Is Trump a sociopath?
By the end of this article you will know the answer to that question.
- What’s a Sociopath
- Trump & The Signs of Sociopathy
- What Do Psychiatrists Say
- How Do You Impeach a Sociopath…
- Why It Matters Beyond Trump
Why It Matters
Whether Trump is a sociopath or not, is a very important question.
- The US is the most powerful, nuclear-armed country
- If a sociopath can win a democratic election, what does that say of society?
To me the second question is even more important than the first.
Because fingers crossed, chances are good that will go through the Trump years without a war.
But what about the millions of countries, counties, cities, businesses and organizations the whole world over?
Aren’t they all liable to be run and mismanaged by sociopaths?
Probably so. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Let’s go step by step.
What’s a Sociopath
A sociopath has no empathy for other people.
He is very selfish and has little of the feelings that usually make people add value to society.
- Has no conscience (no sense of right and wrong)
- Has no empathy (ie.: doesn’t care if you suffer)
- Has no remorse (can cause harm without feeling bad)
- Feels no guilt
Contrary to psychopaths who have very little emotions, sociopaths do get emotional.
Indeed, they are impulsive, aggressive, prone to emotional outbursts and fits of anger (Dr. Scott Bonn, Criminologist).
Obviously, Trump could not be a psychopath as he is too emotional and thin-skinned.
He does have little empathy, though. Just as an example, he allegedly -and personally confirmed- that he used is father’s funeral to pitch a crowd of real estate brokers on is new building complexes (New York Times).
The World is A Game
On top of lacking empathy for others, sociopaths are supremely selfish.
They are known for seeing the world as a big chessboard (The Sociopath Next Door). The pawns and the pieces on that chessboard are the pieces that they move, manipulate -and sometimes get rid of- to get what they want.
In a sociopath’s world, you might as well be the pawn.
Can Sociopaths Make Good Leaders?
Mitchel Anderson writing for the theteeya makes the point that a sociopath could hardly be a good fit for a fiduciary role.
Someone in a fiduciary role indeed should act in the best interest of the people he represents.
So the question here is simple:
Can someone who doesn’t care about anyone but himself serve the best interest of the people?
Some authors made the point that psychopaths can make good leaders.
But I disagree. I couldn’t possibly see here how the answer to that question could ever be a yes.
Indeed to sociopaths you only matter depending on what you can do for them.
What you have done in the past, is quickly forgotten.
This means that if Trump is a sociopath, he feels no obligation to the people who elected him.
Not even to his own voters, whose utility is nil after the elections.
Also, read more on dark psychology of leadership here:
Trump & The Signs of Sociopathy
Now let’s see how Trump scores against a few known sociopath traits:
1. Superficial Wit & Charm
Here are some examples:
2. Compulsive Lying
This one probably doesn’t need any videos for confirmation.
What I find most telling though is that Trump routinely lies about facts that have data and statistics that people can easily check:
Psychologist Craig Malkin says that Trump might be at a stage where he needs to bend reality to fit with his aggrandized vision of himself.
3. Inflated Sense of Worth
This is what the Mayo Clinic lists as one of the top signs of sociopathy:
- Arrogance, a sense of superiority and being extremely opinionated
Does it sound like someone you might have seen on TV? 🙂
To use Trump’s beloved hyperboles, there has never been a more impulsive president:
5. Word Salad
Word salad is not an “official” trait of antisocial personality disorder.
Word salad is a mixture of old stories, accusations, excuses and plain nonsense that you are most likely to encounter when you cornered a sociopath with evidence of their wrongdoings.
When that happens, the sociopath has lost his manipulation edge and is now struggling to reclaim it.
To me, a great example of word salad is how Trump entered the debate right after the sexual assault scandal:
Often high functioning sociopaths keep their latent aggression under wraps.
However, when their manipulative, more socially acceptable ways fail, they can resort to threats, bullying or even violence.
And violence is often visible in Trump’s world.
On terrorist, he said the US should “take out their families“.
He often punctuates his speeches with references to destroying, military power (an “armada” sent towards North Korea), or sometimes just plainly beating someone:
Unluckily, he also threatened the use of military force (more than once) and, scariest of all, nuclear weapons :S.
Vindictiveness is a subset of violence for sociopaths, and Trump has shown plenty of that too.
In this video he bashes Rosie O’Donnel with unrelenting hatred.
Finally, Trump is a supreme manipulator.
If Machiavelli had written The Prince during these years, he would have probably written extensively about Donal Trump -I surely will on the book I’m writing :)-.
Trump is a master at unhinging his opponents, looking dominant and coming across as the most powerful man in any social exchange.
As a matter of fact, he makes it a point to always look the most dominant.
What Do Psychiatrists Say
Dr. Bandy Lee — a forensic psychiatrist — has already met with members of Congress to express their concerns about Trump’s mental state and fitness for office.
Lee leads the National Coalition of Concerned Mental Health Experts, an ensemble of mental health professionals who are worried about the potential consequences of Trump’s leadership.
Dr. Lance Dodes, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a fellow member of the National Coalition of Concerned Mental Health Experts says:
Donald Trump’s speech and behavior show that he has severe sociopathic traits.
The significance of this cannot be overstated. While there have surely been American presidents who could be said to be narcissistic, none have shown sociopathic qualities to the degree seen in Mr. Trump. Correspondingly, none have been so definitively and so obviously dangerous.
