Joaquin Phoenix Could Be Mentally Ill, Psychiatrist Says

Phoenix's rep calls doctor 'wildly inappropriate' for diagnosing the actor from afar.

It is entirely possible that Joaquin Phoenix's erratic behavior in recent months — quitting acting to focus on a hip-hop career, growing a massive beard, making a stammering appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" — is all part of an elaborate joke the actor is playing on the world.

Or, if you believe Chicago-based psychiatrist Paul Dobransky, there could be another explanation: Phoenix is mentally ill.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dobransky — a relationships expert and author of "The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love" — floated a theory that Phoenix may be schizophrenic, pointing to his "socially inappropriate behavior," including his abrupt career change, poor hygiene and grooming, vocal tics and lack of facial emotion as proof.

"There is something wrong," Dobransky told the Times. "And it's beyond drug abuse."

In an e-mail to MTV News, Phoenix's publicist, Susan Patricola, called Dobransky's analysis "wildly inappropriate."

"How absolutely inappropriate for a doctor who has no personal interaction or relationship with someone to diagnose them," Patricola said. "And to do so in a public forum. Hope they spelled his name right. Another 15-minute 'expert' is born!"

Dobransky, meanwhile, is concerned with the propriety of others' public commentary on Phoenix's behavior. The actor's bizarre "Late Show" appearance was lampooned during Sunday's Oscars by comedian [movieperson id="99943"]Ben Stiller[/movieperson], who muttered nonsensically and wandered around onstage, wearing a bushy beard and dark sunglasses. Dobransky told the Times that he was "pretty offended" by the portrayal, saying it struck him as "potentially beating down on the mentally ill."

"The jury is not exactly in on what is happening," Dobransky said. "Whatever it is, it's not funny — whether it's drug abuse, mental illness coming on or the clumsiest attempt ever at a career change."