Managing Post-Election Stress
October 28, 2020
A recent Psychiatric Times article titled “Presidential Election Anxiety and the Role of Psychiatry,” by H. Steven Moffic, MD, discussed how the factors that contribute to today’s environmental traumas (e.g., the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, climate instability, physician burnout, an endless war on terrorism, returning to the classroom (or not), and racism, among other societal and personal stressors) can foster election anxiety. An excerpt from his description of election anxiety polls is provided below, detailing the impact on specific populations facing vulnerable circumstances, followed by a resource on how to deal with election stress that may help you and/or your staff address these very real experiences through a trauma-informed lens.
Election anxiety polls
The polls confirm our intuition: we are a nervous nation. Earlier this year, the American Psychological Association conducted a “Stress in America” survey, in which they found more than half (about 56%) respondents identified the 2020 election as a significant stressor. At the end of June, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the highest rising levels of anxiety were among young adults, as well as black and Latino people of all ages. The prevalence of anxiety symptoms among all populations was 3 times higher than the corresponding period in 2019.
Certain groups of minorities, especially educated and higher-earning black males, are at risk for more anxiety. This possibly counterintuitive finding may stem from blocked opportunities, which in turn may be related to the higher implicit bias of white men.
Anxiety also seems to differ along partisan party lines. About two-thirds of recent Joe Biden supporters say they are scared about the country’s future, compared to about one-third of President Donald Trump’s supporters. Of course, these sources of anxiety can change, and change quickly, depending on societal developments.
In recent polls conducted by the Psychiatric Times (Figure 1 and Figure 2) inquiring about the upcoming elections, the trend was clearly slanted toward being very worried, with about half of respondents doing something productive about it and half not. As far as our patients are concerned, the second poll suggested a similarly strong degree of concern. If these trends hold up, the anxiety level would be even higher in our psychiatric world than in the greater society.
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