole series of dictators and despots who have often shown themselves to be immoral and even cruel in the exercise of power. Canadian psychologist Robert Hare talks about “white collar psychopaths to refer to those psychopaths who seek power and occupy important positions in society. Their personality is characterized by an oversized ego, an emotional coldness, a tendency to seduction, a need for action and an absence of fear which often makes them take excessive risks. These people are generally ready to do anything to achieve their end, they have superficial human relations, they have a lack of empathy for others and they can infringe on the rights of others without feeling the slightest guilt. Everything therefore happens as if they had no moral conscience. This type of personality has notably been brought to the screen in films like “American Psycho” with Christian Bale, “The wolf of Wall Street” with Leonardo di Caprio or even the series “House of Cards” where Kevin Spacey plays President Frank Underwood. Psychologist Kevin Dutton asked biographers of famous political figures to complete a personality test to establish a theoretical psychopathy score for each of them. And he observed that Donald Trump scored among the highest, ranking high among many dictators.

Some specialists sometimes speak of “black triad” to qualify these personalities who have an antisocial character. The narcissist is intolerant of criticism and can be condescending or even virulent when remarks are made to him. We can observe this behavior in Trump when he faces questions from journalists, for example. The Machiavellian only cares about his own interest, he does not hesitate to deceive and lie, he is not encumbered by the law and morals and he has a penchant for fraud, especially in the field of financial crime. . We also know that Trump has often come close to illegality at the political and financial level, and he has been accused of numerous fraudulent behaviors, particularly at the tax level. This could also explain why declared himself the winner of this election even though the counting of the votes was not finished, to then demand a recount of the votes while suggesting that there would have been fraud… The psychopath trait rather refers to impulsive behavior, low awareness of the consequences of one’s actions and aggressiveness. In his remarks, especially in his rallies, Trump has often been insulting, contemptuous and aggressive towards his opponents and those who do not support him. He reacts quickly when he is upset, he is a bad loser and very often makes decisions impulsively, without seeming to care about their consequences. The fact that he tweeted several dozen times a day and that he announced important decisions or fired members of his team via Twitter throughout his mandate could also be a sign of this psychopathic dimension.

Lying also seems to be one of the characteristics of his personality. In his recently published book, his own niece, Mary Trump, who is a psychologist, does not hesitate to call him a pathological liar. Journalists were able to estimate that since his election he had been responsible for the dissemination of more than 20,000 lies, fake news, errors or approximations. Moreover, Trump always talks about himself, his actions and his ideas using superlatives, even when he is off the mark. To listen to him, he would have been the best president that the United States has ever known. He seems to ignore what humility is and he is obsessed with his image. Moreover, it works permanently with power relations and it values ​​authoritarian people. This could explain why he has created a climate of insecurity in the White House and that he admires autocratic leaders like Vladimir Putin, dictators like Kim Jong Un and that he counts Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro among his friends. . From his beginnings in real estate until his presidential election, Trump knew how to surround himself with sulphurous characters like Roy Cohn, Roger Stone or Steve Bannon, which again says a lot about his mode of operation.

Testimonies from former collaborators, relatives or mental health specialists, such as psychiatrist Justin Frank, also describe him as an immature person, with a chaotic and binary mind, unable to understand complex ideas. He would not be able to focus his attention for more than a few minutes, which is why he reads neither the press nor the reports given to him daily. He spends several hours a day in front of the television, focusing on the programs that put him forward, in particular on the Fox News channel. It also seems that his personality is marked by paranoid traits. He trusts very few people and even fewer institutions. During his tenure, he constantly attacked the media accusing them of fake news whenever they criticized him. According to him, fake news is not false information, it is information that is unfavorable to him. And today he is skeptical about the current electoral process. This proves how problematic his relationship to the truth is. Conversely, he praises those who support him, including groups like the Proud Boys or the QAnon conspiracy group, and he has always refused to condemn white supremacists because he knows they vote for him. Finally, he almost never questioned himself, he always cultivated bad faith and he often accused others of his own mistakes, as demonstrated by his management of the Covid-19 crisis.

Lack of skills

It would otherwise be easy to call him an idiot, but that would be a mistake. You don’t become president of the United States by being stupid. He would have been particularly gifted, for example, in perceiving the weaknesses of others and taking personal advantage of them. This could partly explain his successes in business and politics, circles known to be particularly tough. Kevin Dutton has also demonstrated that having psychopathic traits can be an advantage in politics. For example, the lack of empathy that leads to attacking others without feeling remorse. This authoritarian dimension that pleases and reassures a large part of the voters. Or the absence of fear and stress, the hyper-focus on one’s objective and the fact of being ready to do anything to achieve it, such as recounting the votes and seizing the Supreme Court in an attempt to win a very close election. If some have perceived in him a lack of intelligence, it would actually be rather a lack of competence and political experience, general culture and capacity for reflection. This was seen throughout his tenure, notably through inconsistent decisions and the choice of incompetent people in key positions in his administration.

Finally, he shocked many by posing from the outset as an opponent of the press, science, education and the environment. He has repeatedly stigmatized Muslims, immigrants of Latino origin, the Black Live Matter movement or even the feminist movement. He is also a climatosceptic and he withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, a withdrawal which has just been made official. He shattered the Iranian nuclear agreement and caused the United States to withdraw from the WHO and UNESCO, international institutions considered by many to be essential for preserving peace, culture and health at the global.

If many of us are fed up with Donald Trump, then it would seem to be because of his personality and his far-reaching effects. In this sense, one can only give reason to the historian Nicole Bacharan, specialist of the United States, when she describes this personality as “appalling”. We can only join her when she explains that this feeling goes beyond political issues and goes far beyond this opposition between Democrats and Republicans. A feeling that arises at a much deeper level, that of the moral values ​​that represent the foundation of our democracy and of living together.

Is Donald Trump a ‘white collar psychopath’?