Hollywood Therapists Reveal Industry Trump Trauma: "You'll See More Panic Attacks"

Illustration by Peter Arkle

All the mental health experts THR consulted after Donald Trump was elected agree that the population of this blue city is suffering from mood indigo and anxiety and offer tips for recovery.

Some Hollywood psychologists are recommending deep breathing exercises. Others are suggesting just stepping away from political news for a while. But all the mental health experts The Hollywood Reporter consulted after Donald Trump was elected agree that the population of this blue city is suffering from mood indigo and anxiety.

"One woman told me, 'I just keep pulling over to the side of the road and bursting into tears,' " says Larry Shaw, an L.A. psychotherapist who treats producers, screenwriters and other professionals. The reactions people are having go beyond the usual disappointment and upset felt by their candidate losing an election. "Trump is such an unknown factor and is so inconsistent. Nobody knows where the ground is; they can't find footing."

Clinical psychologist Philip Pierce says he was swamped with complaints from patients after Trump won. "It's a traumatic experience," he says. "The level of threat — or perceived threat — has gone up. I think you'll see an increase in panic attacks." Beyond general dissociative anxiety, some therapists say that the election also has been a trigger for patients with authority issues going back to their childhoods. "[Trump] has triggered certain responses of inadequacy from patients, and a lot of times the people that I see have had very authoritarian fathers," explains Shaw. "Trump can be seen as this really intense father figure."

To battle anxiety, Pierce suggests diaphragmatic breathing — breaths from your stomach rather than your chest — and increased social contact. If you find yourself obsessing, "note the thoughts and refocus the thoughts on other activities that are compelling," he said.

Historically disenfranchised groups may feel even more vulnerable, given Trump's rhetoric and campaign promises. Muslims, African Americans, Latinos and LGBTQ people have reported hundreds of hate crimes and incidents of harassment following Trump's win. Shaw said his LGBTQ clients are "scared" not necessarily that Trump is going to enact legislation against them, but that he will inspire negative feelings about LGBTQ people to spread across the country. Pierce said one of his clients, a successful black gay man, felt threatened for the first time since his childhood.

National suicide hotlines also have seen an uptick in calls since the election. The LGBT-focused Trevor Project reported a "huge increase" in calls following the election. The Crisis Text Line also saw an increase in volume, reporting that the words "election" and "scared" were the top two mentioned by texters Nov. 9. The most common association with "scared" was "LGBTQ."

Sexual assault survivors may also be triggered given the language Trump has used and the long list of women who have accused him of sexual assault. Therapists mentioned that their Latino and black clients were worried about what to tell their children, some of who are concerned they or their parents will be deported or "sent back to Africa."

Psychotherapist Mari Murao said some of her clients have seen Trump's win as a challenge to their sense of safety. However, she was surprised by how well her long-term clients handled their fear. She said that in her experience, minority women, class-disadvantaged people, LGBT people, were successfully implementing the tactics she has taught them.

"All of these people have already been dealing with this kind of discrimination," said Murao. She said marginalized groups long have had to work on overcoming racism, sexism, classism and homophobia in everyday life. "These things that Trump is saying, there has been an undercurrent and a place for these ideas in American culture already. He's just brought these things to light."

Murao said many of her clients pointed out that "giving in to fear is what brought this election to this conclusion" so they are looking toward socially constructive action to make the country better. She said some of them are glad these issues have been brought to light, so they can work on enacting change.

Seeing this election as a call to action can be helpful. "After the shock, it's really: How can these individuals and this country come together to change and connect?" says Shaw. "I have faith in the process of resilience and humanity."

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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