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Narcissism Expert Says Calling Trump Mentally Ill Is A Misdiagnosis

Narcissism Expert Says Calling Trump Mentally Ill Is A Misdiagnosis


Dr. Allen Frances, author, "Twilight of American Sanity"


Photo caption: The cover of "Twilight of American Sanity" by Dr. Allen Frances.

Photo credit: William Morrow

The cover of "Twilight of American Sanity" by Dr. Allen Frances.

Questions about the mental health and fitness of President Trump continue to be raised.

Last month, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, called for Trump to get a psychiatric evaluation. And in July, Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat were caught on a hot microphone discussing Trump’s mental health:

Reed: I think he’s crazy.

Collins: I’m worried.

Reed: I don’t say that lightly and as kind of, you know, a goofy guy. Uh, oof. And you know, the, uh, this thing, you know, if we don’t get a budget deal —

Collins: I know.

Dr. Allen Frances has heard these arguments before—that Trump is delusional or has narcissistic personality disorder—and thinks they do a disservice to people with diagnosed mental illness. He should know: Frances is the former chair of the psychiatry department at Duke University and wrote the definition of narcissistic personality disorder for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a psychiatric reference guide.

RELATED: Should Psychiatrists Be Allowed To Publicly Analyze Donald Trump’s Sanity?

Frances, who now lives in Coronado, wrote a letter to The New York Times in February after about 35 mental health professionals said they didn’t think Trump was mentally capable of serving safely as president. While Trump’s detractors have labelled him a narcissist, Frances wrote that in order to have a diagnosed disorder, those behaviors would need to cause Trump clinically significant distress. Frances has expanded on the letter in a new book, “Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump.”

“I hate it when psychiatric diagnosis is so carelessly misused to mislabel as mental illness every conceivable example of simple bad behavior,” Frances wrote. “Lumping (Trump) with the mentally ill stigmatizes them more than it embarrasses him.”

Frances joins KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday with more about the dangers of diagnosing politicans from afar and whether American society can be called “delusional.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article didn't include the full context for Sens. Collins and Reed's remarks.

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