More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
The Irresponsibility of Media Doctors Weighing in on Celebrities
By Marcia Purse,
Sunday, September 30, 2012

At a website called, a clinical psychologist by the name of Trevor Small is quoted as saying that the behavior of celebrity Amanda Bynes (I'm sorry, I've never heard of her) may mean she has bipolar disorder.

Of course, it doesn't help that this cheesy site introduces Dr. Small's comments with, "Everyone has been thinking it and now even a clinical psychologist can confirm that there is a definite possibility that the former child star is suffering from some kind of mental disorder!"

I have to snicker when I read "can confirm that there is a definite possibility." That's a textbook example of overwriting for effect. Stripped down, it just means Dr. Small said it's possible the girl has a mental disorder. But that's just not EXCITING, is it?

Here's a brief part of what Dr. Small said:

"When a person is impulsive, a sign of bipolar disorder, they do things without thinking like shaving their hair off or drastically changing their appearance. When someone starts to act erratically and inconsistently with how they used to be, this could also be a sign of bipolar disorder."

Of course, nowhere does he say he would diagnose Ms. Bynes with bipolar. That would get him into serious trouble, since he has never even met her. The writer of the article also points this out at the end to cover his or her own liability.

To me, the plain fact is that I don't think any doctor should be discussing even a possible diagnosis of someone he or she doesn't know in the media. Perhaps Ms. Bynes does have bipolar, or perhaps any one of several other things is causing her "erratic" behavior.

I have written blogs and articles about celebrities and other public figures regarding bipolar disorder. About some of them who appear on the ever-present lists of bipolar celebrities, I have researched and found that the person has never said, "I have bipolar," and might instead have something like, "I was kind of manic at the time" - which was all it took to get on those lists. I do not diagnose. I look at the evidence. And when it's a current situation, I stay out of it unless the bipolar rumor is running wild already (as was the case with Charlie Sheen).

In my opinion, while the public may speculate, doctors, whose opinions may be taken as fact, should keep their mouths shut.
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