Hunter Biden Through a Bipolar Lens

For the better part of the 2020 presidential campaign I viewed Hunter Biden as an embarrassment to his father’s campaign. A political liability. A shadow of the man his brother Beau was. But then, as a history buff, I started writing about famous people with bipolar disorder, and particularly about presidents and their sons — John and Charles Adams, Theodore and Kermit Roosevelt. (I have a post on the latter pending publication on a prominent blog.) I began to see a different Hunter Biden, one worthy of support and understanding.

In 2019 the former vice president opened up about his son’s addictions and mental illness. Except he didn’t. He left open for us to guess what exact mental illness or illnesses he meant. Substance use disorder (SUD) is indeed itself a mental disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) recognizes it. The disorder co-occurs with many other disorders, such as anxiety, unipolar depression, ADHD, and personality disorders. And we know it’s associated with bipolar disorder. Some 60 percent of people with bipolar disorder have struggled with substance abuse, compared to a figure closer to 10 percent of the general population.

Like many with bipolar disorder, Hunter has at times been very productive, having received a degree from Georgetown and law degree from Yale. But he’s known to act impulsively.  After divorcing his first wife, he married a woman he knew for six days. They got matching tattoos. A child born out of wedlock has surfaced. And Hunter has dated his brother’s widow. It is common for bipolar sufferers to have money problems, and Hunter has always struggled to pay for his lifestyle. Now the IRS is after him.

Seems maybe like bipolar.

There is something called the Goldwater rule in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Principles of Medical Ethics, which states that psychiatrists are not to give a professional opinion about public figures whom they have not actually examined and have not given consent. (Nevertheless, all sorts of opinions came out about President Trump having malignant narcissism.)

I don’t know Hunter Biden. Not only that, I’m not a health care professional. Furthermore, it's not right to out someone who hasn't come out themselves, whether it be sexual orientation or mental illness. But Hunter Biden is a public figure. Not because he's the president's son. Not because he wrote a memoir. But because he wrote a memoir as the president's son.

My purpose here is to offer a different perspective on the man that might bring some compassion and understanding. There’s nothing wrong with that.  And I root for him to find happiness.