Post-Election Stress Disorder  
 
 
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5 Signs You're Suffering From Post-Election Stress Disorder (According to a Psychologist)

Whether your candidate won or lost Nov. 8, one thing is certain: This election season was stressful, with a capital S. But are you suffering from post-election stress disorder? Yes, it's a very real thing. Here's how to tell if you are and what to do according to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, who shares the signs of Post Election Stress Disorder and what to do about it.

1. Your stomach is in knots. Stress can manifest itself in very physical ways, and one sure sign of serious stress is an upset stomach—including tension, nausea, and lack of appetite, according to Sanam Hafeez, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and clinical director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services. But you don't have to hold your stomach and hope the pain goes away. One thing you can do, Hafeez says, is take a break from talking about the election, if possible, and restrict what you read to a single news outlet of your choice. "Check [it] in the morning," she advises, "and then focus on what you have to do that day."

2. You can't focus. You have work to do, but you can't help but let your mind wander to the election results and what they'll mean for you—and the world. When we're absorbed with a single state of worry, it's tough to give our attention to anything else, Hafeez commiserates. But you have to try. "Go for a 30-minute walk, exercise, meditate by lying still while focusing on your breath, color in a coloring book, or get a ball and have a catch," she suggests. "You want to choose tasks that are repetitive, pleasurable, calming, and don’t require a lot of focus."

3. You can't sleep. A solid eight hours of shut eye? You'd feel lucky to snag eight minutes at this point. "This is a true sign of anxiety and stress," says Hafeez. And it's dangerous to your health too: our bodies fight off illness and turn over cells while we're asleep. When we don't log enough Z's, we can open ourselves up to illnesses such as depression and even heart disease, Hafeez warns. To get better sleep, "avoid watching the news before bed as it can evoke worry and negative thoughts," Hafeez advises. "And get into the practice of writing down all the things you appreciated that day so you calm down and drift off on a positive note."

4. You're short tempered. Normally calm, cool, and collected, now you're a ticking time bomb. Think: Every single one of your coworkers is avoiding your wrath, and your current case of road-rage is so bad that even you can admit it might be safer to have your license revoked than allow you to drive. It's understandable you're angry. But, Hafeez says, it's time to "put yourself in a 'time out.' Notice what is setting you off and avoid it for a day or two. Book a spa massage, take a long bath, pamper yourself, cash in on some well needed 'me time.' And within hours, your mood will shift."

5. You're not interested in sex. You had a healthy sex life before this election. But now the last thing you want to do is get down and dirty with your loved one. If you don't want your sex life to fall into a serious slump, you can ease back into things with sensual touch, Hafeez says. "Simply being in the bed holding hands breathing ... can work wonders," she says. "Don’t rule out sex, ease into it. Avoiding sex only adds another thing to be stressed about and sex is a stress reliever. You need those feel good brain chemicals to beat the stress."

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Post-election stress disorder' strikes on both sides

Wally Pfingsten has always been a news junkie. But since President Donald Trump was elected, he's been so anxious about the political tumult that even just having the TV news on in the background at home is unbearable.

"It's been crippling," said the 35-year-old San Mateo, Calif., resident and political moderate who has supported both Democratic and Republican candidates in the past. "I feel angry, really, really angry, far more angry than I expected to be."

He's tried hard to quell his anxiety. First, he shut down his Facebook page to limit his exposure to the daily soaking of news from Washington. But not knowing the goings-on made him anxious, too. He found himself sneaking onto the Facebook account he made for his dog. "I felt like I was cheating," he said.
 
Pfingsten is not alone in his politics-induced anxiety  it's so common it's been given an unofficial name: Post-Election Stress Disorder. Mental health professionals around the country, especially those working in Democratic strongholds, report a stream of patients coming in with anxiety and depression related to or worsened by the blast of daily news on the new administration.
 
In the past, therapists say it's been fairly uncommon for patients to bring up politics on the couch. "It is big money to talk about politics with me that is not what we do!" said Maria Lymberis, a psychiatrist in Santa Monica, Calif.
 
