By : Ashley Zilka

CINCINNATI — PTSD has a new meaning in the office of therapist Stuart Bassman: Post-Trump-matic stress disorder.

Although some groups have experienced renewed feelings of positivity and optimism in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration, therapists, counselors and psychologists across the country have said many patients feel the opposite.

Fear of a Trump presidency’s worst perceived implications — including conflict with another nuclear-armed nation, deportation of one’s friends and family and religious discrimination against Muslims — has joined workplace stress, friendship troubles and marital anxiety as one of the frequently discussed topics between American mental health professionals and their clients, according to articles by SlateThe New York Times and the Washington Post.

Anxiety over politics is surely not a phenomenon unique to 2017 — every presidential assassination, both World Wars, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and 9/11 each gave birth to unique forms of national hysteria and shellshock that left many Americans questioning the world they believed they knew.

How, wondered F. Scott Fitzegerald in 1920, could a nation thrive in the wake of a worldwide conflict that left the next generation to grow up with “all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken”?  Decades earlier, in 1865, Walt Whitman lamented the Lincoln assassination in a poem that painted the United States as a ship left captainless at the end of a long journey. Fear is a mainstay of human existence.

But “Trump anxiety” has a uniquely clinical dimension, Stuart Bassman said.

“(People) talk about their anxiety, they talk about their fear, but now this struggle with what has been going on in our nation has become paramount,” he said. “I have been there for Clinton, through Bush, through Reagan and Barack Obama, but the reaction to Trump has really been startling.”

Fellow psychologist Shantel Thomas agreed. Her office fielded a number of what she refers to as “critical incident stress management” calls the morning of Nov. 9, 2016, as those who opposed Trump struggled with the reality of what had happened.

“I have not seen anything like this Trump effect that is taking place right now,” she said. After the election, Thomas received frantic calls from “companies, from individuals saying they were stressed, they were fearful for their lives, they were concerned for their children.”

But Mark Smith, president of Bikers for Trump Cincinnati, has never been happier. Smith, an auto broker, said the election of a candidate he believes will make the United States safer, more secure and economically sound fostered a new optimism in him and others.

“People are just motivated about America. … The jobs are picking up, my business is booming, the auto industry — it’s just a bunch of people that are so mad about him winning,” he said.

Still, he shared one opinion expressed by Bassman and Thomas: People experiencing anxiety in the wake of the election needed to find healthy ways to cope with their negative emotions.

“They have got to accept this and take care of themselves,” he said.

How would one do that? When any anxiety or fear becomes so severe that it interferes with daily life, therapy is always a positive option. But for anyone experiencing lower-level stress about the presidency — or anything else — Thomas, Bassman and massage therapist Amy Wardwell offered a few pieces of advice.

  • Unplug from social media. The internet is a place where people on all sides of the political compass express their strongest opinions in the least kind terms, and getting into Twitter fights about it will never, ever make you feel better.
  • Practice meditation or aromatherapy. Find things that quiet your mind and help you relax.
  • Avoid talking politics at family gatherings. Again: This has never once made anyone feel better about themselves or their family.
  • Try to be understanding of others. Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or a member of another political group, your views are a product of your upbringing and life experiences. Other people with other experiences have different beliefs. Respect the humanity of people with whom you disagree and search for common ground.
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