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This is the blog for the Free Your Mind campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of music, art, film, and culture.
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Thursday, 3 March 2011

Should interviewer have given Charlie Sheen "bipolar diagnosis"?

Recent events involving Charlie Sheen have really disturbed me - when I say this I am actually talking about not only the media treatment of his mental illness, but, more specifically, why anyone would ever think it is okay to "diagnose" someone during a televised interview!
(See Below)

In the above interview Sheen is being interviewed and asked questions about his drug addiction. At the end of the interview the interviewer tells him that "psychologists" say he has bipolar.

My thoughts on this are that I feel it is highly irresponsible to take someone you believe to be seriously mentally ill and having a manic episode, interview them purely for "entertainment" purposes (I honestly can't see any other reason to conduct an interview such as this), and then "diagnose" them at the end of it.

The interviewer also talks of "psychologists" coming up with a bipolar diagnosis. This doesn't sit right with me. I'd genuinely would like to know who these "psychologists" are?! Psychologists can't (or, at least, shouldn't!) diagnose anyone without a proper assessment. Personally (please tell me if you disagree) I think  that to reach a "conclusive" diagnosis several assessments have to take place over periods of months or years.

And surely if a psychologist had diagnosed Sheen why would they be giving this information to an interviewer, and not to him personally or to someone else close to him???

If I were in the above situation, chances are I would have said the same or similar as Sheen.

Speaking as a recovered drug-addict with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), whom has also experienced manic episodes, I can honestly say Sheen's behavior in the above interview is pretty "normal"  for anyone suffering a manic episode or a bipolar "high". Also, before I did finally get sober, if you'd asked me then if I got high or if I thought I might relapse I would have denied it whatever the circumstances were. And as for trying to make me see I was ill or getting me to understand I could die - if it was back then - you could forget it!

Obviously Sheen is mentally ill - drug-addiction is in itself a mental illness - and he does appear to be on a manic bipolar high. But my big issue (the subject of this post) is with the irresponsibility of conducting the above interview and then claiming to have a diagnosis. As I said before, even if a trained psychologist/psychiatrist had been saying the same as this interviewer to me when I was manic and on drugs, it would have gone in one ear and out the other; therefore, I know if I were in the above situation, not only would the interview have pushed me further into denial but it would also have messed my head quite a bit. ((For example; a few years ago, whilst I was suffering a manic episode, my parents were asked to  keep notes on my behavior, and when I found these notes I was convinced my behavior was being recorded so that they could report back to the "government" whom I believed were studying me as part of a large-scale "experiment" that everyone else in the world was in on.))

Whatever you think of Sheen - it's not nice to see anyone suffer in this way.

I'm writing this after taking issue with what I believe to be a irresponsible way of treating someone with a mental illness. I could speculate Sheen's diagnosis - but I don't see the point. Or I could discuss the fact that anyone else (i.e. someone who isn't a Hollywood actor) is likely to have been sectioned by now - but I don't feel I could add anything to the discussion which hasn't been said before.

After watching the above interview, I strongly felt a need to express my thoughts on this. What do you think? Have I got a point? Or do you feel I'm going over-the-top?


  1. No one can diagnose another individual without a battery of tests which lend evidence to support that diagnosis. However, one doesn't have to do a DNA sampling of white and black striped horse to know it is a zebra, either.

    Charlie Sheen is painting a picture with every word he utters. And, the general populace, some of whom are psychologists, are simply interpreting the picture he paints.

    He is most likely in the throes of a bi-polar manic high. Or, he may simply suffer from "mania" without its depressive sidekick. Either way, whatever his diagnosis, he needs proper drug therapy to address the chemical imbalances in his brain.

    Additionally, I believe Mr Sheen suffers from a Borderline Personality Disorder with narcissistic tendencies. As you stated, you are a person with borderline personality disorder so you know. Whenever put under extreme stress, the borderline personality often becomes very erratic, making delusional statements, and false claims.

    Unfortunately, there is no drug to treat a personality disorder. There is only cognitive-behavioral therapy. And, with his narcissistic tendencies, that ain't gonna happen.

    So, it will be interesting to see how all this pans out with Mr. Sheen. I hate to see it happen to him because he had a great career and seems to be a very well respected professional. I hope he can get help before his train derails for good.

  2. Hello.
    Thank you for taking the time to read the blog. And thank you so much for taking the time to reply! :)

    Your comment provides fantastic insight and information on BPD. Thank you! :)

    After thinking on it, I think my issue with Sheen's "diagnosis" being broadcast like that comes from the idea of the "armchair psychologist", i.e. the idea/act of defining someone using a, mostly, uninformed opinion. (That not being a slight on your comment, by the way.)

    My apologies for the long time taken to reply to your above comment.

    Take care,
    Nicola E. from FYM.

  3. Hi there,

    Firstly, thank you for a great article! I completely agree with your thoughts on the 'interview diagnosis'. It definitely could have been handled with a lot more care but really, it was unnecessary. The interviewer did not appear to be truly listening; merely firing questions and reacting to answers with a face that said to me "Wow, you are just so out of your mind, Charlie.."

    The whole thing struck a chord with me because not only am I a person with bi-polar, but at the time I found myself feeling a strange kind of understanding over Charlie Sheen's manic-like state shown in interviews and later on his webcasts. This is because I was only starting to learn about the disorder and how my brain works, dealing with it.

    Admittedly, I found a great deal of what he was saying quite funny and at times, very profound, but ultimately I saw beyond all of that and started thinking to myself "I wonder if he does really have bipolar and is experiencing a big high at the moment?"

    I saw his behaviour reflected in my own (the lightning fast thinking and talking. The gibberish and the constant metaphors and analogies) At the time, I was experiencing my second hypomanic swing ever and, having learned a little since the first time (and since the depression that followed it) I think I felt a strange kind of connection with Sheen and what was happening with his life. I can say I admire the man greatly and though it may not have been a fantastic time for him with regards to the media, I respect that he 'let it all out'.

    Wow, okay. I really didn't mean to write SO much!
    Let me conclude by saying thank you again. Great post.

    Oh and Velvet Buzz Saw, fantastic reply as well.
    "Charlie Sheen is painting a picture with every word he utters. And, the general populace, some of whom are psychologists, are simply interpreting the picture he paints."
    Nail on the head right there :)

    1. Hello.

      Thank you so much for reading and for leaving such an open and honest comment. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your reply. :) It is much appreciated.

      It may interest you to know that I have furthered my thoughts on 'Armchair Psychology' in a more recent blog post - in which I touch on the problem of "experts" sharing their "diagnoses" (or, more accurately, opinions) of the mental health of celebrities, or of those within the public eye.

      'The Problem with Armchair Psychology':

      Nicola E. (of FYM)

  4. I completely agree that Charlie Sheen is most likely has borderline personality disorder with narcissist tendecies. Which ofcourse means that he needs therapy not pills. Regardless Iam so glad that he is seeking help and hope he can keep off the drugs and alcohol.