But that was before "fake news," "alternative facts," "repeal and replace," contested confirmations, travel bans, protests and suits over travel bans, suspicions about Russian influence and the departures of the acting attorney general and the new national security adviser. Among other things.

Requests for therapy appointments to Talkspace, an online therapy portal based in New York City, tripled immediately following the election and have remained high through January, according to the company. In particular, Talkspace has seen a steady increase in requests from minorities, including Muslim-Americans, African Americans, Jews, gays and lesbians.

"In my 28 years in practice, I've never seen anything like this level of stress," said Nancy Molitor, a psychologist in the Chicago suburbs.

She says the vast majority of her patients from millennials to those in their eighties are bringing up politics in their therapy sessions. "What we're seeing now after the inauguration is a huge uptick in anxiety."

Many of her patients say they are having trouble sleeping and focusing at work or are fighting more with family members, she said.
 
"I have people who've told me they're in mourning, that they've lost their libido," Molitor said. "I have people saying the anxiety is causing them to be so distracted that they're blowing stop signs or getting into fender benders."
 
"I'm seeing lot of anxiety and anger on both sides," says Elaine DuCharme, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn. "People who are Republicans are afraid to tell anyone. They're afraid that everybody thinks that every Republican thinks exactly as Trump does, and support every single thing he does."

She says some of her patients are particularly concerned about maintaining civil relationships with friends and loved ones who have different political opinions. "People are walking on eggshells," DuCharme said.

Karri King, 56, who lives in Buckeye, Ariz., and voted for Trump, says her experiences on social media have left her feeling sad and hopeless. "There's so much negative from all these stupid Facebook posts acting like the world is going to end. And it's false. And I can't do a thing about it."

King said she's tried to engage civilly with people online who disagree with her, but "every time [Republicans] turn around, we're bashed."

When you say "a bunch of idiots" voted Trump in, she said, "you're talking about half of all Americans! We were hopeful at first, and now we're angry and tired of being blamed," says King. "Nobody wants to listen anymore, and that's where my sadness comes from."

Of course, in some parts of the country, especially those that are overwhelmingly Republican and outside big cities, people seem relieved if not uplifted by the new president's flurry of executive orders and appointments.
 
Kristin Addison-Brown, a psychologist in rural Jonesboro, Ark., says before the election, some of her patients were voicing concerns about a possible Clinton victory. But since then, "it's pretty much been crickets for my patients. They got their guy, so they're not stressed anymore."

Nancy Cottle, a Trump supporter in Mesa, Ariz., has been riding high since the election. "We got to go to the inauguration, and, oh, it was a wonderful experience! We got to go to the Trump hotel and have breakfast and then lunch there, and it was just great. The inauguration itself was very inspiring."

Cottle, 64, has been struggling to understand the public outcry about Trump. "It's like the sky is falling -- but a lot of that is just drama," she said. "I feel encouraged, I feel hopeful. I can't wait to wake up and see what the day's going to bring and what else is going to happen."
That same daily dose of news and the uncertainty of what will happen next -- rattles many Trump opponents. But, like Pfingsten, they can't seem to quit their news consumption cold turkey.

"Part of the brain wants to know what's going on, and you're drawn to watching CNN or reading the news. And then the other part of you is saying no, no, this isn't good for me!" says Molitor, the Chicago psychologist. "It's unfortunately like driving by a car accident -- they know it's not good for them [to gawk], but it's hard to stop."

Molitor recommends patients stay engaged but limit the time they spend on Facebook or watching the news. Focus instead on other things you enjoy, she advises calling a friend, taking a walk or reading a book.

"I never read the Harry Potter books, so I'm reading Harry Potter," says Matthew Leal, a 34-year-old San Francisco resident who found himself sinking into a depression after the election. "Someone could see this and say I'm being totally escapist right now, but I feel like it's kind of what I need."

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