Lazy Caturday Reads: Americans are Suffering from Trump Abuse

Self-Portrait with a Cat, Lotte Laserstein

Good Morning!!

I slept late this morning for the first time in a couple of months. Since the beginning of the pandemic, my sleep patterns have been so disturbed. I began waking up very early even though I usually stay up at least till midnight. I also began drinking coffee again after years of mostly drinking tea, and my caffeine consumption has increased. I think it’s a combination of the stress of Trump and the changes that came with the virus.

Everything has changed. At first it was so surreal and now it feels like the new normal. But each time there is a new shock–mostly because of Trump–I experience sleep problems and other signs of stress. Since the revelations from the Woodward book, I think I’ve been grinding my teeth at night, because my jaw has been hurting. It’s better today. I don’t know why I finally relaxed enough to oversleep, but it feels good for now. Who knows what horrors Trump will visit on us today though? It’s always something.

Apparently, I’m not alone in my reactions to the national stress. Dentists are seeing strange tooth problems lately.

The New York Times: A Dentist Sees More Cracked Teeth. What’s Going On?

I closed my midtown Manhattan practice to all but dental emergencies in mid-March, in line with American Dental Association guidelines and state government mandate. Almost immediately, I noticed an uptick in phone calls: jaw pain, tooth sensitivity, achiness in the cheeks, migraines. Most of these patients I effectively treated via telemedicine.

But when I reopened my practice in early June, the fractures started coming in: at least one a day, every single day that I’ve been in the office. On average, I’m seeing three to four; the bad days are six-plus fractures.

Balthus, Self-Portrait with Cat

What’s going on?

One obvious answer is stress. From Covid-induced nightmares to “doomsurfing” to “coronaphobia,” it’s no secret that pandemic-related anxiety is affecting our collective mental health. That stress, in turn, leads to clenching and grinding, which can damage the teeth.

But more specifically, the surge I’m seeing in tooth trauma may be a result of two additional factors.

First, an unprecedented number of Americans are suddenly working from home, often wherever they can cobble together a makeshift workstation: on the sofa, perched on a barstool, tucked into a corner of the kitchen counter. The awkward body positions that ensue can cause us to hunch our shoulders forward, curving the spine into something resembling a C-shape.

If you’re wondering why a dentist cares about ergonomics, the simple truth is that poor posture during the day can translate into a grinding problem at night.

Second, most of us aren’t getting the restorative sleep we need. Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve listened to patient after patient describe sudden restlessness and insomnia. These are hallmarks of an overactive or dominant sympathetic nervous system, which drives the body’s “fight or flight” response. Think of a gladiator preparing for battle: balling his fists, clenching his jaw. Because of the stress of coronavirus, the body stays in a battle-ready state of arousal, instead of resting and recharging. All that tension goes straight to the teeth.

Read more at the NYT.

USA Today: Cracked teeth, gross gums: Dentists see surge of problems, and the pandemic is likely to blame.

Stress and isolation brought on by the pandemic are certainly bad for our mental health, but dentists say they’re seeing evidence our oral health is suffering too.

Reports of a huge spike in cracked teeth have received national media attention in recent days, but multiple dentists told USA TODAY that’s just the start of the problem.

Freda Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

“It’s like a perfect storm,” Dr. Michael Dickerson, an independent practice owner with Aspen Dental in Tarpon Springs, Florida, told USA TODAY. The patients he’s seeing now need “a ton of work,” as compared to the past, he said.

In the New York metropolitan area, it’s more of the same. Overall, patients’ mouths are “much dirtier than they were before … their gums are more inflamed,” Dr. Michael Fleischer told USA TODAY. Fleischer is a dentist and Senior Vice President of Clinical Affairs at Dental365.

And in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, endodontist Dr. Derek T. Peek said he treated twice as many broken teeth this August compared with last year, even though he’s treated less patients. Endodontists are dentists who specialize in patients with complex or painful teeth issues.

Read more at the link.

At Salon, Chauncey DeVega, who often writes about Trump’s pathology, interviewed an expert on the stress Trump is causing Americans: PTSD expert Seth Norrholm: Americans “are being psychologically abused by Donald Trump.”

Dr. Seth Norrholm is a translational neuroscientist and one of the world’s leading experts on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fear. He is currently the scientific director at the Neuroscience Center for Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma (NeuroCAST) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.

In this conversation, Dr. Norrholm explains how Donald Trump’s behavior towards the American people resembles that of a domestic abuser. He also details how Donald Trump and his regime are causing the American people to experience symptoms and behaviors similar to PTSD — and that post-Trump PTSD will impact the country’s public health for many years into the future. Norrholm also offers advice on how the American people can handle the increase in stress and anxiety as Election Day 2020 approaches in the midst of a deadly pandemic and Trump’s escalating threats and violence….

What are Trump and his regime doing to the emotional health of the American people? The long-term impact is going to be great.

