19 thoughts on “Charlie Sheen and the Allure of Manic Flight

  • March 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    You think Charlie Sheen has bipolar disorder? Please. He’s addicted to cocaine and alcohol. Those disorders MIMIC bipolar. When he’s high on cocaine, he’s manic. When he’s crashing, he’s depressed. Cocaine and alcohol are known to reinforce depression — but not bipolar disorder.

    • March 3, 2011 at 5:22 am

      No, I don’t think Sheen has “bipolar disorder”. As I’ve said elsewhere, I see no value in attaching those labels, which imply there is some kind of discrete consistent syndrome that people share identically across the spectrum. I do think his behavior exhibits features of what is called bipolar disorder, particularly the mania; but it might have been better had I not used that term. As for his substance abuse, an individual’s alcohol or cocaine “addiction” (another over-used label) does not occur in a vacuum, as if it’s a clinical syndrome irrespective of the personality; people use drugs in characterological ways that reinforce their defensive structures. The problem with calling it an “addiction” is that we’re left with a label and no real understanding of the person’s pain, their defensive ways of coping with it, and how to help them develop more effective ways of managing their experience.

  • March 3, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Unless you have BiPolar disorder, its so easy to sit back and analyze what is going on with him. Cocaine, alcohol, drugs in general and having a tendency to sleep with anyone are concrete evidence. Does he have a spending problem? Does he think what he is saying is correct? I think so. I have been bipolar for many years, this is how someone that is manic acts. BiPolar disorder is not a LABEL, but a disorder in the chemicals in the brain. It takes years and many trial and error meds to become somewhat stable. BiPolar is always there. So Joseph, learn a little more about the disorder, before trying to understand a persons pain. Whether you think he is bipolar or not is irrelavant at this point. He is confused and in pain. If mania gets gets too far out of control, there is only 2 places to go. Jail or suicide. I’ve been there, thats why I am on this board. Compassion please.

    • March 3, 2011 at 8:47 am

      Penny, as all mental processes are chemical events, it tells us nothing about the origins of psychological illness to describe them as “a disorder in the chemicals of the brain.” Thinking differently, resorting to particular defenses will alter the chemicals in your brain; meditating has been shown to alter brain chemistry. Also, if you decide that “bipolar” = a disorder of chemicals in the brain, it is indeed a label. What I am trying to do is to get away from labels and descriptions that leave out the idea of meaning and psychological content to a person’s pain and put an end to further thought. I have enormous compassion for Mr. Sheen. He’s obviously suffering enormously, as my post makes clear, and I only wish he could get meaningful help.

  • March 3, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I Misunderstood you use of label, for that I apologize. Bi Polar disorder is debilitating, to both the stable and unstable. The pain associated with the stigma, the worries by co-worker’s that you might hurt them. I know for me, the pain has been an everyday process and a very lonley existance, even with others around you. As for my family and friends, no one wants to learn about the disorder for fear they might have “contracted it”, as my sister says. Although you are trying to get away from “labels”, I can not forsee that happening. As for my friends, I am known as a “wack-a-do”, even though I am stable. At least being an alcoholic, you may go into a remission, with BiPolar, it is a day to day roller coaster ride, that I did not sign up for.

  • March 3, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Not to sound to cynical, people will never understand the disorders in the chemicals in the brain. It is so much easier to judge and be freightened. That is what I have learned Joseph, that’s what I live.

    • March 3, 2011 at 8:10 pm

      I’m sorry, Penny. And I’m not judging. I’m trying to explain the dynamics of what Sheen is going through, irrespective of any labels we might apply. The man is deeply troubled, massively defending against his pain, using “drugs” of one kind or another (mania or cocaine) to help him escape. He needs genuine help.

  • March 3, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Ayelet-Do you have BiPolar Disorder or just a drug addict?

  • March 3, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Label or not, one cannot dismiss the fact that the indulgence of chemically altering substances does indeed traumatize, and alter the brain and it’s functions. Mr. Sheen is presenting us the true face of addiction along with it’s unfortunate mentally damaging effects. Whether or not his mania is a precursor to his drug addiction, or vice versa, is irrelevant. What matters is the current need for theraputic intervention. When this type of mental pathology, and others dependencies are left to mix unchecked the results can end in a lot of kool-ade drinkers. Yes, Mr. Sheen truly needs to feel shame, otherwise what we are left with is another spiraling dirvish of self destruction.

  • March 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    I do not believe labeling with mental illness is recompense for the crime of self defense. It is merely a critical judgment made when an individual exudes signs of psychopathic tendencies, and mental divergence is a fairly good indicator of it.

  • March 4, 2011 at 7:15 am

    So have we seen his medical records?

    I really don’t appreciate how medical labels are slapped on everybody who is acting crazy (recently I saw somebody arguing basically along the lines that crisis in Lybia could be solved my meds for Gaddafi…). And this is place that is supposed to reduce the stigma, not magnify it.

    Celebrities are not good representation of mental health standards. They have easy access to drugs and they get away with a lot.

    And it’s easy to blame it on chemicals. Some chemical imbalance, that has not been proved made person to do it… not their lack of responsibility. Chemical imbalance. Just don’t judge. I guess people who were hurt by those with the said “imbalance” can take comfort in it.

  • March 4, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Whatever is going on with CS, one thing’s clear to me: he is doing his best. And I wish him well.

    • March 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm

      I also wish him well, though I’m not sure that he is doing his best. I don’t understand why people always assume that, as I discussed in this post on my After Psychotherapy blog.

  • March 5, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Dr. Burgo why do you think Sheen’s family members haven’t had him committed to a psych hospital for an evaluation? As I understand a family member can have a family member involuntarily committed for a 72-hour period and then if the doctors find him or her a danger to themselves or others they can, through a court order, contain him or her longer.

    • March 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm

      That is a mystery. Maybe they’ve tried before and realized the futility. When someone is as heavily defended as he is, surrounded by people who support his delusions, it may be difficult to have a helpful effect.

  • March 5, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Also know that after about one week of abstinence from cocaine, the brain begins to realize that there is no more cocaine coming. So, it begins to overproduce “feel good” chemicals in the brain. It overproduces these chemicals and behaviorally this can look like mania. Some people call this a “honeymoon” phase.

    Eventually, the brain chemicals even out, but this can take up to six months. It is best to put off diagnosing other psychiatric diagnoses in cocaine abusers (and probably for any person who has an addiction) for at least six months into their recovery. Then you can have a better picture of what is going on.

  • March 8, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Today his delusion got a wake up call… Charlie Sheen got fired. Maybe this will shake some reality into him… Although his video from last night showed him disheveled and almost distort drink some “magic elixir” off camera… I think we are seeing the beginning of the end… Just what type of end is what I’m worried about… Do you think this type of break from reality could lead to suicide? I hope not… I’m very worry and sad cause it’s playing out so publicly.

    • March 10, 2011 at 7:46 am

      I think a suicidal gesture is possible but not likely. It is a terribly sad spectacle, to see this man falling to pieces in so public a way. I only hope that those who truly care about him can free Mr. Sheen from the exploitative enablers in his circle.

  • March 10, 2011 at 1:48 am

    Thank you,Joseph Burgo PhD

    You have finally wrote the article that should be written about this person in so much pain. I also hope he gets the help he needs before it’s to late
    he is looking awful.


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