Published on October 24, 2016

Election stress disorder is a real thingElection stress disorder is a real thing

261For many of us, the end to the 2016 presidential race cannot come soon enough. We have two candidates with the lowest approval ratings in history. The steady stream of insults and accusations are adding stress to our already busy lives, leading one psychologist to give it an official disease designation: election stress disorder.

If you find yourself in a chronically worried state, know that you are not alone.

Last week, the American Psychological Association (APA) released the findings of a survey which specifically measured election stress among Americans. The annual Stress in America™ survey included the election for the first time in its 10-year history.

Health Consequences of Stress

Being under duress can cause the release of chemicals and hormones into the bloodstream that are normally reserved for our innate “fight or flight” response, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Over time, the presence of these substances can impact your mind and body in ways that might surprise you.

Chronic stress can impair your immune system, making you more prone to colds and flu-like illnesses. It also can cause:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Irritability

Left untreated, chronic stress can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorder, and other illnesses, according to the NIH.

Stress Management Tips

With just two weeks left, there are things that you can do if you are finding the election stressful.

Pat Durgin, director of Cape Cod Healthcare’s “partial hospital”, or day treatment center for mental health, advises her patients to limit screen time.

“The single best thing you can do is, turn off the television and get off social media,” she said. “With a 24-hour news cycle, now debated and argued endlessly on social media sites, stress can be exacerbated.”

This is a sentiment echoed in the Stress in America ™ survey, where 54 percent of adults who use social media said that the current political and cultural discussions online are a somewhat or significant source of stress.

Durgin has a few other tips to help us get through the remainder of the 2016 election season:

  • If you have to be online, seek out content that is optimistic in nature.
  • Block people who are bringing negativity into your world.
  • Stay socially connected to people around you, in person.
  • Avoid isolation when there is an endless cycle of bad news.
  • Laughter is the best medicine-seek out humor by watching a Seinfeld rerun or something like that to lighten your mood.
  • Get outside and feel a connection to nature- take a walk by the ocean every day.
  • Practice gratitude, including giving yourself you own affirmation.
  • Be mindful of the space you occupy each day and the people you are surrounded by.
  • Work to change negative thoughts. It takes practice, but can be effective.

Stress Level Is Non-Partisan

The APA survey was conducted between August 5 and August 31 of this year. It included 3,511 resident adults 18 years and older who participated in an online psychological survey. It included both English and Spanish-speaking participants.

election-stress-generationThe survey was weighted to better reflect the demographics of the country.

When it comes to the current election, Democrats and Republicans report statistically similar levels of stress. Fifty-five percent of registered Democrats and 59 percent of registered Republicans said that the election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress.

“We’re seeing that it doesn’t matter whether you’re registered as a Democrat or Republican — U.S. adults say they are experiencing significant stress from the current election,” said Lynn Bufka, PhD, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, in an APA press release.

Like party affiliation, gender doesn’t seem to matter either. Fifty-one percent of men and 52 percent of women share the same view that the 2016 presidential election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress.

As a group, people with disabilities report the highest numbers of those who are feeling election stress. Six in 10 (60 percent) said that election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, compared to 48 percent of those who do not have disabilities.

And with so much discussion around immigration, it may not be surprising that Hispanics (56%) had the next highest numbers reporting the election to be a somewhat or very significant source of stress. They were followed by whites (52%), Native Americans (52%), blacks (46%), and Asians (43%).

Half of all generations report that this election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress. And while it may be refreshing to know that young voters are paying attention to politics, this election is weighing heavily on them too. Fifty-six percent of the Millennials (ages 19 to 37) report that the election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress. The only other age group to surpass them is the Matures (age 71 and older), with 59 percent acknowledging that the election is a very or a somewhat significant source of stress.

But, take heart America. It won’t be long before you can cross election stress off your worry list. November 8 is just around the corner.