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  • Writer's pictureIsabella Maire

Political Polarization and Mental Health: Bridging the Divide

It’s almost election season and we know that can bring unique stressors into our lives. Read the following blog to learn how we as mental health providers address political polarization at our practice in Orem, Utah.

Vote political polarization

Note:

In this blog we hope to address the conflict and the mental health impacts of increasing political polarization in the United States. Some political issues and movements can negatively impact others. We as a practice do not support any political issues or movements that discriminate, threaten, or harm others.


What is political polarization?

Political polarization references the growing divide between people who believe in and support different political ideologies, groups, or parties.


What are some examples of political polarization?

  • You stop reaching out to family members because they voted a certain way.

  • You argue constantly with strangers about your political beliefs.

  • You become isolated from others who don’t share your political views.

  • Politicians are unable to pass legislation because they are unwilling to work with other leaders with different ideologies.

  • It becomes difficult to find unbiased news information, as much of it is presented using partisan lenses.

How does Political Polarization effect our mental health?

The relationships we have with others influences how connected we feel with one another and the amount of support we can rely on. When relationships between friends and families are broken by political polarization, it can negatively impact our mental health.


Politics are often based on ideas of morality and not agreeing with your loved ones on approached to political problems can also cause issues with your self confidence and ability to share your feelings openly in relationships.


What do we as mental health professionals do to work with and address political polarization?


A main focus of therapists at our practice in Orem, Utah to combat political polarization is addressing the black and white thinking patterns that create political polarization. According to Hailey Maire, LCSW, “Polarized thinking comes from crisis feelings, and wanting things to be black and white in order to feel safety. We do it in all aspects of life, but especially with politics where there are so many nuances and little things and big things we don’t understand”.

black and white tunnel representing black and white thinking patters

Black and white thinking is also classified as a cognitive distortion, which is a way of thinking that negatively impacts your mental health, creating anxiety and fear. Many approaches to therapy, including CBT challenge these thinking patterns in order to resolve some of our anxieties and stressors.


Example of using CBT to challenge black and white thinking in politics:


Jenna is in an argument with her parents, yet again, about the upcoming election. She can’t believe her parents are supporting a candidate that she opposes for various reasons. When talking to her roommate, Jenna says, “My parents don’t care about me or any of my friends at all or else they would vote how we are voting. I can’t trust them and I don’t think I want to spend time with them anymore”. Thinking about being separated from her parents makes Jenna feel very upset.


The phrase, “My parents don’t care about me or any of my friends at all,” uses black and white thinking. Jenna’s parents probably care about Jenna and how people will be effected by this issue. They may be taking other factors into account over how the policy effects Jenna and her friends, but it isn’t all or nothing. They can both care about Jenna and her friends AND vote in a different way than Jenna will vote in that election.


What are ways you can help address political polarization?


Think about your political beliefs. Then think about your relationships. Have any of your relationships suffered because of political polarization and black and white thinking? Make room in your life for nuance and draw boundaries in how you communicate with other about politics. You can still be passionate about politics, advocate for others, and maintain relationships with people who vote differently than you.

family hiking together

Note:

Repeated from the beginning of the blog: In this blog we hope to address the conflict and the mental health impacts of increasing political polarization in the United States. Some political issues and movements can negatively impact others. We as a practice do not support any political issues or movements that discriminate, threaten, or harm others.







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