Post-poll performance pangs plague politicians

Polling in the Lok Sabha elections is long over, but politicians across parties are still trying to cope with the stress of performance. City psychiatrists have seen a rise in the number of leaders seeking out help since the polls.

A few politicians are suffering from the Messiah complex, extreme stress due to the belief that she or he could be the saviour of the country. 

A clinical psychologist at a private health establishment, who requested anonymity, said a few top leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party are suffering from this. “This is common when you have several responsibilities thrust on yourself,” said the psychologist.

However, this complex is not specific to politicians, and shows up in individuals who diametrically oppose them. People who throw shoes at politicians or manhandle them in protest against the existing political scenario also suffer from it. 

“It is believed that V P Singh (India’s seventh prime minister) suffered from the Messiah complex. To cope with it, one should remember that even very successful leaders have avoided inculcating such beliefs, knowing their limitations. This condition can be extremely frustrating,” said Dr Nimesh Desai, Director of Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences.

Generally, people suffering from this complex fail to realise ground-realities. “Political leaders suffering from the Messiah complex do not realise it and therefore do not seek medical help. It only becomes apparent at a much later stage,” said Dr Rajiv Mehta, Senior Consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

Studies in India show that leaders of the highest political stature have shown severe vulnerability to stress during and after elections.

“The highest political functionaries suffer from stress because the stakes are higher for them. They are constantly in the limelight and under scrutiny of other social groups—especially the media,” said Dr Desai.Anxiety, depression and the fear of “uncertainty” are other destabilising factors.

“Politicians are always living in fear of uncertainty, which is harmful for their well being. They do not know whether voters’ support is only an eyewash. Also, they are used to a life of decision-making and being addicted to power,” said clinical psychologist Dr Aruna Broota.

With increasing stress, politicians are at a higher risk of suffering from low blood supply, which directly affects their cardiac and respiratory systems.

“They are most vulnerable to hypertension and diabetes. In cases that I have received so far, many politicians are not able to accept defeat. They say power is the most essential factor for their survival,” said Dr Broota.

Members of the winning side, however, are more prone to taking hasty decisions and working proactively for the public in the first few months of gaining power. “They concentrate on mesmerising the public and have difficulty coping with rising expectations,” she added. 

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