You may not have heard of the phenomenon, but if you’re a member of a certain large percentage of the country, you might be experiencing it: election stress, or post-election stress.
Photo Credit: Christina Morrillo
Since 2016, many Americans have experienced what they describe as PTSD-like; the after-effects of a shocking election and aftermath that nobody could have predicted. With major change comes upset and disillusionment, and for marginalized Americans, even grief and extreme fear.
This phenomenon is so widespread it even has a name among some psychology professionals: Post Election Stress Disorder, or PESD. The term, coined in 2017, refers to Americans and others who feel a deep sense of loss, fear, anxiety and confusion over the results of the latest election, and whose symptoms manifest in ways that aren’t easily manageable. The symptoms are similar to PTSD, just milder: a sense of loss, depression or despair, feelings of anxiousness about the future, panic attacks, short-temper, and even some physical symptoms, such as tight muscles, neck pain, teeth grinding and headaches.
It’s no surprise that concerned citizens, watching the results of the election play out over the last three years, are feeling more than their share of anxiety and desolation over the state of the country. The fears about issues such as immigration, women’s rights, health insurance, and the huge issue of climate change are all valid and real. People also struggle with how to navigate the complicated familial relationships between those who might have voted differently; how best to cope with the minefield that is family? How to deal with the trauma of coming face to face with someone carrying a gun in public? What to do if you’re afraid a LGBTQ loved one may face discrimination? These are just a few of the issues that people with PESD worry about daily.
But beyond doing their part to vote in every election, what can be done to help these citizens control their anxieties and fears, and go on with their lives with some semblance of happiness and security?
Surprisingly, since the 2016 election, there has been a surge of professional psychologists and counselors to emerge, specializing in the area of post-election stress. These mental health professionals are helping those in need learn coping skills to deal with the complicated emotions, fears and physical symptoms they are experiencing post-election. The number of Americans who have begun seeing a therapist or counselor to deal with their feelings post-election is a rather large number, so it’s no surprise that mental health professionals are fine-tuning their services to accommodate them.
If you’ve been on the fence about obtaining a degree in professional counseling, now is the time! Therapists, counselors and psychologists are in high-demand, especially in the areas of PTSD and PESD. If you’ve always thought about becoming a guiding force for someone, using your top-notch listening and solution-finding skills to good use, you might be a great professional counselor.
If this is something you’re interested in, you’ll be pleased to find that there are many accredited universities in the United States who are offering a Masters in Counseling, with a specialty in this area, including Bradley University and other respected institutions. Best of all, you can complete your courses online, at your convenience and from the comfort and privacy of your home.
Seeing a therapist isn’t a magic cure - of course your fears and anxieties will remain, as they should, during any trying time. Having a little fear is good - it keeps us moving and protecting ourselves. But for someone who simply can’t cope for their fears and anxieties, seeing a professional counselor can help tremendously. The coping skills they provide to their patients are worth their weight in gold. Sometimes just being able to sit and express your feelings and fears can help more than anything. That’s where you come in!
As we approach the 2020 election, these fears and anxieties may ramp up further, whipped into a frenzy by a media desperate for page clicks and views. The best course of action would be to turn it off, turn over the screen, shut out the stress when you can. Self-care is important and you should know your limits. But if you’re reeling and can’t rein yourself in, and you think you may need a professional to help you parse through your feelings of PESD, consider professional counseling to get you through these trying times. Even better, why not obtain your professional counseling degree and make it your mission to help others?