Keywords: Politicians, mental health, narcissistic personality disorder, dissocial personality disorder, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, hubris syndrome, flexible personality trait, adaptable personality trait, Nigeria.
Politicians’ Mental Health in Nigeria. Can politicians suffer from mental health issues? What are the consequences of a politician suffering from mental health issues while in office? Should politicians vying for public office be subjected to mental health screening? What is the way forward for the public office holder politician with mental health issues?
In actual fact, most elected politicians are seen as being capable to govern the people because of their wealth of experiences. And despite the amount of pressure placed on them people still believe that they are super human. But this actually gives a false sense of security.
We forget that politicians are humans that can be subjected to mental health issues like other human beings. So being humans, politicians can go through stress and be subjected to the adverse effects of stress.
Citizens should understand that the decisions of politicians can make or mare the world, and affect our wellbeing. When they take risky decisions and exercise misguided power over the electorate, it places the people at jeopardy.
So the wellbeing of politicians is very important. Thus it is important that the electorate scrutinize the behaviours of political office holders. This is the need for this for topic politicians’ mental health in Nigeria.
Can politicians suffer from mental health issues?
In history there have been dictators who were mentally ill, and in modern times, we still can have mentally ill leaders.
It is important that we understand that the job of politicians are highly stressful. And these can make some of them breakdown. And unfortunately, many of them keep their mental health a secrete and do not go for the needed help. Their inability of not speaking up is also due to stigma that mental illness brings.
When politicians are elected into their various offices, they have to attend numerous meetings. They also have run their constituencies, face the media, both conventional and social, do campaigns, make policies, etc.
Travelling becomes part of their duties and yet they must meet their home demands. And they hardly get enough sleep because they work overtime and are under excessive public scrutiny.
In as much as it is known that every job has its stress, those of the politicians contains extra stressors. And as much as some of these politicians come in strong when elected, some do breakdown in the process.
General mental health issues:
These politicians could be stressed to the point that they suffer anxiety, loss of self esteem, depression and poor sleep. They can also suffer from bipolar disorders, post traumatic stress disorder and addiction to substances such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, etc.
Those leaders with bipolar disorders suffer from mood swings. So when at the mania state, they are very friendly with elated mood or euphoric. Then at the depressive state, they are withdrawn, weak and sad.
Research has documented that some Nigerian politicians suffer from personality disorders. And people with PD have pervasive ways of thinking, feeling and behaviour which deviates from the norm in that culture. And they cannot function optimally.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) –
Studies have it that those with narcissistic personality disorder are more prone to become politicians. These people believe that they are entitled to the best things because of their self interest. Narcissists also believe that they very important and need a lot of attention and admiration.
So even if they are not running for elections, those with NPD are more involved in electoral processes. This is because they feel a sense of authority and superiority over others. And they may be among those voting at the primary elections.
Narcissists are more able to get leadership roles because they take credits for other people’s achievements. And they blame their failures on others. Even when they achieve any success, they over promote it. They are very intimidating and domineering.
There is what is called collective narcissism. This occurs when persons come together with the same narcissistic ideologies to form a group. So in the group, the people believe in their being great, needing external admiration and validation.
They are grandiose in nature and they believe in entitlement for their group. And they believe in authoritarianism and social dominance.
These persons are very sensitive to criticism of the group. So imagine when a group of narcissists for a political group.
The narcissist, not feeling guilt for his actions, is more willing to play more aggressive political tactics. Narcissists are more ready to take risks and very hostile when challenged.
They are willing to violate social norms to gain promotions, etc. and behave unethically to gain and maintain power.
Dissocial personality disorder –
Some politicians have dissocial personality disorder. In Dissocial personality disorder, the person does not care about how others feel.
They behave irresponsibly, and have disregard for social norm, rules and obligations. These people have anger issues and cannot withstand frustration.
And no matter what they do wrong, they do not feel any atom of guilty. They do not learn from past experiences, nor are they moved by punishment. And they easily blame others for their short comings. They have criminal records even from adolescence or early adulthood.
Histrionic personality disorder –
Sometimes people with histrionic personality disorder can be found as politicians, either as elected, or appointed. Histrionic personality disorder occur more in women.
These persons are dramatic in nature, so they have exaggerated emotions and are attention seekers. They are also excitable, erratic, volatile, seductive, flirtatious and charming. These people are very lively in nature and fashion conscious, but impulsive and manipulative. Such women can be seen in some women wings of political parties in Nigeria.
Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) –
Obsessive compulsive personality disorder, these are perfectionists. Everything must be categorized as wrong or right.
They believe in controlling not only their behaviours, but that of others. Everyone must conform to rules as written down.
These people pay very close attention to details in everything they do in life. They believe in orderliness, neatness, and have emotional constraints.
Those with OCPD should actually make better leaders. They have love for rules, order, details, cleanliness, etc. And they have remarkable strengths and drive and are detail oriented.
It has been found that most movers and shakers in various fields from politics to information technology and sports have OCPD. Once these people have an intrusive idea, they do not stop until they bring it to fulfillment. They are good organizers.
But in many cases they don’t really know where to draw the line. Some may end up being too rigid and may actually delay work process, because they scrutinize and procrastinate a lot.
Hubris Syndrome –
Some politicians have what is called the Hubris syndrome. This is an acquired leadership personality disorder. It is a syndrome that is triggered by power. So it comes after the acquisition of power.
They have extreme pride and are over confident and have hatred for other people. And they use power for self gratification.
These persons have obsessive focus on personal image and excessive self confidence. And they despise advice or criticism from others.
They lose contact with reality after being into political positions. So they see themselves as a messiah.
Such people behave recklessly, are impulsive in actions and incompetent. Hubristic incompetence is an overconfidence which leads such persons to being inattentive to details at work. They ignore the costs their actions could bring, believing that their actions will be vindicated in future.
This syndrome overlaps with other personality disorders such as NPD, antisocial personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder.
Such people are prone to have bipolar disorder, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse issues.
Healthy personality –
Someone with a flexible personality accurately interprets his environment. The person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours correspond to the reality of the environment. This is a flexible personality.
Such persons have advantage over others, because they can easily adapt to their surroundings. And they can adequately face challenges with higher success rate than those not flexible.
Then there are those with adaptable personality traits are quite open minded to people’s opinions. They are also receptive to change. And because they are people oriented, they are easily liked.
Those people possessing any of these two traits may not feature much in politics. This is because they do not see themselves better than others.
What are the consequences of a politician suffering from mental health issues while in office?
Personality disorders interfere with everyday life and come with functional limitations. It also comes with poor health and poor quality of life.
When elected officials experience strain it affects their decision making. And sometimes they are made to handle emergency situations which they did not foresee.
Politicians with mental health issues who are not adequately handled, they can make catastrophic decisions for their countries. Some may end up plunging their countries into wars, into economic blunders, etc.
As a political leader, a narcissist will treat the society as he treats his children. Narcissists are authoritarian in nature and are the only ones that make the decision. They will manipulate the members of the society to satisfy their expectations. And since the narcissist cannot be a good parent, they cannot be good leaders.
Research has shown that the narcissists do not make competent leaders and they have numerous negative effects on the society that they lead.
Also research has shown that many Nigerian politicians are in the habit o self service, whereby they pursue personal goals at the expense of national issues. This self aggrandizement has produced the present corruption in Nigeria.
Corrupt practices are more with the politicians possessing NPD and dissocial personality disorder. And if those that are more engaged in Nigerian politics are narcissist, then the Nigerian democracy is in trouble.
The politicians with OCPD have fear of failure, so they spend too much time at work. And due to those that procrastinate a lot, work and policies are delayed, while some will never be passed.
Politicians suffering from mental health issues like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, etc. are affected by the limitations of the diseases. Thus good governance becomes impossible. And those who suffer from mental illness and personality disorders are at risk of substance abuse.
Should politicians vying for public office be subjected to mental health screening?
The issue of the politicians’ mental health in Nigeria has not really been seriously looked into. And subjecting public office holder politicians to mental health screening is still being debated. Some people believe that they should be screened just as pilots and those in the forces are being screened. Others believe that the screening is not necessary.
What is the way forward for the public office holder politician with mental health issues?
Actually, the electorate can help make the jobs of politicians easy. First of all, choosing the right candidate for the job should start at the primaries. So the best and strong person should be picked at this stage. This is where mental health screening could be of utmost importance.
Work timing should be reassessed. And cutting down on unnecessary travels, and using electronic gadgets to communicate in meetings, etc. is of utmost importance.
Treatment should be embarked on from the psychiatrist and the clinical psychologist, etc. The psychiatrist will make use of medications, while the clinical psychologist uses counseling, psychotherapy, etc.
Politicians’ Mental Health in Nigeria.