Posted on 25 September 2016.
New editions of two major mental disorder classification manuals are to list Trump-Corbyn Syndrome (TCS) as a mental disorder.
The naming of the condition was inspired by the behaviour of Donald Trump’s supporters in the US and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters in the UK.
The disorder is triggered by often justifiable anger about a person or institution. TCS is diagnosed if the person experiencing such strong negative feelings then rejects the object of their anger in favour of a radically different alternative that is entirely unfit for purpose.
The draft DSM-6 manual (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Sixth Revision) gives an example of a person with Trump-Corbyn Syndrome purchasing an airline ticket:
The Australian carrier Quantas is consistently rated as the world’s safest airline. The Indonesian domestic airline, Transnusa, is currently rated by AirlineRatings.com as amongst the least safe.
A TCS sufferer might take a dislike to the Quantas logo and book with Transnusa on an impulsive, emotional whim. He or she would dismiss the dangers and simply hope that the safety issues for which the Indonesian airline has been criticised would somehow be resolved before his or her flight.
The draft ICD-11 manual (International Classification of Diseases – Eleventh Revision) quotes the example of a person with Trump-Corbyn Syndrome snorkelling on a reef that contains angelfish and other such small, inoffensive creatures:
Such a swimmer might judge the reef to be boring and instead plan to snorkel in a location populated by hungry sharks and crocodiles. A person afflicted by TCS would see the new location as hugely more interesting but be deaf to warnings by others about the disadvantages of swimming there.
Both these examples illustrate the key characteristic of the condition. This relates to passionately pursuing whatever feels good in the present while applying no intelligent thought at all to future consequences.
‘The difficulty with TCS is that it’s a personality disorder,’ explained a representative of the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists. ‘This means that the beliefs and attitudes involved are so integrated with the personal identities of sufferers that, firstly, they are unable to recognise that they’re ill, and, secondly, there are no effective treatments. Medication is ineffective in treating personality disorders,’ she continued, ‘and psychological interventions tend to have only limited effects in less severe cases.’
A consequence of the lack of insight of TCS sufferers is that their views are not influenced by objective facts. The focus of their passionate support can fail catastrophically and yet those afflicted with TCS remain unable to accept the obvious.
‘A good example of this occurs in relation to end-of-the-world cults,’ explained a representative of the American Psychiatric Association. ‘One might think that an end-of-the-world cult would disintegrate if the appointed day for the apocalypse passed without incident.
‘What has actually happened on many occasions, however, is that the faith of believers – all of whom could be diagnosed with TCS – has become strengthened by the experience. They find ways to reinterpret the new reality in the context of their delusions. A classic way to achieve this is to give thanks to their god, or whatever entity was due to destroy the world, for sparing them.’
There is no doubt among experts that exactly the same phenomenon would occur in relation to the supporters of Donald Trump in the US and those of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK if either were to gain power.
‘If Donald Trump was elected to US president,’ the APA representative continued, ‘and he impetuously started a nuclear war on the following Tuesday, his supporters – all of whom, by definition, experience some degree of TCS – would not blame him for poor judgement. They would, instead, blame Iceland – or whichever random country he had chosen to nuke – for provoking an attack by a totally reasonable and rational president.’
The representative of the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists described a related scenario in a British context. ‘Suppose Jeremy Corbyn became the British Prime Minister,’ she began. ‘It’s pretty obvious to anyone who thinks about it that within twelve months the UK would have reverted to the political, economic and social chaos of the 1970s.
‘Supporters of Mr Corbyn would not blame him, however. His TCS afflicted followers would, in fact, have a pre-existing narrative to explain the carnage that they had brought upon the country – a narrative that did not implicate Mr Corbyn at all.
‘They would be likely to argue that the breakdown of British society had been an inevitable consequence of conflict between those who owned the means of production and the proletariat. Not one of them would grasp that simplistic Marxist ideology should never have been applied to the complex political, social and economic circumstances of the early twenty-first century.’
Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn appear to be at opposite ends of the political spectrum. In the context of the above, therefore, it is interesting that identical campaign slogans have been adopted by supporters of both – and that these slogans resonate with those in George Orwell’s book, 1984. ‘Inconvenient truths are lies’ shout supporters of both men at their rallies together with ‘If it feels true; it is true’.
The real catastrophe would occur, of course, if enough people became afflicted with TCS to result in someone who was potentially dangerous gaining significant political power.
For previous examples of the dire consequences of such a development, please consult any world history book that covers the early to mid-twentieth century.