Still thinking about election fraud in Ohio? Worried that voting machines in Florida may have been hacked? If some Republicans get their way, there may soon be an official diagnosis of what really ails you: political paranoia disorder.
"Political Paranoia" to be included in next edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
By Hermione Slatkin, Medical Correspondent
NEW YORK, NY—When Zacharia Goodman recently sought out the help of a therapist, it was no mystery as to what was ailing him. The 27-year-old copy editor was so consumed by his belief that President George W. Bush stole the recent election that he was having trouble sleeping, completing rudimentary tasks at work, and carrying on conversations about topics not related to politics.
The therapist he consulted wrote Goodman a prescription for the social anxiety drug Paxil and encouraged him to spend less time reading left-wing blogs and listening to Air America.
This particular story has a happy ending; Goodman admits that he's already far less irritating to be around than he was just a few weeks ago. But countless paranoids just like him may be going untreated, say mental health professionals. The reason: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM presently excludes political paranoia from its 933 pages of symptoms, diagnoses and treatment recommendations.
And with thousands of individuals across the country seeking therapy in the wake of President Bush's electoral victory, some mental health professionals fear that a diagnostic crisis may be in the offing.
Democrat or just demented?
Now a group of Republican lawmakers is hoping that they can do something about the problem. When the 109th Congress convenes in Washington in January, Senator Bill Frist, the first practicing physician elected to the Senate since 1928, plans to file a bill that would define "political paranoia" as a mental disorder, paving the way for individuals who suffer from paranoid delusions regarding voter fraud, political persecution and FBI surveillance to receive Medicare reimbursement for any psychiatric treatment they receive.
"If you're still convinced that President Bush won the election because Republicans figured out a way to hack into electronic voting machines, you've obviously got a problem," says Smith. "If we can figure out a way to ease your suffering by getting you into therapy and onto medication, that's something that we hope the entire 109th Congress will support."
A meeting of the minds
Of course, while Congress can pass laws defining mental disorders, the ultimate decision regarding the inclusion of political paranoia disorder in the next version of the DSM isn't up to legislators but to psychiatrists. The entire assembly of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) must approve the addition of the disorder when that body convenes in Atlanta in May.
This won't be the first time that the APA has bowed to political pressure to add or delete common mental disorders. In 1973, the APA removed homosexuality from the massive psychiatric desk reference. The 1987 publication of DSM-III-R deleted ego-dystonic homosexuality as well.
As for the likelihood that therapists will soon be able to diagnose "political paranoia" in the patients who come to see them, Zacharia Goodman says that that moment can't come quickly enough.
"I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, my girlfriend left me, and I still didn't know what was wrong with me," says Goodman, who now attends a support group for political paranoids in addition to taking a daily dose of Paxil. "Now I can read the news and stay calm. I'm even planning to watch the inauguration on TV."