Routine decisions are crises. The whole legislature suffers panic attacks. Is there a clinical term for these emotional difficulties?
Lately, the U.S. Congress has had more and more trouble with its everyday life.
It has turned routine decisions into gigantic meltdowns, with stalemates over the Bush tax cuts, the funding of the federal government, the national debt limit, and, now, the funding of the federal government again. It is having trouble at work. Emotional conflict abounds.
Friends, Congress needs help. The dysfunctional symptoms are all there:
- Congress suffers panic attacks when faced with commonplace decisions, failing to make them until the last minute
- It treats regular, expected events as crises
- Congress has a terrible time managing its money
- It refuses to accept advice, as the public consistently tells Congress to get its act together
So what's wrong with Congress, in clinical terms? AllPsych.org's summary of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th. Edition, the definitive professional guide, offers some promising leads.
First, Panic Disorder:
Often the symptoms of this disorder come on rapidly and without an identifiable stressor. The individual may have had periods of high anxiety in the past, or may have been involved in a recent stressful situation. The underlying causes, however, are typically subtle.
Panic Disorder is characterized by sudden attacks of intense fear or anxiety, usually associated with numerous physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, rapid breathing or shortness of breath, blurred vision, dizziness, and racing thoughts. Often these symptoms are thought to be a heart attack by the individual, and many cases are diagnosed in hospital emergency rooms.
Although medication can be useful, psychotherapy (especially behavioral and cognitive/behavioral approaches have proved quite successful). The key to treatment is accepting the panic attacks as psychological rather than physical (once these causes have been ruled out by a physician), practicing relaxation exercises, and working through the underlying issues.
Prognosis for this disorder is very good if the above conditions are met. Left untreated, however, symptoms can worsen and Agoraphobia can develop. In these cases, the individual has developed such an intense fear that leaving the safety of home feels impossible.
Makes sense. Every couple months, Congress flips out without a reasonable stimulus. Simple budget decisions trigger fight-or-flight reflexes, manifested by a lot of screeching for the goal of partisan self-preservation.