Archive: January 2008

“No, no, no!” Oops. “Yes, yes, yes!” 1/24/08

They tried to make her go to rehab, and she said…”Yes, yes, yes,” but only after they caught her doing drugs on camera — singer Amy Winehouse, off to rehab (and if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how successful I think that’s likely to be).

While we’re on the subject of substance-abusing singers, a status hearing was held yesterday in the custody case involving Britney Spears’ two young children.  After that hearing, the singer still has no visitation — apparently no underwear either — poor Brit.

Ledger follow-up 1/23/08

As a follow-up to my last post about the death of actor Heath Ledger, I’ll give you a quick update on what’s happened since his body was found and answer a few specific questions.

First, an autopsy performed on Wednesday was inconclusive, so it’s probably going to be a couple of weeks before the coroner makes a determination as to the cause of death.  What will happen in that time?  Toxicology, first of all, to determine what substances were in Ledger’s bloodstream at the time of his death.  Also, a psychological autopsy, or what psychologists sometimes call an “equivocal death analysis.”  Basically, this will be an attempt to determine what his psychological/emotional state was in the weeks, days, and hours prior to his death, which then will help determine the probability that he was suicidal.

Why did I say it would surprise me if someone (an adult) overdosed on sleeping pills accidentally?  If an adult were taking sleeping pills to get sleep, I’d expect that he/she would start with the recommended/prescribed, safe dose.  Then, if that didn’t work, I might expect that the person would try taking another pill or two, even though it would be stupid to disregard the doctor’s and/or manufacturer’s instructions.  If the person continued on like that, I’d expect him/her to fall asleep at some point, maybe at a dosage higher than what was prescribed, but probably not at a dosage high enough to kill the person.  If someone took enough sleeping pills to kill him/herself, I’d suspect that the person took a massive dose, not incrementally, but all at once, with the intent not to wake up.  The wild card in that theory is the possible simultaneous ingestion of other drugs and/or alcohol, which, in combination with the sleep agent, could cause death intentionally or unintentionally.  I would be less surprised to hear about a person dying from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills alone if that person were a child rather than an adult (negligent parent leaves the pills lying around, kid finds them, thinks they’re some kind of candy…).

Finally, why might an apparently-devoted father of a toddler commit suicide?  People who commit suicide usually aren’t thinking clearly (exceptions to that might be a patient suffering from a terrible disease or a suicide bomber).  Parents who commit suicide usually believe, at the time, that their children will be better off without them for some reason.  If Ledger’s death is ruled a suicide, I’d guess that’s what he was thinking.

Heath Ledger 1/22/08

People are asking about the death of actor Heath Ledger, and all I can say with the information that’s been reported thus far is that it looks like a suicide.  There hasn’t been an autopsy yet, but all indications are that he died from an overdose of sleeping pills.  If that’s the case, it would be unusual for it to have happened accidentally.

A tale of two (or three, or four…) Britneys? 1/20/08

In the past few days, I’ve seen several articles quoting “experts” who’ve apparently speculated that Britney Spears’ erratic behavior over the last several months is the product of Multiple Personality Disorder.  I have to weigh in here because the disorder’s a crock, and those people are quacks in my opinion.  Officially called Dissociative Identity Disorder (a.k.a. D.I.D.), it is still recognized as a clinical diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition, Text Revision, a.k.a. DSM-IV-TR), but I can report to you that the consensus among mental health professionals on its existence is extremely weak.  Count me among the many experts who believe the diagnosis is bogus and should be eliminated from future editions of the DSM.  I’m not saying people never go around acting like they’re someone else, and I’m not saying those people are mentally healthy.  I’m saying I don’t buy the idea that multiple different people can live inside of one person’s head.  In my opinion, people diagnosed with multiple personalities, the ones who aren’t faking, are just plain psychotic.  While Britney Spears certainly has exhibited some psychotic-looking behavior in recent months, the people who are “diagnosing” her with D.I.D. are watching way too much daytime t.v.

What was O.J. thinking? 1/17/08

Did you see the look on O.J. Simpson’s face as a judge told him on Wednesday that he was arrogant, ignorant, or both for violating the terms of his bail (by attempting to contact a co-defendant in last year’s botched memorabilia heist)?  He didn’t look contrite.  He didn’t look ashamed.  He didn’t look scared of spending months in jail until his trial.  No, he looked like he wanted to pull out those Isotoner’s from his first trial (the ones that supposedly didn’t fit) and go after the judge!  Just an observation.

Is anyone surprised? 1/15/08

Is anyone surprised that Joran van der Sloot, one of the suspects in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, threw a drink in the face of a reporter after a television interview in the Netherlands?  Sound familiar?  Seems to fit right in with the impudent, spoiled-brat personality that we heard about throughout the case.

Is anyone surprised that Britney Spears was a no show once again for a hearing regarding the custody of her children on Monday?  Sound familiar?  Maybe you heard Nancy Grace and I talking about it on the air the last time Spears blew off a hearing.

Is anyone surprised that the suspect in the murder of pregnant U.S. Marine Maria Lauterbach apparently left a note denying killing her but admitting disposing of her body before he went on the run?  Sound familiar?  Reminds me of Bobby Cutts, the suspect in the Jessie Davis case last summer, who also was reportedly “just disposing” of his pregnant mistress.

Is anyone surprised by any of the above?  Me neither.  Kind of a sad commentary, isn’t it?

