What Is Election Stress Disorder?

Do you feel stressed, tired, and overwhelmed when you think about the election? Do you feel the anxious urge to constantly check your news feed? You're not alone. Election-related angst is so prevalent that experts have given it a name: election stress disorder.

The term was coined by Steve Stosny, a couples therapist in Maryland, in 2016 to describe the increased levels of politically-sourced anger, stress, and anxiety he witnessed among the couples who came to his clinic for help. After the election, much of the anger remained.

Dr. Stosny explained to the The New York Times, "The 2016 election never really ended. This is still a hangover from that. And negative emotion is more contagious than positive emotion. I am in my 70s. I go back to Nixon and the Kennedy election and there's always been negativity in politics, but I've never seen the voters attacked. Now, whoever would vote for that person wants to ruin our country. That's a new phenomenon for me."

Election-related stress is high

Add to that the role of social media in constantly amplifying opinions, and the ongoing stress and worry over the coronavirus pandemic, and it's a perfect storm. According to Stosny, we the people have changed, too. He adds, "Also, there's more entitlement now. People think they have the right to control what other people think. So you're not just expressing your opinion, you're devaluing other people's. And, of course, you always get a negative response when you do that."

Dr. Robert Bright, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist, has noticed the effect of election stress disorder in his practice as well, and attributes much of the overwhelming anxiety to the sense his patients have of being out of control. He told Mayo Clinic's News Network, "We've got to figure out how can we control what is controllable. What is within our control? What can we do? One thing we can do with this election is we can vote. We can take personal control, and our voice is just as loud as anybody else's voice. And that's the wonderful thing about living in a democracy. We each have an equal stake."