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.