Lee, Dodes and the National Coalition positions are not without criticism though.
Dr. Jeffrey Leiberman, the chair of Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry, says that commenting on Trump’s mental health as a psychiatrist is both unethical and imprecise.
Unethical refers to the Goldwater rule. The Goldwater rule discourages clinicians from making diagnoses of public figures that they have not directly examined.
Imprecise because, well, you can’t really diagnose a patient without a close examination and structured tests.
And finally, Leiberman says, it’s a political statement to diagnose a political leader (read the full statement here).
Personally, I would add that anyone who has read any books on sociopathy will find shocking parallels between the examples depicted as sociopaths and Trump (see “Confessions of a Sociopath” and, most of all, “Without Conscience“).
Is It Fair to Diagnose Trump?
I personally believe that it’s ludicrous to call “ethics” and “fairness” into the equation when the president brags about the efficiency of his nuclear arsenal ready at his fingertip.
It’s not a political statement caring and worrying about the potential consequences of a president who threatens a nuclear war.
It’s what every good and sensible person should do.
What I am worried, is something else instead:
How Do You Impeach a Sociopath…
… with the nuclear button?
Overall, we should always question whether a leader is fit to serve the people or not.
However, I would make the point that questioning Trump and trying to remove him from office might have unintended consequences. And it might risk of causing more harm than good.
When a sociopath who has lost touch with reality feels encircled, he might indeed act in two different ways:
- Make sure to bring down as many people as he can with him (ie.: a war)
- Purposefully cause a global emergency to ride out his personal troubles (ie.: a war)
It’s not such a far fetched thought.
It’s simply how the mind works in some borderline cases.
And we have already seen in history before:
Historical Examples of Cornered Sociopaths
When the war started going south for Nazi Germany, Hitler accelerated his genocide machine by diverting more resources to it.
And his last order was to destroy all infrastructure in Germany, a clear example of “I’ll take everyone down with me” (Nero Decree).
In the last days of World War II, rather than facing the shame of defeat Japanese military major Hatanaka attempted a coup d’etat. The idea of some military high commanders in Japan was to “keep fighting until the last man, until the last house”.
Such as: if I must go down, I’d rather bring everyone and everything else down in total destruction.
Muammar Gaddafi is another typical example of the dangers of cornering a sociopath who’s lost touch with reality. He called the protesters who later overthrew him rats and vowed to turn the country into hell rather than surrender.
Now one thing that these people had in common was this: they didn’t have many other options. And they didn’t have a nuclear option at their fingertip.
And don’t you think it’s at least plausible they would have used a nuclear option if that had given them even the slightest chance of winning? Or simply the chance of just hurting their enemies?
I believe they wouldn’t have thought twice about it.
That’s the reason why, paradoxically, I think there might be more to fear from a politically dying Trump than 4 years of unencumbered Trump.
Personally, I would approach the demise of a sociopath with the nuclear button very carefully.
Hit Quick, Hit Silently
A slow legal impeachment is dangerous because Trump could logically see his end coming. And he could carefully plan his diversion plans.
Personally, I believe that the safest way to overthrow a dangerous leader is with a coup d’etat from behind the scenes.
Like in the old days.
Why It Matters Beyond Trump
Hopefully, fingers crossed, we will ride out of this mess without any catastrophe in sight.
But unluckily, like I mentioned in the beginning, this goes well beyond the US elections.
Robert Hare, Psychopathy researcher and author of Snakes in Suits, suggests that similar dynamics are at play in every single business and in every single organization the whole world over.
I would like you to reflect on it.
A world where anyone with the temperament of Donald Trump and with a complete lack of conscience can reach the levers of power, is not the best world to be in.
We can do better.
I am a big believer that to make this world a better place we need people who are fundamentally good but who know how to be bad.
Fundamentally good people who, when facing evil can switch off their morality and play the same game.
If Sanders, Jeb Bush, or Clinton herself had been better prepared to play the game, Trump would not be president.
Niccolo Machiavelli said:
A good person is ruined among the great number of people who are not good
He was right.
And when bad people win and good ones lose, we all lose.
A better world is a world where more and more empathic people can meet evil with evil. That’s a world where power goes to better leaders.
And that’s a better world to live.
A good idea, for now, could be to resist voting endorsing the person who looks most charismatic and/or dominant. And pick the best and most empathic one instead.
And my second invite to you is to learn to be selectively bad, so that we can all win together.
Cheers my friend.
And don’t let the sociopaths win :).
We cannot answer for sure whether Trump is a sociopath or not.
It’s impossible to make a diagnosis without an in-person visit, and it’s highly unlikely that Trump will ever consent to such a diagnosis.
However, it’s not far-fetched to think that Trump is indeed a sociopath. He has shown several signs of antisocial personality disorder in more than one occasion.
What can we do about it?
- Resist the temptation to vote for the winner, which is not always the best option
- Learn to be selectively bad, so that people without a conscience don’t have a natural advantage
- CBC: Psychiatrist’s new warning that Trump’s mental state ‘is a national and international security risk
- Why you to be good you need to be bad
- Babiak, P. (1995). When psychopaths go to work: A case study of an industrial psychopath. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 44, 171–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Babiak, P., & Hare, R. D. (2006). Snakes in suits: When psychopaths go to work. New York, NY: Regan Books/Harper Collins Publishers.
- Do good and evil overlap?
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder