The Mental State of Charlie Sheen

By Lauren Cooperman

Over the past two weeks we have been bombarded with updates on the Charlie Sheen saga.  People are hooked on the idiosyncratic rants that Charlie Sheen has lambasted throughout the media waves, and everyone is hoping to snag their own “winning” quotes.  The media is not only seeking out the star, but Mr. Sheen himself has been pursuing all media outlets to get out his version of “truth”.  Although his bombastic roars and eccentric actions have become late-night fodder and make for good TV, it is difficult to look at the man before you without some worry.  Many people have been asking “what is going on with him?”

People have assumed that Sheen is currently not clean, and is still using drugs and alcohol.  If you ask Sheen himself, he is quick to admit that he is currently taking hits from one of his favorite drugs; “I am on a drug, it’s called, Charlie Sheen”, he famously told reporter Andrea Canning during an interview on 20/20.  He has also taken two drug tests on air to prove his claim of sobriety.  He has passed both tests and is clean.  So, if it’s not drugs, what else could it be?

There are a myriad of speculative accounts as to what might be causing the actor to parade this grandiose carnival of events in front of the media.  One major opinion is that he is suffering from some type of mental disorder; specifically, bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a mental condition that can alter a person’s mood and behaviors.  Renowned hospital, John Hopkins, medical website specifies bipolar disorder as, “A person with bipolar disorder experiences mood episodes. These mood episodes can include depressive episodes, manic episodes, and mixed episodes. During depressive episodes, individuals usually experience sad mood, diminished interest in usual activities, and disturbances in sleep, appetite, energy, and concentration. Manic episodes typically involve either extremely happy or irritable mood, accompanied by other changes in behavior, such as increased activity, decreased need for sleep, grandiose thinking, and racing thoughts. Mixed episodes involve the simultaneous occurrence of depressive and manic symptoms.”

Many of the antics displayed by Sheen thus far can be described as more than grandiose, but does this make him bipolar?  When asked by ABC reporter Andrea Canning if he was bipolar, Sheen laughed it off and exclaimed, “Wow, what does that mean?  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.”

Although Sheen does make a point about not displaying feelings of depression at all during this time, experts are not so quick to write off the notion of the disorder.  Psychologist Stuart Fischoff, who has not treated the actor, was quoted in the, as stating, “He looks bipolar.  He’s in a particularly manic phase.  His reality testing has been severely impaired, marked by delusions of grandeur.  His head now is as large as the moon.”

Other psychiatrists agree that his antics may be bipolar related; however add that it could be derived from psychosis brought upon from drug use, or even a combination of both.  “When someone seems like they’re operating at the wrong speed, and they appear to be grandiose and somewhat irritable and irrational, there are a number of things that would need to be considered,” clinical psychiatrist Kenneth Robbins told

Drug psychosis is a psychotic disorder that is induced by excessive use of drugs and/or by the withdrawal of those drugs.  The most common stimulants involved that create psychosis are cocaine and amphetamines.  Sheen has confessed his love of cocaine, so this too could tie in to his erratic behavior.

“The last time I used drugs, um, I probable took more than anyone could survive,” Sheen boasted in the 20/20 interview.  “I was banging 7 gram rocks and finishing them because that’s how I roll.  I have one speed, I have one gear.  Go!!”

“Cocaine produces a heightened state of what looks like mania – a hyper-manic state – and it also produces a crash,” Dr. Fischoff told Pop Eater.  “Chronic substance abuse problems tend to distort people’s perceptions of reality.  When confronted with the consequences of their use, they can become defensive and counterattack or project blame onto others.”

Sheen has certainly been on a rampage since the hiatus of his show.  He has called people he does not believe are in his corner “trolls”, and has placed blame as to the demise of the show and his life specifically on head producer, Chuck Lorre.  “They’re trying to destroy my family, so I take great umbrage with that,” Sheen told Today Show reporter, Jeff Rossen.  “Defeat is not an option.  They picked a fight with a warlock.”

Although the quotes and actions from Sheen have seemed to be something “not of this terrestrial realm” (as he would say), it is important to remember that Sheen’s current actions are not a complete abnormality in our society.  With 56% of individuals with bipolar disorder also having addiction issues, it is no wonder that people are intrigued as to what Sheen’s true diagnosis could be.  However, despite his claims to the contrary, Sheen is not well.  His demeanor has shed some new light as to the extended effects of drugs and alcohol, as well as to bipolar disorder.

If you or someone you know if suffering from addiction or mental health issues, please seek help from a professional.