From 2015 forward, it is a constant timeline of one risk or threat or breaking of norms after another from the Trump administration. There has been no real respite.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Self Portrait with cat

Looking at this through social media, it is very much like an addiction where some people will log into Twitter in the morning and then you will see them log off at night and they will actually say, “See you in the morning, folks.” Twitter and other social media is almost like a running commentary of their day.

The Age of Trump is the story of authoritarianism and how it can damage the mental health of an entire society. Why has there been such reluctance by most of the mainstream American news media to discuss emotional life as connected to politics in this moment?

Part of the problem with emotions is vagueness. Therefore, the news media and analysts tend to shy away from discussing emotions. I also think that part of the challenge is that American society tends to be forgiving. For example, if the president were to go public and say that, “Look, I’ve battled an addiction to painkillers or alcohol,” or that he has early stage Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, the news media and public would accept it. Why? Because it is a hard diagnosis. It is something tangible. But because with Donald Trump we are talking about behavior which is open to interpretation and involves concepts from psychology that deal with emotions and personality, it is very difficult for the average person to understand. This is true of the news media as well. Therefore, emotions in general are much less discussed by the American news media.

This has meant that the American news media has for the most part covered Donald Trump using the existing heuristics which are, “Here is the president’s schedule. Here’s what he did today. Here’s what he said.” Donald Trump should not have been covered that way. The assumption that he is somehow “presidential” and acts in a normal way should have been discarded.

Then there is the other side, with Fox News and other right-wing news media which Trump’s followers listen to. That side is proceeding with, “This is how we have to defend our position.” That is when we see cult psychology, a shared psychosis where the members have to radically defend their positions because the alternative is admitting that they were wrong. It is as if American society has lost the ability to admit wrong and apologize where whole groups of partisans and Trumpists can’t simply say, “Look, I read the situation wrong and I made a mistake.”

Read the rest of the interview at the Salon link above.

At Raw Story, Heather Digby Parton writes about the aftermath of the Woodward revelations: The deep malevolence that drives Trump’s behavior has now been laid bare.

Alicia France, Self-Portrait with Cat, 2017

It figures that Bob Woodward, the man who helped to take down Richard Nixon 45 years ago, would follow up with a big book about Nixon’s natural heir to the presidency, Donald Trump. Just as Nixon was undone by tape recordings he foolishly made to document his own corruption, so too Trump foolishly allowed himself to be recorded by Woodward. That’s what sets Woodward’s book “Rage” apart from all the other Trump books that have come before: We can hear the quotes in Trump’s own voice, so he can’t get away with calling it fake news.

I think most of us who have been observing this surreal presidency for the past four years have wondered whether Trump is more ignorant than malevolent or vice versa. (Obviously, he’s both: It’s just a question of which is dominant.) It’s been especially hard to know during this pandemic catastrophe because the president has made so many ill-informed comments and odious decisions, from the inane hydroxychloroquine campaign to his decision not to implement a national testing program because most of the people dying in the early days were in blue states.

Listening to Trump blithely tell Woodward at the beginning of February that he knew the pandemic was going to kill a whole lot more people than the flu and that it was an airborne disease proves that he is malevolent first and foremost. You can hear it in his voice — so blandly detached and dispassionate as he talks about what he describes as “deadly stuff.” We know he’d been warned about the likelihood of the virus coming to America by this point. Woodward even reports that national security adviser Robert O’Brien had told Trump in January that the virus would be the “biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.”

It’s clear that Trump simply didn’t care about that. And he never changed. CNN reports this anecdote from the book that backs up that impression:

On March 19, as the coronavirus pandemic was exploding, Woodward asked Trump if he ever sat down alone with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to learn more about the virus.”Yes, I guess, but honestly there’s not a lot of time for that, Bob,” Trump said to Woodward. “This is a busy White House. We’ve got a lot of things happening. And then this came up.”

Woodward notes in the book that Trump had found the time to “carve out hours” to do interviews with him throughout the crisis.

Read the whole thing at Raw Story.

Hang in there Sky Dancers! Make sure to do something nice for yourselves today and be kind to others who are experiencing Trump stress reactions.


26 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads: Americans are Suffering from Trump Abuse”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Interesting advice for journalists from the interview with Dr. Seth Norrholm:

    In the mind of a malignant or severe narcissist, it only takes a small scintilla of possibility that there was some type of “deep state” attack against him. Of course, that is highly unlikely. But even if there is such a remote possibility, that is all that is needed for a severe narcissist like Trump to build upon. That is why he has such an affinity for conspiracy theories, because it gives him a psychological out for his apparent crimes and other wrongdoing.

    The malignant narcissist lives in this altered reality where there is a type of idealized self. Trump sees himself as an eternal emperor. He is a king in his mind who is all-knowing and all-powerful. But behind that facade Donald Trump is a vulnerable and in many ways a childlike individual. Trump is fighting so very hard to keep that veneer up in the public.

