Although Election Day is still nearly four months away, Tiffany Kreck finds herself getting increasingly anxious.

“I’m really trying to do a better job of controlling it,” said Kreck, 35, a profesional gardner and married mother of two.

The registered Republican from Ellsworth Maine doesn’t intend to vote for either major party candidate but the campaigns have been so “vitriolic” and the stakes for issues like the economy, reproductive rights and immigration are so high, that she can feel her blood pressure rise every time she thinks about the election.

In a survey this spring more than 40% of Americans reported signs of anxiety or depression. A similar percentage say the news and social media coverage of the election have them feeling even more anxious than usual, according to the GeneSight Health Monitor poll conducted May 8-15 by Myriad Genetics,

Those results coincide with another spring poll from the American Psychiatric Association that found most Americans are “particularly anxious” about the contentious election. And, in a Yahoo News/YouGov poll of 1,800 Americans conducted May 10 to 13, about 60% said they felt “very” or “somewhat” anxious about the presidential contest.

It’s very likely many other Americans are anxious, maybe even depressed, over the election without even knowing it, experts say.

“The negative impacts are too big. They are about twice as large of a percentage as we’d like them to be,” said Thomas Valente, a psychiatrist based in Leesburg, Florida, who analyzed GeneSight’s poll before the results went public. “And these polls were taken before the first presidential debate. I can only imagine what the numbers might be now.”

‘Can’t control the outcome’

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has moved slightly ahead of Democratic challenger, President Joe Biden, 41% to 38%, following the candidates’ acrimonious debate on June 27, an exclusive USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll showed. Two months ago, the candidates were in a dead heat.

The fallout and issues including Trump’s felony charges, escalating concerns over Biden’s competency, and a presumed battle for preserving democracy, are among numerous contributing stressors for voters, said Colleen Marshall, a San Francisco-based chief clinical officer at Two Chairs, a mental health organization offering virtual and in-person psychiatric sessions.

Marshall cited this spring’s American Psychiatric Association/Morning Consult’s mental health poll, which revealed that 73% of more than 2,200 Americans were particularly anxious about the election. Only the economy at 77% rated higher, with the election heightening a range of emotions and generating more conversations, Marshall added.

“Elections can be triggering because even though you are voting for the candidate you support, you can’t control the outcome,” Marshall said. “And when you can’t have that type of control, that’s where our minds can go anywhere.”

Overall, 43% of Americans in that poll said they were anxious about the election, compared to 37% in 2023 and 32% from 2022. “Election anxiety,” as Marshall dubed it, ranked higher than personal safety, health concerns, and paying bills, according to the poll.

“I believe election cycles tend to be provocative, but we have this incredible, unprecedented divisiveness that’s taking its toll on many of us,” Marshall said. “And while some of us can compartmentalize better than others, some can’t put the brakes on that fear and worry.”

First-time voter scared by election

Kara Coulter, 18, has everything going for her. But just weeks from the start of her first semester at UCLA, her top college choice, the first-time voter and Los Angeles native is already worried about the outcome of this fall’s election.

“Oh my God, it scares me so much. I wonder what will my adulthood look like: What will it look like if Trump wins? What will it be if Biden wins?” Coulter said. ” A lot is going on in my head. Everything is so unpredictable right now. We don’t know what this country is going to look like even a year from now?”

First-time voter Kara Coulter, 18, of Los Angeles, is worried about the outcome of this fall's presidential election.

First-time voter Kara Coulter, 18, of Los Angeles, is worried about the outcome of this fall’s presidential election.

She’s worried that if Trump wins, the country could be in for some harsh changes, spurred by conservative think tank Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, which has been described as “authoritarian,” and calls for rolling back health care reform deporting undocumented immigrants, ending the Department of Education and making medication abortion unavailable.

But, Coulter, who plans to study sociology and entrepreneurship, said her “voter fright” won’t stop her from the polls. And she plans to tell anybody who will listen, especially her fellow “Generation Z’ers” how important this election is.

