Charlie Sheen & media psychobabble

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We recently wrote about “experts” offering diagnoses of what happened to the Los Angeles TV reporter whose garbled speech while doing a live shot during the Grammy Awards drew so much attention. Experts who hadn’t even examined the woman.

But new concerns are being raised about the seemingly endless diagnoses now being offered about actor Charlie Sheen – based on how he appears on TV.

From a post on MedPage Today:

“Barry Goldwater was a five-term Republican senator from Arizona and his party’s nominee for President in the 1964 election, which was won by Democrat Lyndon Johnson. There is a rich history of Goldwater’s life and political career, but the part of it we’d like to tell you about here gives him something in common with actor Charlie Sheen. Like Sheen, Goldwater was subjected to public statements about his mental state by physicians who, in Goldwater’s case, were interviewed for a magazine article. This article was published just before the 1964 election and questioned his fitness for office.

This behavior of psychiatrists, who offered diagnoses of Goldwater without ever having examined him, led directly to new professional ethics standards from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) which has to occasionally remind psychiatrists of the Goldwater Rule against commenting on the mental conditions of people they have not personally examined.”

Paul Raeburn wrote on the Knight Science Journalism Tracker:

Reporters: If your editors are pushing you to diagnose Sheen, resist. Occupy the state capitol or a public square.

Editors: If you are pushing your reporters to do a medical story on Sheen, resist. Instead, look around for somebody in your family suffering from mental illness, and encourage the reporter to diagnose that person-your brother, or your cousin, or your mother or child. Sound like a good idea?

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Comments (4)

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George Schwarz

March 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Don’t you think the bigger issue is paying all this attention to celebrities? We waste way too much time on them, both in- and outside the media.

Kate Murphy

March 7, 2011 at 10:58 am

I agree that there is too much media coverage of Charlie Sheen.
So why am I clicking on all things Sheen?
I’m busy, got important things to do and read, should be reading health blogs or stories about collapsing Libya, but I am drawn to Charlie’s latest rant or Charlie’s latest diagnosis.
Twitter reports there are twelve trucks off the road or stuck in the snow on Rt 81 this morning. I click on the story, hoping to see those crumpled trucks. Luckily they’ve closed the road so rubberneckers like me can’t rush over to see.
Meanwhile, I read about Charlie Sheen. I sign up to follow him on Twitter.
Maybe I need some of those psychiatrists eager to diagnosis Charlie to tell me something about myself.