Back when Britney Spears was allowed to drive with her children, she packed her two young sons and their court-appointed monitor in her Mercedes, drove to a chandelier shop, then left the kids in the car with the monitor while she perused new lighting fixtures.
For a woman who had only recently regained partial custody of her children, the move seemed shocking, but it was par for a course that has been increasingly erratic since Spears’ split from Kevin Federline just a year ago.
Spears once blamed some of her behaviors on being “country,” but according to mental health professionals, former employees and friends, Spears’ problems at best stem from deep issues with fame, or at worst, indicate a serious drug or mental health problem.
“(Britney) is a drug addict. It is an indisputable point,” addiction specialist and “Loveline” host Dr. Drew Pinsky recently told Us Weekly. Pinsky, who does not treat Spears, backed up his claim, which has not been directly addressed by the singer or her camp, adding, “We know that she is a drug addict because she's been admitted to a treatment center. You can't be admitted unless you’ve met criteria for addiction.”
Or, you can be admitted because your ex-husband is threatening to take your kids away from you, which is what some close to Spears assert. “The reason she went to rehab is because Kevin made it clear that she’ll lose the kids,” said a source familiar with her stint at the Promises rehab facility in Malibu. “She was willing to admit she might be depressed, but she truly never felt like she had a problem.”
However, psychologist Dr. Jolie Brams paints the pop star’s problems and her recent chandelier episode in a different light. “You can either look at that shopping trip and say, ‘She’s so unbelievably uncaring and narcissistic,’ or you can look at the situation with empathy and sympathy,” said Brams, who does not treat Spears. “She just may not be able to reflect on her behavior and decisions, and unfortunately this impacts her ability to recognize the needs of her children or how she might present to others.”
“It doesn't take a professional to see that her mood shifts from being overly happy and energetic to irritable and angry,” Brams said. “All of us get moody, but problems happen when our moods and behaviors change quickly and perhaps for no reason. She seems to be predictably unpredictable.”
A Sony BMG spokesperson for Spears said, “We don’t respond to speculation.” But according to one former employee of Spears, “predictably unpredictable” seems to sum up the point where Spears’ personal life intersects with her professional life. “She has moments where she is like, ‘Yeah, I can do this work,’” said a former employee of Spears. “And then she’ll have a jet set up and ready to go, and she’ll cancel it. She doesn’t care that she’s lost all kinds of money and it looks bad [professionally]. She’ll just decide she wants to do something else.”
Another source from inside Spears’ label disagrees that her work is in peril: “I guess that’s people’s opinions. She’s been very involved in the process [of her career] and music is where she started. It’s a grounding influence for her in some ways.”
A person with close ties to Spears since she was very young agrees. “The Britney you see now is the same Britney who has always been there, from my perspective,” said the source. “When she was young, she was just easier to manage. It’s like when you’ve got a kid who wants to go out, you can say, ‘No, you have to stay home.’ Until they can drive, that is. Britney can drive now.”
Pinsky, however, disagrees. “Her mental health has almost nothing to do with her career,” he told Us Weekly. But he does believe her mega-stardom makes it harder to help her. “Fame hinders getting to [Britney] now. It is hard to get through the sycophants who are enabling her and be able to find people around Britney who are willing to potentially sacrifice either their salary or their access to her by bringing her into treatment.”
How to help Spears
“The good news is that mental health issues are treatable,” Brams said. “But those nearest to the person needing help must be strong enough to remove their loved one from the environment that triggers the problems, and not be afraid to demand that they comply with treatment.”
Unfortunately for Spears, those nearest to her rarely have her best interests in mind. One former employee said, “There was always a revolving door of people around her, people who would become instant ‘best friends’ for no real reason. They just ‘yes’ her all the time.”
Leaving Los Angeles would help, and it’s something Spears has discussed in the past. “She’s very torn,” one of her former employee said. “One day she said, ‘Madonna took a seven-year break, why can’t I?’ I’ve heard her call her manager and say, ‘Why can’t I just run away like Demi Moore did, or go to a town where the police will keep the paparazzi away from me?’ But she loves the limelight.”
The terms of Spears divorce don’t allow her to cut ties from California, but her desire to do so does show that the pop star has some degree of insight on the situation.
“Really, I think she just wants to feel loved,” said the source with professional ties to Spears. “I think that’s what her quest for fame has been about all along, and at some point she woke up, realized she had all this money, kids and was still the same person who wanted to be loved and liked.”
Another source very close to Spears doesn’t necessarily agree. “It’s easy for people to look out and make suggestions, and make up ideas about what should or shouldn’t happen. A nice career in music can be helpful. A nice career wouldn’t be a bad thing for her to have.”