Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
Discovery Institute, P.A. Rockledge, FL
Serving Brevard County
Disclaimer: I cannot be certain of Charlie Sheen’s mental health. My statements are based off of his appearances and statements made on TV. I am using these observations as a means to help others understand what certain mental disorders do and do not look like. For all I know, Charlie Sheen is completely healthy and acting as he is for publicity (he is an actor!)
If you own a television set, you have been seeing Charlie Sheen all over the news the past two weeks. It is clear that something is not right with his mental health currently. There have been a lot of speculations about his drug and alcohol use, grandiose thinking, and life style choices. I will go through some of the possible reasons for what appears to be a recent change in his behavior, discussing how his behavior and statements match up with what is typically seen with each of the disorders.
It has been confirmed by Sheen himself, that he has been a heavy drug and alcohol user. His drug use cannot completely explain his recent behavior, however. One possibility is Delusional Disorder, Grandiose Type in which a person has an inflated sense of self such as believing they are all powerful, famous, or better than others in some way than they are not. Sheen has been making statements such as he is tired of pretending that he is not special when he is, that he has “tiger blood” and that he is a “winner”, among other statements. These do show an inflated sense of self but at the same time, he is famous which makes these statements less delusional when taken in context of his life and how others treat him. This may apply to some people who try out for the Talent Shows such as American Idol and truly believe they have a great gift when in fact, they do not but does not best explain Sheen’s symptoms.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is another option when a person has grandiose thoughts or beliefs. This is a persistent disorder in which a person basically believes the world revolves around them and that they are special. This is different from Delusional Disorder, Grandiose Type in that the onset is normally during adolescence or early adulthood and is stable over time, typically persisting over a lifetime. Although Sheen fits most of the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (grandiose thinking, wanting to be admired, arrogance, preoccupation with success and power) his statements do not show that he puts himself above all others as he talks lovingly about his two sons and talks about wanting to help the rest of the cast of Two & a Half Men. The biggest fact that makes me believe he does not have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, however, is the suddent onset at such a late age.
A manic episode is the best label for Sheen’s recent behavior. Manic episodes are characterized by a heightened sense of self, increased energy, racing thoughts, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities. In all of the interviews Sheen has shown evidence of these. The bags under his eyes suggest that he has not been sleeping, another symptom of a manic episode. In addition, cocaine is a commonly abused substance among individuals with bipolar disorder and specifically mania (Bipolar Disorder is characterized by alternating episodes of depression and mania). It is difficult to say whether he may be abusing cocaine and alcohol due to the mood disorder or if he has a mood disorder due to his persistent use of drugs and alcohol. I have not seen evidence of Sheen having a depressive episode but if he has in the past, it is possible that he fits criteria for bipolar disorder.
If you are in the central brevard county area and looking for a counselor/therapist, please give me a call to see if I may be of assistance.