Tag Archives: Jeffrey A. Lieberman

is Trump mentally ill?



“Is Trump mentally ill? Or is America? Psychiatrists weigh in”

Review of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” by Bandy X. Lee (ed.), “Twilight of American Sanity” by Allen Frances, and “Fantasyland” by Kurt Andersen

By Carlos Lozada

The Washington Post

September 22, 2017




He’s not even close to being mentally ill. Common sense could tell one that in less than 60 seconds of reflection.

There are some things one doesn’t need to be an expert on to be able to see clearly.

I do not deny that Donald Trump often exhibits what, if he were an acquaintance, one would probably say is disagreeable behavior and that he appears to have undesirable personality traits. Narcissistic? Self centered?

But, he has actually functioned at a high level in many areas of his personal life. He is sane. Does not have hallucinations or lack the ability to distinguish between what is real and a lunatic belief. Is not a danger to himself or others, meaning possessed by demons as a serial killer might be or about to commit suicide. In other words, doesn’t exhibit any of the “rule of thumb” indicators of insanity.

How many people have you encountered in the course of your life whom you just couldn’t stand and, from your experience with them, seemed to have horrible personalities and traits which may have driven you to distraction: arrogance, conceit, selfishness, bossiness, boorishness, lack of discernment and good taste, rudeness, insensitivity, lack of consideration, self centeredness?

Perhaps you had to put up with such people, deal with them on a regular basis in a school, work, or other settings. A boss, coworker, authority figure such as a school official, teacher, or coach.

I have had bosses and coworkers whom I couldn’t stand. I could have written a whole chapter enumerating their “bad” qualities. I could have and perhaps did sometimes speculate on what psychological defects or demons drove them to act the way they did. But I wasn’t their psychiatrist.

But, you will say, there is a difference between a boss or coworker, Mr. Smith. Donald Trump occupies a position which, if he uses it for ill, shows poor judgment, or goes off the deep end, can affect the population en masse as well as nations.

True. But then one should oppose Trump’s policies, his actions, his administration.

No one says that one must LIKE him. Or that one should not be permitted to talk, enumerate, and analyze his faults (glaring ones). But that doesn’t entitle one to make extravagant, unfounded claims about his mental health.

Sometimes less is more when it comes to such discussions … the less said the better when the premises of the discussion are idiotic.

The “experts” are full of hot air.

They’re making fools of themselves.


— Roger W. Smith

  September 2017; updated January 2018




Several commenters have said that Trump has been acting “crazy,” proving that he is insane. There is a difference between acting crazy (as actions may be viewed or characterized) and being insane. I responded to one commenter as follows: “[Trump] may act crazy, sometimes, just as Nixon seemed to do near the end of his presidency, or when he was bombing Hanoi and invading Cambodia, but that did not mean that Nixon was crazy in the clinical sense of the word.” The same qualifier applies to Trump.




To the Editor:

As a psychiatrist, I deplore the idea that psychiatry itself may become a tool to get President Trump out of office. The American Psychiatric Association has issued clear guidelines that a psychiatrist cannot diagnose a person whom the psychiatrist has never personally assessed. So the news that Dr. Bandy X. Lee — who has not personally evaluated the president — may be telling members of Congress that the president could be delusional or narcissistic or incapacitated is highly disturbing to me.

The Trump administration currently faces several different allegations, any one of which — if proved — could lead to Mr. Trump’s impeachment. If one wants to remove Mr. Trump from office, one should do it by proving him guilty of an impeachable offense. With an eye toward my profession’s checkered history, our psychiatric expertise must remain completely apolitical as we continue to treat mental illness across this great country.

— Paul Campion, Bronx, NY; letter to editor, The New York Times, January 9, 2018




See also:

“Maybe Trump Is Not Mentally Ill. Maybe He’s Just a Jerk”


By Jeffrey A. Lieberman

The New York Times

January 12, 2018


Jeffrey A. Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, writes: “I feel strongly that my fellow psychiatrists, and any psychologists or therapists, should stop speculating publicly about President Trump’s mental fitness and stop trying to diagnose possible mental conditions based on their armchair observations. … It’s entirely possible that he simply has certain personal qualities we don’t find ideal in a leader, like being a narcissistic bully who lacks basic civility and common courtesies. That he is, in a word, a jerk. But that alone does not make him mentally unfit to serve. … We can raise an index of suspicion, make back-seat observations of someone’s behavior to express our concerns and even speculate as to whether illness may be the underlying cause. But those observations, coming from physicians — even psychiatrists like myself — are merely public opinion. They are not reliable as evidence for definitive diagnosis and removal of a sitting president from office. Mr. Trump’s public behavior will never be enough for us to determine his mental fitness because a diagnosis requires a thorough and nonpartisan examination.”

This is essentially what I said above.

— Roger W. Smith