When celebrities exhibit a pattern of irrational behavior, my mind tends to wander to the question of mental illness. However, I am well-educated in this area, being a clinical depressive myself and having a best friend with bipolar disorder. I’ve done tons of research into the subject, taken psychology courses, and witnessed and lived through some of the worst things that these types of conditions can bring about.
What worries me is the casual use of “bipolar” in pop culture to define unseemly behavior in general. Like most everyone else, I’ve heard about the antics of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson, and various opinions about their behavior. While many have linked Spears and Lohan to bipolar, it wasn’t until I watched Good Day New York this morning that I heard it connected with Mel Gibson. The program aired a segment with celebrity psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere, who said that Gibson’s pattern of angry verbal diarrhea outbursts could be a product of a manic state.
If he does indeed have bipolar disorder, that would make a lot of sense. When someone is in mania, they’re hyperactive, can’t sleep, can’t control their thought patterns, are impulsive, have erratic in behavior, and are reckless. This can even lead to psychosis, even though they’re in a “high” state, rather than a deep depression.
Considering the stigma that goes along with mental illness, bipolar in particular since it’s become a new “catch phrase” of sorts, it’s likely that if someone has “gotten by” throughout their life without diagnosis and treatment, they wouldn’t seek it out. With someone from Gibson’s generation, it’s less likely, since it’s only recently that society has become more open about these types of disorders.
But though we are more educated about mental illness than we were in previous decades, we’re still battling stigmas that are continually inflamed by the media. For example, People Magazine reports that The Plaza Hotel’s Oak Bar is now selling “The Mel Gibson: A Bipolar Cocktail.” This story was repeated on Good Day New York this morning, where one of the hosts actually asked Gardere, “Aren’t we all a little bipolar?”