Suffering From Election Stress Disorder? You’re Not Alone
Spencer Platt / Staff/Getty Images
We have been living with the pandemic for the past seven months. We see turmoil and upheaval in the streets. We watch social unrest on the news every day. Just what we need in the midst of all this craziness...a presidential election! One of the most controversial elections in recent history, it has divided families and communities and quite possibly unleashed more anger and frustration than in any other election in our lives. All over social media, people are sharing their frustration and anxiety over this election, which has led to the term “election stress disorder."
The term was first publicly coined in 2016 by Steven Stosny, PhD, a psychologist who used the term in an article for The Washington Post, where he wrote that he had been “overwhelmed” with “distress calls” from patients during the 2016 election cycle. The 2016 Stress in America survey, which is conducted by the American Psychological Association, found that 52% of Americans said the 2016 presidential election was a “very” or “somewhat significant” source of stress in their lives. Apparently, that level of stress is back again, compounded by the pandemic and all of the other issues we are facing.
While it is not an actual medical diagnosis, anxiety about an election can lead to struggling with sleep, being cranky, angry, or irritable, or feeling mentally distracted due to news around the election. If you are suffering from Election Stress Disorder, here are some tips from mental health experts on how to cope.
Do something proactive and take direct action to move the election toward the outcome you desire. ” Volunteer for an important cause or issue, campaign for the candidate you prefer, contribute to a candidate or organization, and encourage people to vote. This is advice from Craig A. Smith, PhD, associate professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee
When it all gets too overwhelming, you need to get away from it all. When election news or conversations are getting to be too much, take a breather. Turn off the news, avoid political conversations. Don't let yourself spiral out of control and find ways to cope by doing things like spending time with family or friends (online or in-person), read something non-political, or watch a movie, suggests Dr. Smith.
Social media can be a huge source of anxiety, anger. if you find that engaging in a Facebook or Twitter argument is stressing you out, it’s really best to avoid that, according to Thea Gallagher, PsyD, clinic director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perlman School of Medicine. Social media comments are often anonymous, so they can be especially mean and vicious. It can be hard to shut them out, so do your best to avoid these comments by simply staying off social media.
“Elections are high-stakes events which have long-lasting implications and serious consequences,” says Monifa Seawell, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist in Atlanta. If you’re feeling so stressed out that you cannot function well, Dr. Seawell recommends talking to a licensed mental health professional to help manage your stress levels. There are now many mental health services that can be accessed online.