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Milton Bradley and Mental Illness May 6, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness, Stress, Uncategorized.

Here in Seattle, a huge public display of bizarre behavior by one of our premier ball players has eclipsed the poor record of our baseball team.

Milton Bradley, the tossed around outfielder with a track record of 8 clubs in 10 seasons, has finally admitted that his problems on the field go deeper than simply a case of bad behavior.  His meltdowns,  seen for years as a case of boorish, selfish and childish behavior, are now being speculated as a symptom of a much deeper problem: mental illness.

It’s a rather ironic situation, actually. Those of us familiar with the role stress plays in bringing out the worst symptoms of mental illness realize that the catalyst for Bradley’s recent meltdown can likely be found in the extreme amount of stress he put upon himself trying to help the Mariners  out of the hole they ‘re in.  With some of the best statistics on the team, he looked upon himself as their savior, and when he couldn’t pull through (as in the strikeout looking for a bases loaded at-bat in the 6th inning), the stress was too much. Bizarre behavior, which is a symptom of mental illness, followed the chemical changes to the brain caused by the intense amount of stress.

In Bradley’s case, it appears that his bizarre behavior has always escalated when he was put under pressure. The more pressure he is under, the more bizarre his behavior.  Everyone acknowledges that Bradley’s behavior is way outside the norm, but because it’s negative rather than benign behavior, it’s perceived as “angry” rather than “crazy”.  But who walks off the field in the middle of a baseball game, in violation of every written and unwritten rule of baseball? A crazy person.

The next chapter in this saga is what happens next.  Bradley has, according to management, asked for help. Tellingly, he is having psychological testing done as this is being written, in an attempt to identify exactly what type of mental illness, if any, he has and to come up with treatment options.

Because of the tremendous amount of shame associated with mental illness, it is very brave of Bradley to come out with his plea for help, even at this late date.  He could easily have done as he did in the past and simply ignore the situation.

In all of the material I have read on him, I have never encountered any written record of him seeking out help from mental health professionals for his behavior problems, though there have been a few articles speculating that he has Borderline Personality Disorder.  So this recent cry for help is his attempt at turning over a new leaf.  Publicly acknowledging the possibility of having a mental illness, which is what he is doing, is not to be taken lightly.  Stigma against mental illness is deep and steep, especially in such a male-dominated profession as baseball, which is probably why he never sought help before.

I for one am excited at the thought of a Bradley who is medicated to the point of rational behavior. This Bradley will be far more equipped to give the team what they really need: stability.  Good luck, Milton.



1. Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC - May 6, 2010

Mental illness is a spectrum rather than a yes/no question. In other words, given the “perfect storm” of conditions, including stress, genetics, and environment, anyone can go over the edge. To some extent, everyone has issues. In that respect, mental illness is really about shades of gray rather than black and white.

You are so right about the stigma against mental illness. I long for the day when mental illness is treated like other illnesses in which there is no stigma. And you and your blog are a part of the process of getting our society to see that we all have issues, and anyone could go over the edge. Thanks again for educating people on this important subject.

Cherrie Herrin-Michechl, MA, LMHC
Fannies: Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere

2. Bon Dobbs - June 28, 2010

I think Milton Bradley has emotional regulation issues. Here’s a quote from an article on him a while back:

“The Mariners agreed with him that two weeks didn’t erase the slugger’s battle with his emotions.”


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