Is there some sort of Hollywood central meltdown scheduling system, wonders CyberShrink.
How else is it that we have one grotesque star debacle at a time, but rarely a period when everyone is behaving like sensible humans or when they compete for headlines?
Lately it's Charlie Sheen, just as it was Britney Spears, or Mel Gibson, or, just when it seemed safe to go back in the water, Lindsay Lohan. But now it's Charlie, being extravagantly loony and loonily extravagant.
Games of 'guess the diagnosis'
As usual, it becomes the basis for jokes by late night comedians, and then for widespread games of 'guess the diagnosis'. As I so often make clear, none of us who have not clinically examined such a celebrity are in any position to make a firm diagnosis; and if we were, we would be bound by normal professional ethics not to disclose or discuss it.
But with such very public characters, who themselves choose to use the media for their own benefit and to exhibit and declare themselves, it is entirely fair to consider what their utterances and public behaviours reveal about them, and to speculate about the possible bases for such odd behaviours, especially if this enhances public understanding of what mental illness is or is not. .
Bipolar or simply bigheaded?
"Is Charlie Sheen losing his marbles?" asked the London Daily Mail. How many marbles did he have to begin with, I thought, and how carelessly has he been caring for them? Numerous articles, citing various experts and interested parties seem currently to favour the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.
As we'll see in a companion article on whether Sheen could be bipolar, this could explain some of the events, as could a variety of reactions to the drug and alcohol abuse he has been boasting of, or some combination of these.
Another very viable assessment would be what I call Acute Chronic Cephalomegaly - recent worsening of chronic severe Big Head, brought about by excessive celebrity and a severe overdose of money. When you are sufficiently rich and celebrated to think you can afford to do whatever you please, without consequences, and are surrounded by people highly motivated to placate rather than challenge you, that is not nourishing for the human mind. You lose the normal and healthy restraints and correcting factors that enable most of us to remain stable.
The Sheen saga
Let's look at what has been reported. There have been boasts of consuming dangerous amounts of drink and drugs including cocaine, and of multiple relationships with porn stars and models, as though dallying with a harem of such very professionally accessible women is somehow extraordinarily clever.
He's been highly offensive to those producing the sitcom that has made his fortune as the highest-paid TV actor. And if he was joking when he demanded more millions per episode, it was a lousy joke, and especially offensive during a recession when millions are hungry and worrying about how to make ends meet.
To Sheen, making ends meet is simply a pleasurable challenge when there are several guests in his bed.
Here are some of his statements as reported in various media - he's "tired of pretending I'm not special ... of pretending I'm not a total bitchin' rock star from Mars." Yet it's the monumental ordinariness and vulgarity of choices that stands out.
Now he seems to have signed up with Twitter, seemingly assuming that millions will hang on his every Tweet. If you're a large enough Twit, some people, lacking enough of any importance to do in their own lives, will hang around to see what foolishness you come up with next. He's releasing pictures and posing for them, between interviews bragging about his tedious naughtiness. On TV he bragged that his "epic" partying made Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Frank Sinatra, even Errol Flynn look like "droopy-eyed , armless children."
And elsewhere he ranted: "I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available because if you try it, you will die."
"Dying is for amateurs"
Notice recurrent themes: arrogance almost amounting to megalomania, boasting of trivial but supposedly shocking behaviours, uniqueness (while revelling in very ordinary and commonplace forms of misconduct), and insisting on being indestructible while indulging in drug doses that would kill others. He has at times suggested that on his own he has conquered his drug and alcohol problems, while boasting of indulging in ways that utterly contradict that. 'I am special - I'll never be one of you. I cured it with my mind.'
Of his cocaine use he gloated "I probably took more than anybody could survive . I was bangin’ seven-gram rocks and finishing them, because that’s how I roll. Dying’s for amateurs."
This could fit with the substantial suicide risk in someone on a manic spree, teetering between feeling invulnerable and testing his mortality. If this is so, the risks are significant, and he would need urgent intervention to control the manic high and reduce the very real risks.
There's been prior hospital admission for a cocaine overdose, spells in rehab; messy divorces and accusations of substance abuse and violence. If you're rich and famous, you can often arrange to plead to lesser charges and comfy rehab programmes, which may actually be unhelpful in feeding your view of being invulnerable, both to the law and to the physical costs of endless self-indulgence. As illustrated when he said: "I don't see the problem with going forth with your desires."
His TV employers were very patient, but he's urging his "beautiful and loyal fans" to join him, to "march up the steps of justice to right this unconscionable wrong", and complaining bitterly that nobody has been " rushing to protect me, rushing to my aid, rushing to protect their most valuable commodity". Then he's quoted saying: "I've got magic, and I've got poetry at my fingertips. I'm an F-18, bro. I will destroy you in the air and I will destroy you on the ground. I'm not a soft target. It's over - there's a new sheriff in town."
Actually, the hit TV show is brilliantly written and produced, with an outstanding ensemble cast of which he is possibly the least talented member - maybe they should decided to continue with someone else playing his character.
Coals to Newcastle, Sheen to Haiti
Most recently, it has been reported that, aided by his genuine friend Sean Penn, he is to visit Haiti, presumably to try in some way to help that disastrous nation. Bringing a walking (well, lurching) disaster to a disaster area sounds a bit like firemen burning a fire-break. And rather like bombing Libya with Lindsay Lohan.
(Professor M.A. Simpson, Health24, March 2011)