The meaning of Trump Derangement Syndrome has been evolving.

Fareed Zakaria defined the syndrome as “hatred of President Trump so intense that it impairs people’s judgment”.[6][14] CNN’s editor-at-large Chris Cillizza called TDS “the preferred nomenclature of Trump defenders who view those who oppose him and his policies as nothing more than the blind hatred of those who preach tolerance and free speech”.[1] Pointing to previous allegations of Bush Derangement Syndrome and Obama Derangement Syndrome, Cillizza suggested, “Viewed more broadly, the rise of presidential derangement syndromes is a function of increased polarization—not to mention our national self-sorting—at work in the country today.”[1] Bret Stephens has described the term as something used by conservative groups whenever someone speaks out critically against Trump, regardless of political affiliation.[15]

Political analyst John Avlon uses the term using a more generalized sense inclusive of positive emotions as well as hatred towards Trump, so that for example, TDS accounts for denialism about Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election, as a “political diagnosis” of people who “simply can’t accept the fact that he lost the election.”[16][17]

This new definition derogatorily describing the rabid nature of Trump followers rather than his deriders has been picked up by others and widely used.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

– Wikipedia


The idea of Trump Derangement Syndrome started off as a way to attack people who hated Trump. But the idea has morphed in recent times to refer to Trump’s followers who are so crazy (deranged) they cannot accept reality, namely the fact the Trump lost the election to Joe Biden.

Now, with Trump under pressure from four cases charging 91 criminal counts and a New York civil case that threatens to strip him of his financial empire, Trump himself appears to be suffering from some degree of greater delusional thinking, He seems to be “decompensating” and at times confused.  Trump has his own derangement syndrome going on.

The degree of stress and worry Trump has to be experiencing would be hard for anyone to deal with, although narcissists are notoriously well defended and Trump dwells in an alternate universe much of the time. At times he seems to believe the misinformation and disinformation he wants his followers to buy into, and at other times he realizes he did lose the 2020 election and knows that vaccines help people avoid getting covid, for example. As hard truth comes ever closer in the form of lawsuits which demand that the facts come out in the courtroom and relies on the idea that there is such a thing as the truth, Trump will be forced to come face to face with hard reality.

Trump stands to lose much of what he worked so hard to achieve in his life- the illusion that he is better and grander and more successful than his rivals. He fooled a lot of people for a long time.

Underneath his grandiosity is a man who always felt and still feels insecure about how important and respected he is or isn’t. Given his psychology, it makes sense to some commentators that he kept top secret documents at Mar-a-Lago and showed them off to his guests. By showing them off to people at Mar-a-Lago he felt a greater sense of power and a bump in his self-esteem. Especially after losing the election to Joe Biden, which he DID know he lost (he confessed that numerous times to people in his inner circle after Biden won- which will come out in the evidence presented in upcoming criminal trials brought by Jack Smith and Fani Willis’ RICO case in Georgia).

Maggie Haberman writes for the New York Times. She has had an especially close relationship with Trump- almost like a therapist at times, listening to him and drawing him out. He seems to trust her. She has written about Trump’s motivation for keeping so many documents he knew were supposed to be sent to the National Archives. According to Maggie Haberman, Trump was doing this to pump himself up. He felt bad after losing to Biden but his special access was proof that he was still important because he had such important top secret documents.


The short answer is that they often lose their tempers and lash out. They experience pressure because the false self they have worked hard to create, is being undermined. And they can decompensate.

What is “decompensating”?

Psychiatrists and psychologists use the term “decompensating” to describe worsening symptoms of mental illness. An “episode of decompensation” is a period of significant, often rapid, deterioration in mental health. 

We are seeing some of this in real time with Trump. As so often happens with Trump, when he is in front of an audience, he talks off the cuff and meanders mentally, talking about things that don’t make a lot of sense until you realize that he is talking referentially about his internal psychological state. We are often hearing Trump’s stream of consciousness these days when he speaks at rallies and entertains the crowd. Because he is getting more and more fearful about what is going to happen to him with all of these legal matters, we glimpse some of the nightmares from his unconscious. His inner thoughts come out as we hear his stream of consciousness. In the video below, for example, you will hear Trump talk about being pursued and facing death. He muses about whether he will be electrocuted or eaten by a shark. He is facing an existential end.

It is inevitable that as the pressure intensifies on him we will hear more of Trump’s inner angst, his fears, and his anger in the form of symbolic imagery. Even though Trump often talks in a rambling fashion revealing his stream of consciousness to entertain the crowd and create a kind of intimacy as well as get a laugh, you can gain insight into Trump’s psychological state of mind by noticing the imagery he uses in his spinning, riffing, meandering word salads.


In recent rally speeches he is also at times confused about who he beat in 2016. He keeps saying he beat Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton in that election. He also mixes up Joe Biden and Barack Obama in his rally speeches. Clearly he sees Obama as his inner arch rival.  Obama is much more beloved as a former president. Trump is surely annoyed by that, probably more so because Obama is Black and Trump is a racist. When it comes to the way history will judge them both, Trump is doing worse than a Black man.

