President Donald J. Trump believes he is mentally fit for the Oval Office. And after receiving a perfect score on a cognitive exam this month, it may seem that he is right. The question of Trump’s mental health and fitness for office, however, is far too complex to be answered by a single 30-question exam.
While the president may believe his psychological stability can be proven by the results of one exam, it is not so clear. Trump could not be more wrong. Although he correctly answered 30 questions on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA — a cognitive screening test — the question of Trump’s psychological fitness for office still remains.
With doubts about his mental well-being mounting, Trump took it upon himself to request the MoCA exam, which White House physician Ronny Jackson performed on the president. During the Jan. 16 MoCA, Trump was asked to identify animals such as lions, rhinoceroses and camels, as well as draw lines from numbers to letters. According to Jackson, Trump was able to answer those questions and similar questions correctly.
The MoCA is used primarily to test individuals for memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2005 study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It is not used, however, to diagnose psychological disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder.
It’s indisputable that the president knows lions have tails and camels have humps. Trump has proven with this exam that he does not have dementia, a loss of memory resulting from issues in the brain. But what the president has, of yet, failed to establish by undergoing this exam is his psychological well-being.
The concerns some psychologists share regarding Trump are unrelated to the kinds of neurological disorders that can be ruled out by MoCA. Rather, mental health professionals are concerned that Trump may fit the criteria for several psychological disorders that threaten his ability to safely lead the nation.
Psychologists are advised to avoid diagnosing an individual without formally seeing him or her. Known as the “Goldwater rule,” the ethical practice impedes psychologists from speaking about the mental health of public figures, such as Trump, without having seen them firsthand as patients.
Still, some psychologists believe that the case of Trump is unique, that it calls for immediate analysis and consideration.In light of his grandiosity, impulsivity and lack of personal accountability — to say nothing of his uninhibited Twitter outbursts and attacks on anyone he perceives as a threat — Trump’s mental “stability” has come under scrutiny.
A petition by more than 18,000 mental health professionals states that the president not only “manifests a serious mental illness,” but also that he must be removed from the presidency, according to Article 4 of the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment establishes that the president may be removed from office if he or she is unable to perform the basic duties required of the presidency.
Psychologist and former Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine John Gartner, creator of the petition, has provided possible diagnoses of the president. According to Gartner, the president fits the criteria for three personality disorders: narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder. While Gartner holds that those three disorders can be clearly diagnosed, he also believes the president may be suffering from additional personality disorders.
These conditions are not only extremely difficult for those who suffer from them, but they also can cause individuals with the conditions to pose a danger to the people around them. Gartner explains that Trump poses a threat to the nation because of his impulsiveness and deceitfulness. Gartner uses the example of Trump impersonating John Barron on voice recordings, stating his support for Trump, to highlight his deceitfulness. Those qualities could not only further destroy Trump’s political relationships but are also likely to continue to affect the international reputation of the United States.
Earlier this month, Trump took to Twitter to address doubts about his mental health. He went so far as to call himself a “very stable genius,” whose best personal attributes include being “very smart” and having definite “mental stability.” And while Trump may be basking in his assessment glory, if he believes that this screening tool ended the discussion of his mental health, he has deluded himself.
If Trump truly wants to destroy the doubts surrounding his mental well-being, he should meet with a certified psychologist. Until then, doubts about his mental stability will continue to circulate.
Perhaps Trump thinks joking about nuclear war with North Korea is comedic — that it’s appropriate to tweet about the size of his nuclear button. But these signs of grandiosity and impulsivity must not be ignored.
Do we really want him in control of that button?
Laurel Sutherland is a College senior from West Chester, Pa.