Sun, Dec 12, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Psychiatrists say results nothing to get depressed over

While it is normal to be upset if your side loses, counseling may be needed if a funk lingers too long

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

As the roiling legislative election came to and a heart-stopper yesterday, psychiatrists urged disheartened voters to seek counseling if they go into a depression over the poll results that lasts longer than seven days.

"Every time there is a nationwide election, we have more patients knocking at the door in the following days," said Lee Ming-been (李明濱), the superintendent of the Taipei City Psychiatric Center.

"An election will not cause illness, but it could trigger underlying mental problems. People with a history of depression or anxiety disorders are especially prone to flare up at times of high stress or intense events such as a legislative election," Lee said.

According to Lee, those who are disappointed or enraged by elections are likely to develop headaches, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, muscle aches and other physical symptoms. Feelings of overwhelming sadness or fear, or the inability to feel emotion are common in such people.

"It is normal for people in a politically frenzied society to have stress reactions," Lee said, "But once these symptoms aggravate and disrupt a person's daily activities longer than a week, that person may develop an adjustment disorder. In that case, psychiatric counseling or medication is needed."

Lighten up

Other psychiatrists are advising people to take the election results more lightly.

"Most people upset by elections are extremists who belong to the two poles of Taiwan's political spectrum. They are either deep-blues who yearn for unification with China or deep-greens who believe that the only path for Taiwan is immediate independence," said Daniel Lai (賴德仁), chairperson of the psychiatric department of the Chung Shan Medical University Hospital in Taichung.

"They tend to think that a single event can turn the world upside down," Lai said.

Psychiatrists sometimes become political analysts as they try to convince their patients not to worry about election results.

"We can pacify them only after we have persuaded them that there will be no big change to our national policy or current status quo after the election," Lai said.

As an example, he mentioned a schizophrenic patient who has hallucinations that speeches by former president Lee Tung-hui (李登輝) and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) are addressed to him alone.

"The patient, with his deep-rooted affiliation with the Chinese Nationalist Party, doesn't dare turn on TV these days," Lai said. "Medication is not enough to treat this kind of patient. You must persuade them that no matter who wins, no one will hold grudge against him."

Mainlander despair

Wang Hao-wei (王浩威), the executive director of the Taiwan Institute of Psychotherapy, said that some Mainlanders have become fearful.

"After the presidential and the last legislative elections, some Mainlanders came to my diagnosis room very disgruntled about the results. They felt their power has been eroded and there is a pervading sense of despair," Wang said.

He said that a sense of crisis common in people depressed or infuriated by election results. "This is partly due to some candidates' sensationalistic language. Some demagogues create a sense of crisis in a bid to garner votes. The sense of crisis may linger on in politically sensitive patients," he said. "The election will pass, and everything will return to normal in due course -- we have said these words countless times," Lee said.

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