Mel Gibson: Mentally Ill or Maybe Just a Jerk?

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

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."

But psychologist Melody Anderson believes that Gibson's latest tirades don't bear the hallmarks of bipolar behavior.

"Usually in a manic episode, the conversation is very rapid. Words come together very quickly. Listening to that tape, the way he's speaking, he's sounding out those curses," she said. "It sounds a lot more like a sociopathic kind of personality, and those are people with absolutely no remorse and no ability to have sympathy for someone in pain."

Anderson also questioned Grigorieva's mental state and the authenticity of the recordings. In the majority of the recordings released by RadarOnline, Grigorieva sounds calm and detached. Gibson's rants, filled with obscenities -- "You need a f*****g bat in the side of the head," "You need a f*****g soul," "You're a f*****g whore -- now, I own you" -- barely seem to phase her.

"Most people would get off that phone or be screaming hysterically," Anderson said. "There's none of that here. It's almost like she's dead emotionally. Whether she's traumatized or whether this is scripted, she does not respond like any woman who I have worked with who has gotten these kind of terrifying calls."

Regardless of Gibson and Grigorieva's mental conditions, leaking the tapes will likely cause him trouble in any custody for fight for his 8-month-old daughter Lucia.

"As a lawyer, if Mr. Gibson were my client, I would tell him to back off from the custody fight right now," said Debra Opri, a family law attorney based in California. "Don't even fight it, because that judge can take hold of your life and say 'You're going to rehab, you're going to get anger management treatment, you're going to do all these things because the child's life is in danger.' He should really remove himself from the arena and say she can have 100-percent custody."

Different rules apply in the criminal sphere. Opri speculated that because of the media glare on the case, police will press charges against Gibson. But because California is a two-party state -- the law requires that both people consent to the recording of a conversation -- it's unlikely Grigorieva's recorded phone calls will appear in court.

"In a criminal investigation, there is no way those tapes are ever going to get into evidence," she said.

As he did in 2006, Opri expects that if he's pressed with criminal charges, Gibson will cop a plea deal.

"I think he will say, 'I've got serious problems and I'm going to get help,'" she said. "I don't see Mel Gibson doing jail time. I think he probably will become an inpatient in a psychiatric establishment."

However, if Grigorieva offers authorities photographic evidence of Gibson's abuse or gets her dentist to testify that Gibson indeed broke her teeth, he could get sent to the slammer. Regardless, Gibson might want to get his head examined immediately.

"We're seeing him gradually deteriorate and starting to break down, which is what happens when a mental disorder is left untreated," said Dr. Archer. "This has gone on for so long that he could be suffering brain damage. Unless he gets treatment, it's going to continue to get worse."

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