Even a Belieber would have a tough time calling this one a surprise: Justin Bieber was arrested early Thursday morning, following what police describe as a wild, drug- and alcohol-fueled drag-race through Miami. He was charged with drunken driving, resisting arrest and driving without a valid license. According to police, Bieber admitted to using prescription antidepressants, smoking marijuana and having a beer before the incident.
It's the latest in a string of troubling behavior from the 19-year-old pop star. Bieber has made recent headlines for abandoning his pet monkey, urinating in a janitor's bucket, pelting his neighbor's home with eggs and vandalizing the walls of a Brazilian hotel. He keeps questionable company, too – his best friend Lil Za was arrested at Bieber's California mansion last week for drug possession.
"It makes me sad, because it's another young celebrity whose life seems to be spinning out of control," says Paul Hokemeyer, a New York-based senior clinical adviser for the Caron Ocean Drive addiction treatment center in Florida. "The poor kid is suffering, and he needs some help. I think it's a sign of our society and how we demonize people with celebrity and wealth – our compassion seems to have an economical and celebrity threshold to it."
In an interview with U.S. News, Hokemeyer explained the ways celebrities often become addicted to wealth and power, which leads to losing touch with reality – and a disregard for the law. His responses have been edited.
What's your take on Bieber's arrest this week? What could be behind his recent actions?
We look for certain indicators of behavior that's out of control and self-destructive. People who are addicted to power and wealth are typically motivated by an underlying anxiety disorder or depressive disorder. People try to manage these uncomfortable emotional states by acquiring people, places and things, basically. It's not dissimilar to hoarding. They have this constant striving for more wealth, and more fame and celebrity and power. There's just never enough.
Does Bieber think he's invincible, perhaps?
There's typically an underlying narcissistic personality that's associated with wealth addiction. And with that comes a sense of arrogance and entitlement – and magical thinking – meaning they're perfect and there's no problem. They have a distorted sense of reality, and they think they can do things no one else can, and that they're above the law.
There's also this inability to process shame in a healthy way. Someone who's had run-ins with the law, for example, and is walking on thin ice, will typically feel shame and have some remorse around that. People who suffer from narcissism don't. They tend to become arrogant, deny it and rationalize it away – or medicate over it. It's a distorted view of one's self and one's place in the world, and the need to abide by general morals and social standards.
Bieber is just 19 years old. Does that play a role?
He's very young. Our brains aren't fully developed until we're 22 or 23, and before that time, we're really being fueled by emotions. There isn't any logic, there isn't any reason, there aren't any controls or containers. It's why adolescents engage in high-risk behavior, why they act very impulsive, why they love thrill-seeking and why they drive fast and jump off cliffs. A 50-year-old man would have no business doing these things, because the front part of the mature brain is much more developed to analytically process things.
Bieber has been known to keep some questionable company. What's your take on that?
We're profoundly influenced by our peer group. And so the decisions we make – and how we view reality – are profoundly influenced by the communities we live in and our cultural environment. People who operate in the world of celebrity typically live in a different world. Their peers are people who suffer from the same character pathologies, like narcissism, and they feel that they are also above the law and operate on a higher plane than everyone else, and that general rules don't apply to them. Our social network is very infectious.