Post-election stress disorder is most intense after political frustrations; see how to deal

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Seeing the chosen candidate lose or be unexpectedly taken to another round – whether due to false expectations or a very close race – is a risk factor that can worsen voters’ mental health.

The conclusions are from US researchers who evaluated 500,000 adults during the 2016 US elections. The result was published in October 2020 with the warning that the process for choosing a representative could affect public mental health. experts heard by Sheet have already pointed out how the race to the polls can create situations of anguish and anxiety. This year, they observe a worsening in the picture.

In Brazil, the so-called post-election stress disorder was already felt by Brazilians in 2018 with the polarization of the elections. The worsening observed during this year’s process should worsen after the results of this Sunday (2).

Lula (PT), the candidate nominated in the polls with the possibility of being elected in the first round, and President Jair Bolsonaro (PL), were confirmed for a second round of voting.

The work conducted by American universities and published in the Journal General Internal of Medicine, showed that voters of the candidate who loses have an immediate worsening in mental health.

The American Psychological Association found, in another survey, that 81% of adults in the US reported in 2020 that the nation’s political future was a significant source of stress. In January 2017, the rate was 66%.

Doctor Rodrigo Huguet, a member of the board of the AMP (Associação Mineira de Psiquiatria), observes more extreme emotional reactions of anxiety, anguish and anger during the 2022 electoral process.

These emotions, according to the professional, are normal and even necessary for those looking for solutions. When they persist, however, they generate significant suffering, interfere in the person’s quality of life and even in the functionality of the person – a moment in which specialized treatment should be sought.

One strategy to deal with this is to “de-catastrophize” the theme. “It is important to question the thought that it will be the ‘end of Brazil’ if the candidate that the person doesn’t like is elected. This narrative is just a strategy to win votes. The democratic process foresees alternation of power and every four years we have new elections “, says the doctor.

The disorder can manifest as physical strain of the shoulders from stress, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, fear, hypervigilance, anxiety, extreme worry, insomnia, social isolation, anger and depression, as well as an obsession with updates and news.

Disproportionate anxiety about politics can be interpreted by the brain as a survival reaction manifested by extreme fear. For this reason, if the person doesn’t feel safe to leave the house, shuts up for fear of retaliation at home or in the family, or feels unfoundedly persecuted for political issues, it’s time to seek professional help.

Logistics coordinator Pedro Brandão, 28, from Niterói (RJ), does not undergo therapy, but is thinking of seeking medical help this year if his preferred candidate is not elected, as, according to him, this will bring him a feeling of sadness and helplessness. great.

“Mental health is much more eroded after a pandemic,” says Brandão, who this year did not publicly declare his vote for fear of reports of political violence in Brazil.

Journalist Thamires Marciano da Conceição, 27, lost her best friend as a result of Covid-19 and her job in 2021, events that increased her anxiety about the results of the election.

“I had depression and took anxiolytics for two years. Since then I have been in therapy. But after the pandemic, everyone around me was also more tired, irritated and anxious, whether due to grief or job instability”, he reports.

Clinical psychologist Luckas Reis, a business consultant at Vittude and a master’s student in social and work psychology at USP (University of São Paulo), says that suffering is the main indicator that something is not right in mental health, and the way in which politics has a direct impact on the subjectivity of individuals and the population.

For him, the difference in 2022 is the accumulation of experiences in relation to fake news, Covid-19 and the political violence of recent days, factors that caused the increase in the number of people with mental suffering and the intensity of their symptoms.

“Today, to build this political argument, regardless of the side, we seek to mobilize affections related to this sensitivity that the pandemic left. of suffering”, points out Reis.

The effect of the circulation of fake news and the breaking of important ties in the last elections also increase this vulnerability, although in 2022 part will be better prepared to deal with it.

“I have patients experiencing post-traumatic stress due to political experiences they have had as victims or being close to the attacks, but there is a suffering of what has already happened and a suffering of what will happen”, he says.

Some ways to deal with the extreme effects of elections on mental health are not isolating yourself, paying attention to your own body and thoughts, connecting with topics you have more control over, and setting daily limits for news and social media, in addition to try to empathize with the other and seek therapeutic help if necessary.

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