“It’s better to be educated walking into something new than essentially removing yourself from the process because you’re scared,” Coulter said. “I’m going to exercise my right to vote because I know what all it took for us to do so. It’s my hope and prayer that we turn out to vote.”

Some Americans are ‘freaking out’

Dale Stenbroten, 62, of Saukville, Wisconsin, who didn’t participate in any of the polls but identifies with their findings, believes there’s widespread frustration nationwide. Stenbroten said his anxiety comes from the “uncertain direction” the nation has been taking.

“I think the majority of this country is freaking out,” said Stenbroten who owns a farm resort that caters to large events like weddings. “You want to think of it as just like a joke, but it’s a sad, sick joke because people in this country are hurting and they are mad and sad.

Stenbroten said while he’s lucky enough to have his own business and not be too bad shape, “others aren’t as fortunate and their situations affect all of us.”

Dale Stenbroten, 62, of Saukville, Wisconsin, says his election-related anxiety comes from the "uncertain direction" the country is taking. Courtesy Dale StenbrotenDale Stenbroten, 62, of Saukville, Wisconsin, says his election-related anxiety comes from the "uncertain direction" the country is taking. Courtesy Dale Stenbroten

Dale Stenbroten, 62, of Saukville, Wisconsin, says his election-related anxiety comes from the “uncertain direction” the country is taking. Courtesy Dale Stenbroten

Stenbroten, who describes himself as a reformed news junkie and “a moderate who tends to vote conservative,” said while he backed Trump in 2020, he is now planning to vote for independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Kennedy had support from 8% of voters, in the latest USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll, which was conducted between June 28 and 30.

Stenbroten thought Trump did well with the economy as president, but now has some very “serious issues” ranging from his legal problems to his divisive nature.

Stenbroten also doesn’t care for Biden. He said the president “doesn’t have the mental capacity” to remain in office and he dislikes the administration’s involvement with Russia’s war in Ukraine and the conflict in Gaza.

“We need somebody in the White House with a brain and the intelligence to help heal this divide,” Stenbroten said. “This country doesn’t need any more wars.”

Kreck, also a Kennedy supporter, shares a similar view.

Tiffany Kreck, 35, a profesional gardner and mother of two is a registered Republican, but plans to vote for independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for president. The campaign is increasing her anxiety, so the Ellsworth, Maine, resident tries to spend more time outdoors.Tiffany Kreck, 35, a profesional gardner and mother of two is a registered Republican, but plans to vote for independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for president. The campaign is increasing her anxiety, so the Ellsworth, Maine, resident tries to spend more time outdoors.

Tiffany Kreck, 35, a profesional gardner and mother of two is a registered Republican, but plans to vote for independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for president. The campaign is increasing her anxiety, so the Ellsworth, Maine, resident tries to spend more time outdoors.

“There’s so many of us in the middle who work, pay taxes, have families, and try to buy groceries just to make ends meet,” Kreck said. “And we feel like we’re watching this horror show play out on this political stage.”

Coping with ‘election anxiety’

In addition to possibly seeking professional help, Marshall said those Americans having election anxiety should try to create some boundaries, including not always watching and consuming politics or not talking as much to family and friends about it.

For those who want to be more politically engaged, Marshall said they can get involved by supporting candidates of their choice, by volunteering or by participating in get-out-the-vote drives.

Kreck said she feels for Americans who have “checked out,” due to election anxiety “which in itself is a dangerous place for America to be if they somehow don’t believe in the Democratic process.”

For herself, Kreck said she is doing her best to escape the “digital bombardment” of the election and the worries that comes with it.

She’s made an effort to put down her phone, turn off the TV and spend more time outdoors with her children and lobsterman husband.

She’s also trying to take more deep breaths.

“It sounds more simple than it really is,” Kreck said, because politics are “everywhere.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Election anxiety’ is spiking. And there’s still 4 months to go.

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