Dr. Drew on Palins: How close is too close?
July 21st, 2011
12:07 PM ET

Dr. Drew on Palins: How close is too close?

Editor's note: Dr. Drew Pinsky, a board-certified internist, regularly interviews people in the spotlight to learn more about their emotional lives.  Bristol Palin will be Dr. Drew’s guest on a special edition of "Dr. Drew" on HLN Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. 

One thing jumped out at me over and over again when I interviewed Bristol Palin: She had difficulty identifying and expressing feelings.

Even when pressed, she was unable to dig deep and readily find an emotional response.

Based on how Bristol described her family, the Palins seem to exhibit what in my line of work is called an “enmeshed” family. It’s more than being close. It’s being too close.

Members are extensions of each other. It’s hard to tell, for example, where mom begins and daughter ends. Boundaries are blurred. Each feels that she’s essential to the other’s happiness, even survival.

And while it is not an awful situation it can be a handicap.

Bristol's message: Don't skip your pill

In more severe enmeshment, individual identity suffers. Sense of self can be totally lost. A person is ultimately unable to look within. So he or she acts out.

And this, I believe, is what may have happened to Bristol to some degree. She was the proverbial “good girl” with loving, supportive and well-meaning parents. She was exactly the daughter that they needed to her to be. But when they didn’t keep up their end of the bargain and became too busy, the enmeshment became more complicated.

It’s tough when your mother is Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska.

Bristol Palin: Being a teen mom is hard

Bristol lost her virginity to “bad boy” Levi Johnston while drunk on wine coolers. As she explains in her new book, "Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far," she’d lied about him and what they were doing. She lied to her parents, and to herself.

And then came baby Tripp. Bristol was forced to publicly confront the reality of being pregnant during the 2008 presidential campaign. Her mother, John McCain’s running mate, was even less available to Bristol than ever. For a girl who grew up seeing her mom and herself as one, this was beyond difficult.

Bristol: I'm not accusing Levi of rape

Bristol is sweet, genuine, and intelligent. She has so much to offer. And she has a platform. The country is listening to what she has to say. But she needs to work hard to develop a sense of who she is. She is Bristol Palin. Not Sarah.

Follow @DrDrew and  @CNNHealth on Twitter

soundoff (169 Responses)
  1. Tim

    I hope she is on the Palin bus and all of them go off a cliff.Dr Drew is such a moron.What happened to him since loveline to make him so creepy?

    July 22, 2011 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. FU

    Dr Drew should know that where there's no sense, there's no feeling...

    July 22, 2011 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. frenzy

    Dr. Drew is an internest and he is making snap psych decisions about a family? How cheap is he for ratings. very very cheap. almost all teen girls first lie to their parents about pregnancy at first for all kinds of reasons. that is normal. Dr. Drew is desperate to keep his worthless show on the air. He is weak in stature and personality.

    July 22, 2011 at 06:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Satan

      "Dr. Drew is an internest" Oh, snap. You really zinged him there.

      July 22, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
  4. cm

    This kid need some schooling along with her mom.Daughter like mom
    Two Morrons

    July 22, 2011 at 06:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Josh

    So, Bristol Palin got Levi Johnston drunk on wine coolers. Did Sarah buy them for her?

    July 22, 2011 at 08:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ivan

      Well, the sea is the greatest ore body, and there is more gold in the sea than on land. I cubic mile of sea water connaits 0.02 tons of gold. Unfortunately it is uneconomic to extract. The cost of trying to extract this gold, mixed with 165 million tons of other dissolved material, from such a large volume of water, is greater than the value of the gold.

      October 13, 2012 at 23:11 | Report abuse |
  6. Viva

    For someone who would be a big fat nobody if she hadn't gotten pregnant Bristol sure likes life as a rich celebrity whiner.

    July 22, 2011 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. erich2112x

    So what does this woman do for a living? Does she have a degree? So far all we've seen is Dancing with the stars, a book to set the record straight about Levi, and interviews with Dr. Drew. I 'd be kind of worried if my kid were her age and didn't have anything substantial going on yet. She's an underachiever, a non-producer.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chartreuxe

      She's supposedly going to attend college in the fall. One certainly hopes she does so. At some point the professional celebrity of being Bristol Palin will wear off and she needs something to fall back upon with a child to support. Her position with the Abstinence education isn't likely to continue. Their funding is gone and since their program doesn't work on 80% of youth there's no point in teaching abstinence as a method of birth control.

      July 22, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • karen503

      "She's supposedly going to attend college in the fall."

      Hmmmm. I wonder how she's going to do that at the same time she's supposedly going to be in some sort of hokey reality show with the brothers Kyle and Chris Massey? Or did that fall through?

      July 23, 2011 at 18:55 | Report abuse |
  8. New Mexico

    I really wonder – what did the Palin family every do to so many people that they feel a need to demean them and call them names – as far as i can tell – none of them every did anything to any of the above – so I ask what is your problem. For god sake, Bristal is a young 20 year old girl who has done nothing different and thousands of other girls, I don't see you stupid people raking on them

    July 22, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • erich2112x

      The University of New Mexico is a high ranking university. You should sign up for some classes.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:17 | Report abuse |
    • jcinco

      Perhaps you should take some remedial English classes with sarah. Of course, she'll also need to take remedial geography and civics also.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
    • J. Crobuzon

      Thousands of other girls aren't helping their moms get elected to jobs where they could do real damage to this country.

