I’m a 22-year-old gay male and I’m a little too deep into election news. I can’t get enough of the news, information online, and newspaper and magazine articles. I follow the polls like a stalker, hoping that my favored candidate is ahead. If we get another anti-gay President, I’m going to scream. How do I deal with my election obsession?
I think it’s great that as a young voter you’re deeply interested in this year’s election and all the theatrics leading up to it. Being an active member of the community does my middle-aged heart good that the younger generation cares about our political future as a gay community.
But from a mental-health angle, you sound both anxious and obsessed – which are not pleasant states of mind to be in, let alone for weeks or months at a time. To understand yourself, I think you need to ask yourself why the outcomes of the primaries and election are important to you. What are you afraid will happen if your desired candidate doesn’t win? What are you hoping will happen if they do? When did these values become important to you?
Being a “concerned citizen” and still maintaining optimum mental health requires a delicate balance between working for the collective good and looking out for yourself. One without the other would leave you “imbalanced” in your life. Too much time spent absorbing too much information about the election process, where you neglect important other elements of your life such as your work, family, friends, health, diet, exercise, relaxation and just plain fun, would be defeating the purpose of working for a better world through the political process.
One source of depression is when a person desperately wants to change a situation, but is unable to do so. This sense of helplessness fuels depressive feelings. Therefore, the “antidote” to this depression is to combat helplessness. I always say, “Action is the Antidote to Anxiety.” Ask yourself, what can you DO that would make you feel better about the election process? Maybe you donate whatever you can afford (and no more!) to the campaign of your chosen candidate. Maybe you contact their local campaign office and choose one or two volunteer activities to do. Maybe you “feel out” your friends to see who might join you in your efforts. You do your part and then – this is key – you LET IT GO, knowing that you’ve done your part and it’s time to devote your resources of time, energy, and money to the other things in your life – such as family, friends, work, and recreational activities – that are important, too.
If you try these and these feelings persist, you might need to explore them more formally in therapy, and you might need to discuss with a therapist how a person copes with intrusive, obsessive thoughts that may be a symptom of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which can be treated with therapy, medication, or both.