Trump’s Conspiracy Theory Delusions Will Likely Lead to Nuclear War With North Korea, Psychiatrists Warn

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform at the St. Charles Convention Center on November 29, in St. Charles, Missouri. Whitney Curtis/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s claims that the Access Hollywood tape and President Barack Obama’s birth certificate are fakes are not just lies he tells others, psychiatrists say, they are delusions consistent with a severe personality disorder. And according to two psychiatrists who have warned that Trump is dangerously unfit for office, this could lead to a nuclear showdown with North Korea that results in the deaths of millions.

Related: Trump could create nuclear holocaust in five minutes; Congress is now trying to stop that 

“He has to bend reality to fit his narcissistic needs,” psychologist John Gartner, a former assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University and founder of a political advocacy group targeting Trump, called The Duty to Warn, told Newsweek Wednesday. “Reality can actually be bent and molded to fit his narcissistic needs and fantasies and to fit his persecutory and paranoid needs and fantasies.”

Despite initially apologizing about the infamous Access Hollywood tape, Trump while among his allies has begun disputing that the voice heard bragging about sexual assault is actually his, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The president is even said to have told a Republican senator that he wants to investigate the recording. (Access Hollywood, meanwhile, has insisted that the tape is not a fake.)

At the same time, he has not dropped the disproved conspiracy theory that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery and that he was not born in the United States—despite saying during the campaign that he did not really believe it.

This should not necessarily come as a surprise, given that his presidency started with a delusion. Just hours after Trump was sworn in, then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer was pushed in front of the media—by Trump, many believe—to falsely claim that his inauguration crowd was the largest in history.

While some have portrayed the mistruths as a political strategy, it is far more than that, according to a former assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Lance Dodes.

“He is a far more sick person than people realize or want to realize,” Dodes, who like Gartner was a contributor to the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, told Newsweek. “To say for example that he is even a con man is way too benign. He loses track of reality when it comes to a challenge to his sense of himself, which is extremely fragile. It’s out of his control—he is not clever like a fox, he is just very, very sick.”

While many observers, including Obama, expressed a hope and expectation that Trump’s more outlandish mental gymnastics would be reined in when he took on the responsibility of the presidency, the opposite has proved to be true, both experts claimed. With a group of enablers surrounding him and a supporter base of millions who swallow his mistruths, they only grow more extreme.

Trump’s delusions appear to have taken yet another uptick in recent days. Just this week, he has proposed a Fake News Trophy that mainstream media outlets would compete over; retweeted anti-Muslim videos from a British far-right group; and suggested that a cable news host was a murderer. 

Trump took similar dips into conspiracy theories shortly before the first indictments in the Russia investigation were unveiled last month. It is evidence of a clear, and worrying, pattern, Dodes stressed.

“He feels more threatened now, which we all predicted he would,” he said. “The more stress he’s under the more delusional he’s going to become, the more out of control and, from a danger standpoint, the more enraged he’s going to become.”

Trump’s latest dance with delusion comes at a particularly perilous time. On Wednesday, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile it called its most advanced yet, and some said it theoretically put Washington, D.C., within range.

There is a growing fear, including among some in Congress who recently held a hearing on the president’s authority to use nuclear weapons, that a rash decision could end in disaster.

“The noose is tightening,” Gartner said. “What do cornered animals do when they’re under attack? They lash out. Pushing that button solves a lot of problems for him. Psychologically it takes him out of the position of feeling like the weak victim, which is intolerable to him, and puts him back in the position of being the sadistic dominant power man. It will be irresistible to him to do that."

As it has become clear that Trump's mindset has not improved since entering the White House, some, including dissenting Republican Senator Bob Corker, have put their faith in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to keep the ship on course. But both Gartner and Dodes insisted that that was a forlorn hope. Not only is there no containing someone like Trump, who they define as a malignant narcissist, there is no treating him, either.

“People who are as empty as him can’t engage in therapy,” Dodes said. “He is more likely to become more psychotic if you treat him.”

A devastating war is inevitable, both men said, if Trump remains in office.

“We are truly on the edge of Armageddon,” Gartner said. “We are that close to losing millions of lives.”