Are You Suffering From Election Stress Disorder?

Protesters are removed from a March 9th Trump campaign rally.
Photo Credit: 
AP PHOTO/GERRY BROOME

Is this election leaving you feeling stressed and anxious? If so, you may be suffering from Election Stress Disorder. But don’t worry, you’re not alone.

According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 52% of Americans say that the 2016 presidential election is a “very or somewhat significant” source of stress. While stress levels do not vary by gender or party affiliation, engaging in social media may have an aversive effect. Adults who use social media (54%) are more likely than adults who do not use social media (45%) to say that the election is a source of stress. 4 in 10 respondents said that politically charged conversations on social media were a cause of stress as well.

The uncertainty of any election often leaves people feeling a sense of powerlessness and anxiety. But this election season is different. Contempt for the other candidate is at an all-time high. Anti-minority rhetoric, foreign meddling, accusations, and conspiracy theories, have characterized this election. This is all further exacerbated by a 24-hour news cycle and social media.

Both candidates are warning of an apocalyptic future should the other candidate become president. Hillary Clinton warns of an unstable and “temperamentally unfit” Trump with his finger on the nuclear button. Donald Trump warns that “the election of Hillary Clinton would lead to the destruction of our country.” She will seize guns and kill babies, refugees and illegal immigrants will pour into our country, and ISIS will be everywhere.

Then there are the threats from Trump’s supporters should Clinton win. They warn of riots and perhaps “another Revolutionary war.” Some armed militia groups are preparing for the possibility of civil unrest following a Clinton victory. Even a former United States Congressman, Joe Walsh, said on Twitter, “If Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket.”

This election has been especially difficult for some. For survivors of sexual assault, the election has been tremendously triggering. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, the weekend after the release of the 2005 Trump tape saw a 33% increases in people calling into their National Assault Hotline for support. Their website traffic grew 45%. The anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Trump campaign has minority students concerned for their safety should Trump become president. The South Poverty Law Center surveyed approximately 2,000 K-12 teachers and found that more than 2/3 of teachers reported that their students – mostly immigrants, children of immigrants, and Muslims, have expressed fears about what could happen to their families after the election.

So how can we deal with the anxiety and stress of this election and take care of ourselves?

According to the American Psychological Association, there are a number of ways to practice self-care. They recommend taking breaks from social media, avoiding politically charged conversations, and reading enough news to just stay informed. Spend time with family and friends and do things that you enjoy. Avoid catastrophizing either outcome and remind yourself that life will go on no matter what. And finally, vote! Voting can help you feel a sense of importance.

And remember that in just five days, this will all (hopefully) be over.

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