The increasingly discussed matter of the mental health of President Trump brings to mind an extensive study into eccentrics and mental illness
The Guardian introduced the topic describing the President’s coping mechanisms for denying unpleasant news. [Trump denies presidency in state of chaos, Guardian, February 17]
Other reports report his refusal to confront media (purveyors of fake news), for example, and general repeated assertions of what is increasingly described as alternative truths.
Not ill, but in denial
One possibility is that the President is not mentally ill, (in the sense that such illness is a form of destructive self-harm). Rather, the delusions of Mr Trump are health-protective, avoiding the traumatic consequences of damage to self-image. It should be noted that socially, such individuals may well induce mental and physical ill-health on others, but that is another story.
This is where our understanding of people classified as eccentrics does enter the story. Some years ago, following analysis of over a thousand individuals, researchers concluded that eccentrics were less likely than the general public to require treatment for mental illnesses. Some subjects of the study were thoroughly delusional, which permitted them a life protected from the sufferings of many considered more normal.
A national study from Scotland captured remarkable lifestyles of self-defined eccentrics taking fascinating forms. (I have lost my notes on this study, and would welcome suggestions for retreiving it).
Being ill and causing illness
Ironically, in a another article the same day, the Guardian reported on the occupational hazards and proneness to mental illness, burn-out and stress, suffered by many cancer specialists around the world. Here, it is the carers as well as the victims, who suffer
As Polonius noted, though there be madness, yet there is method in it.
I have left uncited the remarkable number of news items about this subject on the web. The debate is now touching on the Goldwater Rule (that ‘experts’ as well as lay-persons are expected not to comment on the mental state of the POTUS)