Is Charlie Sheen Bipolar? Mental Health Experts Say 'His Head Is as Large as the Moon'
By Catherine Donaldson-Evans Posted Mar 2nd 2011 03:00PM
It's the week that Charlie Sheen came unhinged. Since production on his uber-popular sitcom 'Two and a Half Men' was derailed over fallout from his latest bender, the star has been on a frenzied media blitz -- apparently to promote the drug he says he's on, "Charlie Sheen."
The feverish interviews have teetered between neurotic and delusional. His self-described "grandiose" behavior has led some to speculate that the 45-year-old actor may have bipolar disorder.
"He looks bipolar -- he's in a particularly manic phase," celebrity psychology expert Stuart Fischoff tells PopEater. "His reality testing has been severely impaired, marked by delusions of grandeur. His head now is as large as the moon."
Bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic, often violent mood swings between extreme euphoria and deep depression, though there are milder versions of the condition. In the manic state, a person can become abnormally energized; suffer from chronic insomnia; embark on wild spending, sex or drug sprees; and experience delusions of grandeur or paranoia.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM SHEEN WEEK:Even Sheen himself admits that his mind works differently than other people's -- though he sounds like he thinks he's superhuman.
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"You borrow my brain for five seconds and just be like, 'Dude, can't handle it! Unplug this bastard!'" Sheen tells ABC's Andrea Canning during an interview that aired in full Tuesday night on '20/20.' "It fires in a way that is perhaps not from this terrestrial realm."
And he doesn't outright deny he's manic depressive when told that some are calling him bipolar, though he does take a shot at those with the illness.
"Wow! What does that mean?" he says. "Wow. And then what? What's the cure? Medicine? Make me like them? Not gonna happen. I'm bi-winning. I win here, and I win there. Now what? If I'm bipolar, aren't there moments where a guy, like, crashes, like, in the corner, like, 'Oh my God, it's all my mom's fault'? Shut up. Shut up! Stop! Move forward."
Of course, the massive amounts of cocaine and crack that Sheen has bragged about doing can also lead to bipolar-like symptoms.
"Cocaine produces a heightened state of what looks like mania -- a hyper-manic state -- and it also produces a crash," explains Fischoff, a senior editor at the Journal of Media Psychology.
Addictions specialist Bruce Goldman, of Zucker-Hillside Hospital in Long Island, N.Y., says regular, heavy drug use twists how someone sees the world.
"Chronic substance abuse problems tend to distort people's perceptions of reality," he explains. "When confronted with the consequences of their use, they can become defensive and counterattack or project blame onto others."
But Fischoff doesn't think the actor's excessive drug-taking is the whole story.
"It's hard to imagine he could be this way without having a predisposition to bipolarity beforehand," he tells PopEater. "This is not simply a reactive psychosis to drugs. My guess is that cocaine has aggravated and exacerbated it."
In fact, people with addiction problems are more likely to also have psychiatric conditions than those in the general population, according to Goldman. Many sufferers of mental illness abuse illegal drugs and alcohol in order to cope.
"Usually people who are dealing with a psychiatric disorder self-medicate," Fischoff says. "They turn to alcohol and drugs and sex to deal with the fact that they don't want to live in their own head."
University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist Dr. Christos Ballas has a different take on Sheen. Though he agrees that the actor's behavior resembles that of a bipolar person, he says there are countless other ways to explain it.
"It's hard to say it's bipolar disorder because there's a million different things that look just like it," Ballas tells PopEater. "If he walked into my office, I wouldn't know what to give him. It's impossible to diagnose without drawing a lot of blood and running a lot of tests."
Among the other potential causes for Sheen's erratic antics: a nervous breakdown brought on by acute stress, alcohol or drug withdrawal; alcoholism; lack of sleep; a mixing of medications; or even a bad case of really intense acting, according to Ballas.
"Mania looks like what he's doing, but I can't tell you he's manic," he says. "There's a lot going on in his life. I don't know that he isn't making it up."
The latest round of Sheen madness began after a drug-and-drink-soaked night last month during which the star landed in the hospital with a "hernia." He then reportedly went to rehab and stopped work on 'Men' temporarily.
But as speculation swirled around whether he'd be out in time to finish filming, the actor suddenly seemed to crack again, taking to the radio airwaves to spew vitriol about CBS and his boss, show creator Chuck Lorre.
"Look at what I'm dealing with, man. I'm dealing with fools and trolls," Sheen told radio personality Alex Jones. "I don't have time for these clowns. I don't have time for their judgment and stupidity."
Lorre specifically was lambasted as a "clown" and a "charlatan," and referred to as "Chaim Levine" in what sounded like an anti-Semitic epithet.
"There's nothing this side of deplorable that a certain 'Chaim Levine' (yeah, that's Chuck's real name) mistook this rock star for his own selfish exit strategy, bro," Sheen ranted. "I embarrassed him in front of his children and the world by healing at a pace that his unevolved mind cannot process. Last I checked, Chaim, I've spent close to the last decade effortlessly and magically converting your tin cans into pure gold."
CBS and Warner Brothers TV subsequently yanked 'Men' for the rest of the season. The show, for which Sheen was paid $2 million an episode, is now in jeopardy of being canceled for good.
Since then, we've witnessed Sheen out there on his own (his loyal longtime publicist even quit), sounding off about everything from how proud he is of his hard partying to how angry he is at the sitcom's producers for kicking him to the curb.
Whatever may be wrong with Charlie Sheen, Ballas says some of what he's been rambling about does make a little sense.
"I do agree with him -- all his family and friends have abandoned him," he tells PopEater. "If they wanted to help him out, they could have. Instead, they're going to profit from this craziness."
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