    I was asked some years ago, what is the best course of action when dealing with a severe narcissist? It is repeated confrontation. It’s calling out the lies in real time. It’s calling out the hypocrisy. It is confronting the public veneer.

    I know this won’t happen, but I would love for a journalist to say, “Are you wearing makeup, Mr. President? Is that self-tanner, or are you wearing makeup? Why is your face orange and your ears white?” That is how one deals with a narcissist. Confrontation. I wish Hillary Clinton had done that to Donald Trump. She did try, though.

    • dakinikat says:

      As psychologist John Gartner cautioned in a recent conversation here at Salon: “Donald Trump is the most successful bio-terrorist in human history. This is not an accident.”

      also from your link

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. dakinikat says:

    Not sure I’m up to go to a theatre but this sounds like it’s worth seeing:

    Nomadland review – Frances McDormand delivers the performance of her career
    McDormand plays a boomer forced out of her home and on to the road in Chloé Zhao’s inspired docu-fiction

    BB sounds like something John might like

    https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/sep/11/nomadland-review-frances-mcdormand-chloe-zhao?fbclid=IwAR1s5iU4EM-tV2vOq3tVCZyEHm18RS4lqHy7f3ojY7PtfMK_A0FSxVnBXew

  4. dakinikat says:

    I really love hearing you talk openly about your stress level and physical reactions to last few years. Katrina wasn’t even this bad because it was limited to us. We knew there would be help and some what of an end to it although it still has impacted everyone and the city to this day. The difference on this one is it seems so relentless and ongoing and we have a president that just torments us daily beside being grossly incompetent and grossly unconcerned about any one but himself.

    I don’t’ know if you’ve read this VF interview with Michael Cohen’s daughter but it has the same kind of authenticity that I heard in Mary Trump’s voice.

    He continues to have young women describe him as creepy and a letch …

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    I share your observations 100%!!

    I never “tuned into” the news as much as I have since this idiot took office. I don’t remember being that invested in Clinton or Obama for that matter although I did follow Watergate daily. But still, nothing like this obsession since 2016.

    We haven’t had a breather since 2015. Trump has dominated the daily output – thanks to the media covering his every burp – because frankly we had not seen anything like this since the Nixon years which pale by comparison. I never went to sleep at night wondering if we would be alive in the morning because this moron was busy blasting out idiotic tweets against foreign nations by playing “war games” for his own amusement.

    We are at times outraged, scandalized, gobsmacked, filled with loathing, frightened, insulted, and just plain confused by Trump’s behavior. It is so beyond comprehension because he has been getting away with this without accountability. There has been no escape from his corruption and insanity and we wait for the GOP to step forward and correct the problems but they refuse.

    He controls everything. The news, the DOJ, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, the courts, the CDC, even the weather forecasts. And we still are unable to comprehend how any rational human being could still support this traitor in chief. How is it possible?

    You are not alone in your assessment. We feel powerless. He has managed to destroy everything he touches. The man is a psychopath. An ignorant dolt thrust upon us and we find it difficult to look away.

    We can only hope that there are enough of us in November determined to rid ourselves of this horrific blight that is gripping our senses and our lives.

    Vote!

  6. NW Luna says:

  7. bostonboomer says:

    MSNBC is showing this tonight.

  8. quixote says:

    Yup. Me too. Flaring insomnia. Inability to concentrate (and under normal circumstances I’m the opposite of ADHD, I could concentrate to the exclusion of all else for six hours straight). Sometimes loss of appetite, sometimes inability to stay away from the fridge. Going anywhere is too much bother, wishing I had the energy to go somewhere. It goes on and on.

    The weirdest thing to me, as a non-psychologist, is how I don’t feel consciously stressed if I pay attention. But symptoms? Out the wazoo.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Same here. I don’t feel the tension consciously, although I do feel emotions–anger, sadness, etc.

    • NW Luna says:

      I’ve been insomniac for decades. But now — inability to concentrate, anxiety, then apathy, angry bewilderment at all this shit happening, lip-biting, waking up in the morning with teeth clenched and eyes squeezed shut. I used to wake up feeling physically relaxed.

      It’s not just since covid; it’s been since Nov 2016 and keeps getting worse.

  9. bostonboomer says:

  10. NW Luna says:

    For Caturday:

  11. dakinikat says:

    Shere Hite, Who Challenged Myths of Female Sexuality, Dies at 77 https://nyti.ms/35v1coj

  12. T says:

    Totally relate to what several of you are saying about the stress. Thanks, BB, for writing about it. If it was one or the other, Covid or Trump, maybe I would be able to deal with it better. But, with both, I feel as if I wake to a looming tsunami everyday. Who knows what will happen or how unbelievable it will be. And, it is taking all my long years of learned resources to cope, and then, not so well some days. Thank you all for being here.