Although mental health clinicians might seem to be the perfect folks to opine on Sheen's behavior and its root cause, in fact it is unethical for clinicians to diagnose someone from afar, without actually evaluating the person.
So I won't attempt to put a diagnostic label on him. But I do think it's worth examining some of the larger issues that are at play as we all, yet again, witness a famous person apparently melting down.
Every culture has norms of what are and aren't appropriate behavior, and inappropriate or aberrant behavior can be considered deviant, abnormal, criminal, evil, or simply weird or quirky. Only certain kinds of aberrant behavior, though, make the hair on the back of our heads stand up and lead us to feel that something is really wrong with the person behaving that way. You probably felt the same way listening to Mel Gibson's rants on his ex-girlfriend's voice mail or looking at photos of Britney Spears' shaved head.
And when something like that happens, we want to know what, specifically, is wrong with that person.
Diagnostic labels -- such as bipolar disorder or narcissistic personality disorder -- can be very useful for the patient and his or her family. They can indicate the likely course of a disorder and its prognosis, possible causes and appropriate treatments.
Mental health clinicians determine a patient's problem and diagnosis, in part, by evaluating specific aspects of his or her behavior and demeanor. For instance, clinicians pay attention to the way the person talks -- the rate, fluidity and clarity of speech, and whether the emotions conveyed match the content of what is said.
Does the person seem in control? Too restless or lethargic? Do his or her answers to questions make sense? Is the person oblivious to the effect he or she has on others? These are but a sample of the questions that clinicians ask themselves in order to make a determination; being odd or unusual in and of itself is not enough to warrant a diagnosis.
But even if Sheen were diagnosed with a specific mental health problem, that doesn't mean he will receive appropriate treatment.
Unfortunately, sometimes you may be able to lead a horse to water, you can't make him drink.
Britney Spears seems to have been able to turn her life around, and Gibson -- at least for now -- seems to have more self-control. We can only hope that Sheen, too, will not only get appropriately and accurately diagnosed, but will use that information to turn his life around, if not for himself then for his children.
Robin S. Rosenberg is a clinical psychologist, speaker and co-author of "Abnormal Psychology" by Worth Publishers. Read more about Rosenberg and her work on Red Room.