Allen Frances is a renowned expert in the field of psychiatry. In addition to teaching the subject at the Duke University Medical College, and authoring a plethora of self-help tomes, he’s one of the authors of the D.S.M.-IV—the diagnostic manual for psychological disorders.
He literally wrote the book on mental illness. And while he’s convinced Donald Trump is a really terrible human being, he’s not fully convinced he meets the criteria of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. On Tuesday, he chastised the New York Times for even entertaining the thought, because its insulting to people who face actual mental struggles.
Left-leaning activists have routinely used the “mental illness” accusation against President Trump, and have speculated, as far back as the Republican primaries, that his “sociopathic” and “narcissistic” nature prevent him from exercising logic, reason and compassion in his approach to policy.
Everyone from the NYT to the Atlantic has asked psychologists and psychiatrists to weigh in on Trump’s mental health. Frances’ commentary was in response to another letter, published in the Times, from a retired Harvard professor of psychiatry, purporting to diagnose Trump with Narcissistic Personality disorder. The letter was co-signed by 33 other people in the field of psychology.
But calling Trump mentally ill without a proper, in-person diagnosis, Frances says, is a “stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill.” You can’t compare anyone who has a mental illness to Donald Trump, because people with mental illnesses are “mostly well behaved and well meaning” and Donald Trump “is neither,” he says.
He elaborated on Twitter.
The accusations also, Frances says, seem to disqualify anyone with a mental illness from holding office, based on the theory that they will behave like Trump. In his professional opinion, that’s highly unlikely.
Frances followed up on his letter with an article in Psychology Today, noting that Trump is “bad, not mad,” and calling concerns about Trump’s psychological well being distracting and irrelevant.” He is, suffice it to say, not a fan. But he’s determined to see Trump judged on his actions, not explained away by bad science.