In a final pre-election New York Times/CBS News Poll, the vast majority of voters are appalled by the state of American politics, and many doubt that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump can bring unity to the country after a grim campaign.
So even though the election will conclude on Tuesday (hopefully), it is likely to create an enormous sense of hopelessness and helplessness that is not going away any time soon, says Steven Dubovsky, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo and an expert on human trauma.
“This election will have profound effects on the American psyche and our behavior way beyond Tuesday,” says Dubovsky.
“This campaign has consisted of two candidates attacking each other and people feel like they are voting for the lesser of two evils,” he says. “That generates depression and helplessness.
“When we have our most prominent leaders standing up saying how much they hate each other constantly that has very profound effects on the American psyche and on our behavior.”
Members of the public tend to view our leaders as parent figures, Dubovsky says, and when parents fight, devalue one another and dismiss everything the other person has to say, people start to feel very insecure.
That feeling of insecurity leads to depression, he says. People get depressed when they feel helpless and when they feel like they have no control over their own environment.
“When you look at broken homes where parents hate each other’s guts and bad mouth each other, kids end up feeling like they have to choose a side,” Dubovsky says. “That is what we are doing in America with this election. We are in an intellectually unsatisfying position where we have to pick a side and this leaves us feeling angry, depressed and hopeless.”