The rise of political stress syndrome

The rise of political stress syndrome

Emotions caused by political stress are called political stress syndrome.
Emotions caused by political stress are called political stress syndrome.

As Thailand's new government formation will significantly impact numerous people, most are following the matter closely. However, the effort to stay informed has caused stress to both supporters of pro-democracy parties and those in favour of the junta and conservative parties.

Since people are showing a great interest in the current political situation, many broadcast and online programmes try to feature politicians on their shows. Moddam Kachapa, a well-known TV host, revealed that ratings of his talk show TV programme Chae were higher than usual after presenting topics related to politics. Due to increased supply and demand, the media has been overwhelmed with political content. Moreover, mobile phones and social media platforms make it easy to access news every minute and a short time after events occur.

As a result, many people who have consumed too much of this type of news feel stressed, and I am one of them. A "friend" on social media mentioned she wanted to consult a therapist about a personal issue, but the therapist had been fully booked for several weeks because many people wanted consultations due to political stress. On social media, I discovered people saying they were depressed due to the updates on the political situation.

One person confessed that his family, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, were stressed because the party they voted for had encountered an unfair situation. Another person wrote she wanted to put a curse on people who were the cause of the country's sorry state of affairs and wished that those people would experience physical and mental illness. Another posted he currently had to take medication after experiencing disappointment and high-stress levels. Another person expressed if there is true justice, voters would not feel so stressed.

These emotions are called Political Stress Syndrome. According to the Mor Prom app created by the Department of Mental Health (DMH), Ministry of Public Health, Political Stress Syndrome (PSS) is not a disorder caused by mental health issues, but rather a reaction of emotions and thoughts that occurs within people who are interested in political issues, closely monitoring the situation, or leaning towards a particular group. This leads to physical and psychological conditions and impacts interpersonal relationships.

The Mor Prom app stated that PSS features three key characteristics -- physical conditions, mental conditions, and behavioural issues and interpersonal relationships with others. Dr Apichat Jariyavilas, a DMH spokesperson, explained that PSS's physical conditions include not being able to sleep, difficulty sleeping, physical pain and headaches. The condition of people who already have a chronic illness may worsen if they experience a lot of stress.

Mental conditions involve negative emotions such as obsession, sadness, irritability, desperation and anger without reason. PSS impacts interpersonal relationships, often resulting in arguments with other people and even family members. The arguments can lead to physical violence, resulting in relationship problems.

As someone who has been affected by the ongoing political situation, I noticed that people following political news for long hours develop stress, disappointment and sometimes hopelessness. The negative emotions even impacted my own relationships with family members who have different political viewpoints. To cope with PSS, Dr Amporn Benjaponpitak, director-general of the DMH, advised that people should practise mindfulness and evaluate their mental state. People who wish to evaluate their current mental state can take the Mental Health Check In test at

Dr Amporn also advises people should schedule an appropriate timeframe to update themselves on the news each day. The psychiatrist mentioned that while some people can spend four to five hours per day consuming news, others may feel one hour is enough. Dr Apichat explained that consuming political news can bring stress and irritation because people have their personal expectations and sometimes opposing views of the news being broadcast. The DMH spokesperson added that, in addition to mental health, keeping up with political news can have impacts on physical health. Some people focus on the news so intently that they do not eat properly or skip meals. Also, maintaining certain postures for a long period of time while engrossed in watching or reading political news can cause physical pain, aches or even injury.

Dr Amporn suggested that when feeling irritated, people should talk to their close friends or family members who are willing to listen to them. If they do not have someone who they can share their feelings with, they should seek professional help.

Dr Varoth Chotpitayasunondh, another DMH spokesperson and child and adolescent psychiatrist, commented that young people may become more emotional about political news, but young people still can drive the country if they can control their own emotions. By doing so, they can avoid feeling disappointed or discouraged to the point where they no longer want to be involved in politics. Dr Varoth also told adults that they should be role models for their children. When adults are upset by the news, they should not take out their anger on other people. When adults feel pleased with the news, they should not mock people who have different viewpoints from them.

One of my favourite comments from a social media user suggests that "psychiatrists should cure people with power because they have an obsession for power. If those who are power crazy are cured, the country will be better off". Unfortunately, this will never happen. It will take time to form a new government, especially the one people hope to have. In the meantime, citizens must give priority to their physical and mental health and be prepared for the time when change may come.

Suwitcha Chaiyong is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Suwitcha Chaiyong

Feature writer for the Life section

Suwitcha Chaiyong is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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