Mel Gibson: Mentally Ill or Maybe Just a Jerk?

Gibson's mental health issues may have contributed to his enraged rants.

ByABC News
July 14, 2010, 3:36 AM

July 14, 2010 — -- Listening to Mel Gibson's latest round of recorded rants begs a number of questions, one bigger than any other:

What is wrong with this guy?

He growls. He pants. He demands oral sex and threatens to burn down a house. Instead of apologizing for allegedly breaking the teeth of his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva (while she was holding their 8-month-old child, no less), he says she deserved it.

He hurls insults so vile, he makes Ari Gold's tirades sound like sweet nothings. Could mental health issues be to blame?

In the 2008 documentary "Acting Class of 1977," Gibson revealed he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. "I had really good highs but some very low lows," Gibson said. "I found out recently I'm manic depressive."

Gibson was interviewed for the documentary by one of his National Institude of Dramatic Art classmates in 2002, four years before his 2006 DUI arrest, in which he spat anti-semitic slurs that he later said were "blurted out in a moment of insanity." He's rarely brought up his bipolar diagnosis since.

Now, in the wake of Gibson's leaked phone conversations with Grigorieva, and with the Los Angeles Police Department investigating possible domestic violence charges against him, his mental condition could be of mammoth importance.

Medical experts agreed that without examining Gibson firsthand, it's impossible to verify whether or not he's bipolar. But doctors say his recorded rants point to mental health issues as well as alcohol abuse, a demon Gibson has dealt with throughout his life.

"Based on what we're seeing with these episodes of rage followed by apparently normal periods in between, that could be a classic symptom of bipolar disorder," said Dr. Dale Archer, a psychiatrist who founded The Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Lake Charles, Louisiana. "Bipolar can lower your impulse control, and if you couple that with the fact that he has had this longstanding substance abuse problem, absolutely, that could lead someone to go off on a rant like this."