Is Charlie Sheen Bipolar? The Relationship between MBTI and Psychological Disorders

In a recent article about Charlie Sheen and his personality type, a question was raised about the relationship between personality tests like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI and disorders like narcissism.  It is important to understand that the MBTI instrument is about personality preferences, how people prefer to obtain information and make decisions.  There is no good or bad type of personality based on this assessment. However, one may ask if certain personality types tend to fall into psychological disorders such as being narcissistic or bipolar. 

All people fall into one of the 16 Myers Briggs personality types.  That does not mean that a person with a disorder like narcissism can’t also be one of these 16 types.  Part of the MBTI analysis labels people as either an introvert or an extrovert.  When people hear the word introvert, it can sometimes be confusing as there are differing definitions. 

The MBTI explains an introvert as someone who get their energy from more of an inside world. They prefer to process information before they speak.  They may have a more internal focus and be more reserved and private. 

The American Psychiatric Association defines an introvert as “Withdrawal from other people, ranging from intimate relationships to the world at large; restricted affective experience and expression; limited hedonic capacity… deficit in the capacity to feel pleasure or take interest in things.” 

This is where confusion comes into play.  When people hear the term introvert, they sometimes think it means something that it does not actually mean.  In the Myers Briggs definition, there is not a negative connotation.  It is merely a preference, just as being right or left-handed is a preference. 

Confusion may also be involved when discussing personality disorders such as narcissism and how that relates to MBTI personality types.  In looking at research studies analyzing relationships between MBTI type and personality disorders, it becomes clear there still is a lot that we do not know about correlations between MBTI and these disorders. 

There are some studies out there about personality disorders and MBTI type.  However, many more need to be completed. An OxfordJournal study evaluated the role of personality in patients with substance abuse problems.  The MBTI was used to evaluate the participants and their attendance of self-help group meetings.  This study found, “High MBTI Extroversion and high MBTI Thinking scores also predicted attendance at self-help group meetings. When the Extroverted and Introverted types and the Thinking and Feeling types respectively were combined, as with abstinence, high scores predicted attendance at self-help group meetings.”

Currently there is speculation by some that Charlie Sheen may be bipolar.  Janowsky, et al (1999) looked at MBTI in bipolar patients. These authors found that “Bipolar patients were found to be significantly more extroverted and less judging on the MBTI.”  This means that people with an E and a P in their MBTI personality types were found to be more likely to be bipolar in this particular group that they studied.  In my article about Sheen, I speculated that he may be an ENFP.  It will be interesting to follow Sheen to see if he in fact gets diagnosed as bipolar.