Clinical psychologist advises America on how to remain sane during crazy campaign

by WorldTribune Staff, October 16, 2016

The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign has widened what has become huge divide in the country, and even in some households. The escalating tension is even driving some American voters away from normal pastimes like watching NFL games and from there, around the bend.

More than half of Americans say the 2016 election is a major source of stress, according to a new survey from the American Psychological Association.

Clinton and Trump supporters go at it. /Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune
Clinton and Trump supporters go at it. /Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune

“Historically, work, money, and the economy are the top three,” said clinical psychologist Lynn Bufka, part of the APA’s Stress in America team. “Now (the election) is right up there.”

And it is older Americans, those from the “silent” or “greatest” generation, that are the most stressed out by the campaign, said Bufka. “They’ve weathered a lot, they have good perspective” she said. But in this case, the opposite seems to be true. “We’re wondering if thinking about the implications on their children and grandchildren might be the source of the stress.”

Bufka said a major reason Americans are at wit’s end over the election is the tenor of the campaigns, arguably the most negative and accusatory in modern history. “In general,” she said, “humans like harmony.”

Bufka and the APA say people can take steps to sanely make it to Nov. 8: Don’t engage in conversations that will lead to more conflict; turn off your phone; and read only what you need to stay informed.

There is some precedent for this seemingly historic election, however, said Drew Westen, a professor of psychology at Emory University and author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.