According to a report not yet released, the Council on Science and Public Health of the American Medical Association has recommended that a chronic and widespread affliction of Americans be officially declared a psychiatric disorder. It has been named the Political Attention Deficit Disorder (PADD). It is recommended that the disorder be included in a widely used mental illness manual created and published by the American Psychiatric Association. The current manual was published in 1994; the next edition is to be completed in 2012. The benefit to people of an official classification is coverage by health insurance.
“The symptoms of PADD are all around us and treating it professionally can do more for our country than any election,” said Dr. Mable Wank in the report’s introduction; she is chairwoman of the Council and a professor at UCLA.
Here are the Council’s main findings on PADD:
Nearly 80 percent of adult American citizens are unable to pay sustained attention to issues and problems associated with their government. They are unable to accept their responsibility as citizens, including their obligation to vote, read in-depth articles and books on political issues, become active members of politically oriented groups, and initiate discussions on current events with friends and family. “The decades-old decline in voter turnout is a direct result of a national epidemic of PADD,” said the report.
The chief cause of PADD is the desire to avoid the very real pain of cognitive dissonance, the difference between what Americans want to believe about the greatness of their country and the disturbing reality that their government and country are in terrible shape, which is a constant reminder when there is normal, healthy political attention. Such pain suppression, however, is counterproductive and was found through careful studies at several universities, including the Harvard Medical College, to correlate with depression and anxiety disorders, as well as a heightened level of cynicism and despair. According to the report, many suicides and possibly many criminal acts result from PADD.
Another consequence of PADD is that people devote more of their time, energy and money to pleasure-seeking distractions. PADD is correlated with profound statistical significance to clinical symptoms such as obesity, alcoholism, drug addiction, video game addiction, Internet addiction, sexual promiscuity, excessive shopping, gambling addiction, and other harmful behaviors.
The report profiles a person severely afflicted by PADD. The psychiatrists unanimously concluded that George W. Bush is a PADD victim. Symptoms include no desire to pursue major and contentious policy issues through in-depth reading, discussion and analysis; a clear dependence on others for policy decisions, particularly Vice President Cheney; an inability to maintain sustained focus on diverse policy issues simultaneously; and an inability to articulate policy. The widespread public perception that Bush is unintelligent, uninformed and dogmatic stems from his PADD, concluded the Council. “He needs immediate, emergency therapy for his PADD; that might help get us out of Iraq,” said Dr. Wank.
Reached by phone, Dr. Aaron Gestaltstein, a Council member and psychiatrist with the Michigan Institute for the Study of Individual and Societal Health, said the AMA proposal will help raise awareness and called it “the right thing to do if the United States is ever to regain effective government and equitable public policies.” “Sick Americans deserve compassionate treatment if our country is to survive – PADD is no joke,” he added.
“I saw a college-educated man last month who was so depressed about the Bush Administration – yet he could no longer read newspapers, watch cable news shows or visit news and commentary websites. He was spending virtually all of his non-work time visiting pornography websites and eating at Chinese buffets,” Gestaltstein said. “He is a terrible mess and swears he will never vote again.”
The challenge for psychiatrists treating PADD patients, as noted in the Council’s report, is to help Americans fully integrate political attention into their lives. Their discomfort and hopelessness must be changed into positive behaviors. Friends and relatives of PADD victims are urged to get them to join public interest groups working for the betterment of American government and society, such as Friends of the Article V Convention at www.foavc.org.
[Joel S. Hirschhorn’s new book is Delusional Democracy www.delusionaldemocracy.com; he is a founder of Friends of the Article V Convention www.foavc.org.]