Recently by Brendan O'Neill: Chile: Solidarity Wins Out OverPsychobabble
Charlie Sheen is my hero. Not because he goes on five-day benders, takes binbags of drugs and cavorts with ladies of the night. That would be recklessly self-indulgent behaviour in anyone over the age of 21, never mind in a 45-year-old actor with a primetime TV job and a wife and children at home. No, he’s my hero because he refuses to allow his behaviour to be psychologised. He refuses to genuflect before the Oprahite altar of psychobabble and blame his antics on his “inner demons”. Instead he’s fighting like a terrier against experts’ attempts to brand him as “disordered” and in the process has made himself into a one-man army of resistance to the tyranny of therapy that has the twenty-first-century in its grip.
Easily the most shocking thing about the Charlie Sheen affair is not his recent debauched behaviour – Stop the press: Hollywood actor behaves hedonistically! – but rather the unstoppable march of a zombie-eyed army of therapists who want to diagnose Sheen from a distance as “mentally ill”. Every cod-psychologist in search of a headline, and increased business, is offering to write a prescription for Sheen. Under the headline “Addict or Bipolar? Examining the ‘Passion’ of Charlie Sheen”, Time magazine admits “it isn’t possible to diagnose patients at a distance”. And yet it proceeds to do precisely that, employing two experts to discuss whether Sheen is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar mania, depression, anxiety or addiction.
In a TV interview, ABC’s Andrea Canning asked Sheen if he was bipolar. When he said “no”, and hinted that some people claim to be bipolar simply to excuse their erratic behaviour, she looked at him as if he was – in that other favoured phrase of the therapeutic industry – in denial. Even the brain-invaders at Psychology Today magazine have got involved, claiming that “the life and times of Charlie Sheen are a serious issue for us all”. Why? Because apparently he is in the grip of a “Mood Disorder” (I think we used to call this “being moody”) and his failure to deal with it contains a lesson for everyone: “When you’re in the depths of a Mood Disorder, you swirl in an ocean of mental, physical and spiritual chaos, [and] it’s only when you reach the safety of the shore that you realise just how dangerously ill you were.” How do we reach the “safety of the shore”? Through the therapeutic intervention and guidance of psycho-experts, of course! On the back of their pseudo-diagnoses of Mr Sheen’s alleged various mental illnesses, psychologists are cynically seeking to boost their own professions.