Political Stress Syndrome - Politics Is Exhausting

29 April, 2020
Political Stress Syndrome doesn't appear in clinical manuals but refers to an evident social reality: the people around the world no longer trust the system and are quite fed up with it. It's also about the emotions these situations bring about.
 

Many people are beginning to experience Political Stress Syndrome. There’s uncertainty, apathy towards the political class, and their messages. Also, there’s a weariness towards their internal disputes and above all, the people experience the weight of their corruption. Thus, the citizens no longer trust them. These situations lead to other negative emotions such as disgust, disappointment, anger, and sadness, among others.

Jorge Luis Borges said, with his characteristic wit, that politicians shouldn’t be public figures. This quote is a reality many are currently questioning. Some politicians shouldn’t be government officials due to their behavior, personality, and bad decisions. They don’t set an example, aren’t a source of inspiration and, furthermore, aren’t capable of holding power.

The world’s chessboard is one of the most complex current movements. There’s a rise of extremist sovereignty, independence, immigration drama, corruption, and increasingly less social policies. Thus, studies such as the one published by the Cambridge University Press describe this situation as the spiral of mistrust.

We can add other factors to mistrust, such as information overload and fake news. The media filter all these dynamics daily via information, opinions, news, some true some fake, television, radio, and social networks. All of this leads you to experience one of these two types of states: indignation and apathy.

The former can lead to activism, to take an active role in order to attain change. The latter brings discontent and, very often, the absolute loss of confidence in any party or political option. However, all these experiences start from concrete reality: Political Stress Syndrome.

 

“Politics is more dangerous than war, for in war you’re only killed once.”

-Winston Churchill-

The silhouette of a politician.

What exactly is Political Stress Syndrome?

Political Stress Syndrome doesn’t appear in any clinical manual. It’s a popular term that’s been making the rounds recently. You can find an example of it in this article published in Psychology Today, where researchers analyze its impact on a child’s mind.

It’s not going to appear in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in a short time. However, what’s clear is that this reality is already a source of analysis for political scientists and social psychologists. Furthermore, in some way, you can even describe the symptoms of Political Stress Syndrome.

Triggers for Political Stress Syndrome

The anatomy of Political Stress Syndrome mediates through many factors. In turn, these will have a greater impact depending on each person’s personality and needs. However, we can point out the constant pillars that occur every day:

  • Feeling that the political class cares less and less about its constituents (and more about its own interests).
 
  • Policies that only favor wealthy people.
  • A lack of civility in political speeches: there’s no real connection with people.
  • The lack of understanding among the political class who can’t even reach agreements nor an understanding that’s in favor of the population and the planet itself.
A crowd experiencing Political Stress Syndrome.

Political uncertainty

Today, people go to bed without knowing what’ll happen tomorrow. You wake up every morning with more news about corruption, wiretapping, dismissals, new appointments, disagreements, threats, immigrants who lose their lives, and attacks, among other things.

One can add other factors that greatly concern citizens, those that pertain to social policies such as tax increases. The current policy puts the person in a state of almost absolute unpredictability.

From outrage to helplessness

This factor is very interesting from a psychological point of view. It’s common for people to be outraged after each scandal, uncovered corruption, and law that harms the citizen when they first hear about them. However, sometimes, few people care about corrupt politicians.

A part of the population becomes helpless almost without knowing how and begin to think “what’s there to do, it is what it is”. For example, it was common to see the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, mumbling and being very inappropriate.

 

When they see him, people laugh and remember those years when Boris Yeltsin also entertained the entire world. Therefore, most tolerate inconceivable situations of public figures that, as Borges said, are far from representing constituents with dignity.

How to manage Political Stress Syndrome

This isn’t a new topic. People understand that this type of phenomenon is common in certain scenarios of the political class: they’ve been going on for a while and they’ll continue to. However, currently, an element can enhance its impact, hence Political Stress Syndrome.

One can refer to the media, its information overload, and viral news. Turn on the TV and they’ll be discussing the exact same topics. So what can one do about this everyday phenomenon?

  • The most important thing is to never allow yourself to be helpless.
  • As with stress, there’s no point in standing still and being passive when confronted by stressors.
  • In that case, you’ll further intensify the discomfort. The key to everything is controlling your exposure. Limit yourself to hear and read about what’s fair. Worry about receiving accurate information and never lose your critical sense.
  • Feeling unhappy with the current political class is respectable and understandable.
  • However, if you become helpless and passive, you’ll allow these situations to become chronic.
  • Activism and participation in the public sphere may be your most valuable rights as a citizen if only for all people fought to attain them. Politicians are your representatives only to the extent to which you elect them.
 

The problem occurs when the politician wants to take advantage of their position to deceive the society that has placed them in that place of privilege. On the other hand, the problem may disappear when society banishes those who betrayed it.

  • Tetlock, P. E. (2007). Psychology and politics: The challenges of integrating levels of analysis in social science. In A. W. Kruglanski & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles (pp. 888-912). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.