Writing $300,000 checks to porn stars, anti-Semitic rants, waving machetes from rooftops…it’s all Hollywood, baby.
The limelight is a funny little ego-booster for celebrities, and Charlie Sheen is obviously no exception. With over 15 million viewers tuned in to his hit TV show “Two and a Half Men,” along with a family history of addiction under his belt, it’s no surprise that he garners more than double the attention in the tabloids and on gossip sites every time he does an interview; and has bombarded the media, and the app stores with his catchy “winning” slogans.
So what in the world is wrong with Charlie Sheen? Judy Belmont, a licensed psychotherapist and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life: How to Get Through Life’s Holes Without Getting Stuck in Them!” ventures into Masheen’s strange brain frequency and talks to me about the connection between personality disorders and celebrity status, and how us everyday folk can bring a little balance to our stressful, harried lives.
Lexi: Charlie Sheen has been in and out of rehab, “high on life”, on the drug that is Charlie Sheen, and generally absorbing any media attention he can in the last year. As a medical professional, how would you diagnose him?
Judy: Well it wouldn’t be professional to diagnose him based on his media persona, but I can definitely tell you that from what I’ve seen, Charlie seems to be exemplifying a lot of traits of a personality disorder.
Lexi: Given the behavior of other celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera and many other celebrities of the past, is there a link to celebrity and personality disorders?
Judy: I do not know of a direct link. Personality disorders can range from mild to extreme and is estimated in varying degrees to be in up to 20 percent of the population ! So, the any given group there is a good chance there will be some people with personality disorders. The fact that they are stars makes the personality disorders seem more pronounced.
The one hallmark of personality disorders is extreme narcissism – a self-absorbed, “I am the center of the universe” type of mentality in which one has an inability to see things from another point of view – and this trait is fed by fame and the star being treated in society as the center of the universe. With money, fame, and people fawning and gawking, anyone who is narcissistic and who has poor impulse control would have a field day, and their extreme grandiosity is only fed more. Add accessibility and money for drugs with that, and you have a dangerous combination.
Lexi: The press is throwing around the words “egomaniac” and “narcissisist”. Can you explain the difference between narcissism and egomania for us?
Judy: Egomania is an outdated term and narcissism is a more commonly accepted term for a mental disorder characterized by extreme self-preoccupation, self-absorption in which one is not empathetic of others, but exquisitely sensitive about themselves. People who are narcissistic lack a perspective of how other people look at things, and can only see things through their own idiosyncratic point of view. They often seek attention and admiration, and everything is “all about them.” The term comes from the greek mythological character, Narcissus, who was in love with his own reflection in a pool of water.
Someone who is narcissistic is stuck at an earlier stage of development and even though they are chronologically an adult, emotionally they are like children.
Lexi: Speaking of children, there’s a great deal of concern for Charlie’s two twin boys, who have been placed back in custody with their mother, Brooke Mueller. What kind of impact do you think this is having on them, and Charlie’s other children? (Sheen has a 25 year old daughter, Cassandra Jade Estevez with former girlfriend Paula Profit and two younger daughters, Sam,7, and Lola Rose, 5, by ex-wife Denise Richards.)
Judy: [Charlie’s behavior] can impact the children a great deal! He’s been appearing in the press very erratic and has been quoted saying he wants his children to look him up one day and see him as “epic”. The fact is, that personality disorders [in parents] can directly affect children of all ages, and can be very detrimental if left untreated.
Lexi: Do you think the fact that the majority of these celebrities abuse drugs and alcohol contributes to their personality disorders? Can these disorders develop as a result of these substances altering the chemical makeup of the brain?
Judy: It is estimated that 70 percent of people with personality disorders abuse drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse is a way to self-medicate, and only exacerbates underlying mental illness. [Remember that the] traits of personality disorders are narcissism, emotional immaturity, impulsive and addictive behavior.
These people have a tendency to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, a grandiose self view, a lack of empathy for others, a lack of ability to anticipate the consequences of one’s actions, and a lack of remorse for wrongdoing. As you can see, these traits are a natural fit for drug and alcohol abuse, which is why over half of people with personality disorders have a substance abuse problem.
Lexi: So what advice can you give to not only these celebrities who spend their lives under the microscope of the public eye, but the everyday man or woman to bring balance to their lives?
Judy: My co-author, Lara Shor, and I have a saying in the book, “Think Straight and Feel Great”. Being successful at life is all about resiliency. To quote Rocky Balboa, “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
Judith A. Belmont, MS is a member of the National Speakers Association and professional life and wellness coaches with over 30 years of experience in psychotherapy, teach us that as human beings, we develop resiliency by overcoming challenges and obstacles, and the holes in our path allow us to see more clearly and develop insight into ourselves. The idea is to be a caregiver to yourself, not just to others. The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life is a metaphor for life itself. Judy believes life is not predictable and smooth like cream cheese, but more like Swiss with all its distinctive “holes” and “imperfections”. Yet, these holes give us our unique character and depth.
For more information about Judy and The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life (set for release in late 2011) please visit her website.