Couple of quick predictions for the week ahead 1/13/08

As you’ve probably heard, O.J. Simpson is back — in jail — accused of violating a judge’s order by phoning a fellow defendant in the criminal case stemming from Simpson’s alleged forcible recovery of some football memorabilia in a Las Vegas hotel last year.  I predict that when an evidentiary hearing is held on Wednesday, it will be proven that O.J. did in fact make the call.  I just don’t think he gets this obey-the-law thing yet.  Maybe locking him up until his trial this fall would help get that lesson across to him.

You may also have heard of the tragic case of a pregnant female U.S. Marine who had been missing since December and was found murdered this weekend.  The father of her unborn child, whom she had accused of raping her, is the prime suspect of course, and he’s apparently on the run.  I predict that he’ll be apprehended, and when he is, I predict that we’ll learn about a history of violent behavior toward the murder victim and perhaps other women.  As I’ve said many times, rape or murder isn’t usually the first violent thing somebody does.  At this point, I tend to think that military authorities on the base where the two were stationed probably dropped the ball by not locking this guy up before he got around to committing murder, but I could be wrong.

Male Andrea Yates 1/10/08

If you haven’t heard, a “father” (it’s hard to use that word to describe this horrendous murderer) threw four children off a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway in Alabama Wednesday, apparently after a fight with their mother.  The children are missing and presumed drowned.  This guy is the male version of Andrea Yates, and I predict that he’s legally sane, just like I think she was when she drowned her kids in a bathtub (her first jury got it right in my opinion, and I hope this guy’s does too).

What was Dr. Phil thinking? 1/8/08

If you missed Monday night’s “Live with Dan Abrams” on MSNBC, we talked about Dr. Phil McGraw’s “house call” to Britney Spears when she was hospitalized in L.A. over the weekend.  Dr. Phil says he went to visit Spears because her family asked him to go and see if he could get through to her.  Funny thing about that is he issued a press release, held a press conference, and gave media interviews after Spears apparently rebuffed his attempt at intervention as well as his reported invitation to participate in an hour-long televised “intervention” with members of her family on his show this week.  If he really went there to offer his help to her privately, none of us should know about it.  Dr. Phil has since announced that his planned Spears episode is off, which means he either has realized how smarmy his behavior over the weekend made him look or he’s running up to New Hampshire to counsel Sen. Clinton, who appeared a little emo in a Monday-morning interview.  I often agree with Dr. Phil, and I hate to chastise my colleagues, but in this case, I think he got temporarily blinded by all that limelight around Spears.  He needs to decide whether he wants to use her story on his show or try to be her therapist.  If he’s going to take on the professional role, then he also has to take professional responsibility to look out for his patient, and I don’t see how it could possibly be in her best interests to have her sad story play out any more publicly than it already has.

Britney’s breakdown 1/6/08

Here are some quick thoughts on Britney Spears’ (latest) breakdown, the one that put her in a psych ward on suicide watch Thursday night after she locked herself and one of her two children in a bathroom for three hours:

1)  This woman has been making decisions that have not been in the best interests of her children since before they were born, beginning with her choice of a man to be their father.

2)  It’s unfortunate that her children have such poor parental options (and it’s sad to me when any child can’t have the love and support of both a father and a mother), but in this case, the mother apparently has gone beyond incompetent and irresponsible to full-blown dangerous.  So, she can’t be allowed to have children in her care at this point in her life.  The judge was right to cut off all visitation between Ms. Spears and the children until a hearing can be held (currently scheduled for Jan. 14) to determine what’s in their best interests in light of their mother’s apparent mental illness and substance abuse/addiction.

3)  Family court judges routinely call upon forensic psychologists like me to advise them in such instances, and I hope this judge has appointed a good expert.  While I would hope that Ms. Spears could become a healthy mother for the children in the long run, I generally would recommend that she have a very well-established track record of totally-sane, totally-responsible, totally-sober behavior before the judge should even consider very gradually restoring visitation.

4)  It seems like a mistake on the hospital’s part to have released Ms. Spears so quickly.  They reportedly admitted her on a 72-hour involuntary commitment because she was deemed to be a danger to herself (and possibly others, e.g. her children), and if her doctors still believed that at the end of the 72 hours, they could have kept her for up to 14 days under California law (after which a hearing before a judge would have been required).  Instead, they let her go just a little more than halfway through the initial 72 hours.  I hate to second-guess my colleagues on the scene when I’m halfway across the country and haven’t examined the patient, but it seems to me that if someone’s really so volatile that she can go from being dangerous to being safe for release in approximately 36 hours, she could swing back the other way just as quickly.  I would like to have seen the doctors err on the side of caution and keep her longer for observation, but I can report to you that such quick releases are unfortunately common in situations like this.

5)  Without examining her, it’s tough to opine about exactly what’s going on with Ms. Spears psychologically/emotionally.  As long as there’s substance abuse in the mix, as there appears to be in this case, it’s tough to separate the effects of that from whatever’s going on independently of it.  It follows that a person who’d made as big a mess of her life as she’s made eventually would have some depression about it, and by all accounts, she obviously was having some suicidal ideation Thursday night.  In the best interests of Spears as well as her children, it will be important to quickly and accurately diagnose her because she seems to be spiraling faster and faster downward, and we could be looking at an Anna Nicole Smith sequel here in 2008.  Hopefully, Britney Spears loves her children enough to A) let the judge’s expert conduct the necessary assessment of her, and B) follow the expert’s recommendations regarding treatment, both for the children’s sake and for hers.

Stay tuned as this sad saga continues to unfold, and for previous posts about or mentioning Britney Spears, see 10/4/2007, 9/21/2007, 8/23/2007, 4/24/2007, 2/27/2007, 2/26/2007, and 2/18/2007.  (There’s also a post about child custody evaluations back on 3/1/2007.)



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