Trump is also at times confused about what era we are in. He muses that “Biden will lead us into World War II very quickly”. (Huh? World War II?)

He was also confused about what country Viktor Orban leads:

“There’s a man, Viktor Orbán, did anyone ever hear of him?” Trump said, referring to the Hungarian prime minister. “He’s probably, like, one of the strongest leaders anywhere in the world. He’s the leader of Turkey,” the former president said.  (Turkey’s president is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.)

Trump also called Hezbollah “very smart” and attacked Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s hard to believe Trump’s comments were thoughtful calculations because it has set off a firestorm in the Republican Party given the close alliance the GOP has with many donors who support Israel. Trump may have significantly helped Joe Biden with these remarks. They have angered evangelicals as well as donors and voters allied with Israel and the Jewish people.  Why did he make them?  He was mad at Netanyahu for recognizing Biden’s win and for failing to go along with the false narrative that Trump won the election as well as other self-serving beefs with Netanyahu.

Sources say Trump turned against Netanyahu because Netanyahu didn’t give Trump enough credit for his pro-Israel foreign policy. But what angered Trump the most, sources said, was that Netanyahu refused to endorse Trump’s 2020 stolen election lies. During an April 2021 interview with Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, Trump unloaded on Netanyahu. “The first person that congratulated [Biden] was Bibi Netanyahu, the man that I did more for than any other person I dealt with… I haven’t spoken to [Bibi] since. F**k him.”

Trump has also angered Jews by exploiting the hostage crisis for political gain. “This never would have happened if I were President,” Trump told a Jewish leader on the phone, according to a person briefed on the call. (Vanity Fair)

At his rallies Trump almost always meanders, spins and delivers a word salad.  Trump is first and foremost an entertainer who enjoys his rallies because he has an adoring audience that laughs at whatever he says and is fine with his often bizarre musings.  Trump’s image matters to him a great deal. But as he continues to decompensate, we will surely hear more of his inner nightmare improvisations in his riffs as well as more confusion about the world.  This may also be why Trump is not willing to participate in a debate.


Trump brought up sharks on his own, for no apparent reason. Here are three full three minutes leading up to his shark musings.

On Sunday, during the part of his stump speech where he rails against electric cars and claims, falsely, that Joe Biden is dead set on making all military tanks fully electric and nonfunctional, Trump inserted some incoherent thoughts on boats and then sharks got into the mix. Read it for yourself:

“And the new one, I was in South Carolina the other day. Great boat manufacturer and he’s very concerned. Number one, they cut his thing down to two miles an hour even if you’re way out in the ocean. Two miles an hour! I said, “How fast can they go, like 40 and 50?” They wanted to go two until they get out to 90 miles. I said, “How far out do they go?” About 60 miles. I said, “You mean you can speed it up but you’ll never get out there?” That’s long 90 miles.

I looked at those boats. They look very safe but I don’t want to be 90 miles out. That’s a long way. But he said, “They want us to start thinking about going all electric for boats instead of Mercury engines.” Beautiful, made in the USA Mercury engines and others, where you smell that little smell that beautiful sound everything. They want to go all electric.

I said “What’s wrong?” They said, “Well the problem is the batteries are so heavy that the boat can’t carry them. They would sink. And if we did it where they could go for at least a moderate period of time they’d would be so big they’d cover the entire boat. And he said to me, he said, “You know, nobody’s ever asked me this question.” I said, “So what would happen if you’re in an all battery boat, the whole boat is practically battery?” You know these batteries are massive. Problem with the trucks is it takes up so much room too, with the trucks. I mean the whole thing is like a battery.

The whole thing is so crazy. You think if they had one three-minute sitdown with the truckers of America they’d understand it. And they do sort of understand it, but it doesn’t matter. It’s like open border. They understand open borders are no good. It doesn’t matter. You don’t see them closing the borders. They say, “Oh, we’re doing a wonderful job.” Fifteen million people are coming in. From prisons, from mental institutions, they’re coming in.

But I asked the boater. I said, “So let me ask you: Let’s say your boat goes down and I’m sitting on top of this big powerful battery and the boat’s going down. Do I get electrocuted?” And he said, “You know what, honestly nobody’s ever asked me that question.”

But if I’m sitting down and that boat’s going down and I’m on top of a battery, and the water starts flooding in, I’m getting concerned. But then I look ten yards to my left and there’s a shark over there. So I have a choice of electrocution or a shark. You know what I’m going to take? Electrocution. I will take electrocution every single time. Do we agree? Yeah, I will take electrocution.

But these people are crazy. They also want to go with energy-efficient jet fuel so that we don’t have any problems.” (Intelligencer)


The video below is Trump’s riff about being eaten by a shark or electrocuted. The walls are closing in on him.