Whether supporting President Barack Obama or Governor Mitt Romney, this year’s election will take people on a rollercoaster of emotions from elation to anger depending on the results. Harris Health System psychiatrist Dr. Asim Shah is prescribing a strong dose of no TV, radio, social media and Internet coverage to help with post-election blues.
“People need to be more accepting and less emotional about the results and realize that, in the short-term the election will not affect them,” Shah, chief of Psychiatry at Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital and associate professor of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. “If you wake up and go to work or take your child to school the next day, you will still need to do those things as part of your life after the election.”
Elections are emotionally charged events that affect people differently. For those who are more invested, the results could affect their mental health and well-being. It’s natural to feel something after an election.
However, for some, the election blues will be difficult.
Shah says emotional reactions are normal and expected, but people with bouts of depression, anger and anxiety that last more than two weeks and cause functional impairments should seek medical care. He warns that people with outbursts tinged with threats of harming oneself or others also should be referred for help.
In 2004, Taiwan faced a hotly contested election. It affected the population greatly, Shah says. Psychiatrists later diagnosed about 10 percent of the population with depression and anxiety and subsequently coined the phrase — post-election stress syndrome.
“You don’t see a lot of people who are able to accept a decision so quickly that goes against them,” Shah says. “And just telling people on the losing side, ‘Oh don’t worry, everything will be OK,’ doesn’t help. It just might make things worse.”
Recommendations for dealing with election blues:
• Turn off all TV, radio and Internet coverage (if necessary, listen only to non-partisan coverage)
• Avoid conflict by not bringing up the topic
• Change topic when it comes up
• Realize that things aren’t changing in the short-term no matter who wins
• Concentrate on day-to-day activities that are part of life
Shah recommends giving people time to come to terms with the outcome. Enjoy activities like exercising, watching comedies, cooking, gardening or sporting events to distract from politics.
Additionally, avoid the problem of comfort eating, a habit that could easily add pounds or make one unhealthy as they try to cope with the results.
As a general rule, Shah subscribes to the idea of never mixing friendships with any discussions of sensitive topics like politics and religion.
“You save a lot of friendships and relationships that way,” he adds.