      July 22, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
    • Uwem

      Teen pregnancy is a retialy in this country. I hope the Bristol's pregnancy will open conversations across the country with mothers and daughters. Girls need to know that this can happen to everyone, not just teen celebs. It is honorable that she will be having the baby and in the height of her pregnancy while promenading through the political arena. I hope the media isn't cruel to her. She is after all a teenager that obviously made a poor judgment call.

      October 11, 2012 at 10:14 | Report abuse |
  9. Dr. Drew is FING Satan

    Dr. Drew always has been and always will be the most foul, base sewer-level sack of human filth ever to hold a doctor's license. He harvest souls for cash and I truly hope he and his evil heart and soul die. A real doctor does not engage in public diagnoses, and too many of his patients have died or relapsed. He is a sick dog that should be put down before he hurts anyone else.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Satan

      I'd like to address these rumors that Dr. Drew is FING me. Not only are they not true, but Dr. Pinsky is butch. Thank you.

      July 22, 2011 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
    • Ljubisa

      that someone else would call me back about this, but I haven\'t heard aninyhtg yet. I can\'t remember the name of this person, (Dan?), but wouulde be grateful if you would pass this message on. My number is [---]. I teach, so I can\'t be reached until about 4.45pm on weekdays.I look forward to hearing from you soon.Alex Galvin

      October 11, 2012 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
  10. KatieAnnieOakley

    Sometimes, you just have to close the gaps in the link to get the whole story:

    http :/ / politicalgates .blogspot. com /2011/06/bris tol-palin-tells-her-story-of. html

    July 22, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KatieAnnieOakley

      The link above takes you to a montage of screen grabs from Bristol's 2007 MySpace page, where she muses about being overheard talking about how she might be pregnant (Looooong before Levi Johnston came a'knockin at her door...), numerous nights of drinking and getting stoned... yup, Levi "stole" her virginity all right! NOT.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:23 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Really? So she's a liar just like her mother?

      Why am I so surprised? It runs in families.

      July 22, 2011 at 16:31 | Report abuse |
  11. susan

    LISTENING to Bristol Palin? An uneducated wannabe celebrity? That's really really offensive Dr Drerw, to even thinik anyone gives a hoot about what she has to say.

    July 22, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. palintwit

    The whole Palin family is a steaming, stinking pile of filthy white trailer trash.

    July 22, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • trigtwit


      July 22, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
    • bristoltwit

      I like battery operated buttplugs.

      July 22, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse |
    • Richard von Krafft-Ebing

      I am going to list "twittery" as a new paraphilia in my next book.

      July 22, 2011 at 15:25 | Report abuse |
  13. Summer Blockbuster 2012!

    Palin vs. Bachmann!

    Splitting the Republican Party three ways, and a Meowrrrr hissy-fittin' battle to the finish.

    Make a bucket of Orville Reddinwhatisspellin, crank back the Barcalounger, tap the pony keg, AC to high, ...Nirvana!

    July 22, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. bachmanntwit

    Marcus Bachmann is gay.

    July 22, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. katie

    the country is listening to her? are you joking?

    July 22, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ohsnap

      Only the numbnuts

      July 23, 2011 at 00:01 | Report abuse |
  16. Heann

    "Bristol lost her virginity to “bad boy” Levi Johnston while drunk on wine coolers"
    The darn broad is using my excuse

    July 22, 2011 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. ART

    Ok its time to put a muzzle on the pigs in lipstick and on proud to be a Republican

    July 22, 2011 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Laura

      Maybe you need to have DR Drew work with your hate issues.

      July 23, 2011 at 00:01 | Report abuse |
  18. Satan

    Is it really hateful to tell someone that their fly is open? Because Sarah Palin is your open fly, Republicans, and you are going to get that thing caught in a door if you don't zip it back up.

    July 22, 2011 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeebus

      Nicely executed, old friend.

      July 22, 2011 at 20:55 | Report abuse |
  19. Matt

    Will never understand liberals' hate for and obsession with the Palin family. Its sad.

    July 22, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DonnieH.

      Will never understand Conservatives hate for Obama and his family...

      July 22, 2011 at 16:55 | Report abuse |
    • RevHellhorn

      Having contempt for evil in its most banal manifestations isn't hate, it's just the practice of good social hygiene. Besides, even if they didn't actively seek to serve evil the Palins epitomize how dumbed down segments of our society have become. I've had dogs with greater intelligence and useful life insight than Bristol Palin, and her mother is the phrasebook example of a 'box of rocks'.

      July 23, 2011 at 18:26 | Report abuse |
  20. palintwit

    New website coming soon... "All Palin, All Hate, All the Time.com"

    July 22, 2011 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Dave

    Uh oh, Dr. Drew, now you've done it. You've said something that can be seen as negative towards a member of Sarah's family. Prepare to feel the hate and irrational fury of her fanbase!

    July 22, 2011 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Nunya

    Difficulty expressing herself huh? And yet she wrote an entire book...INCREDIBLE!

    July 22, 2011 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sonnyday

      Co-written (meaning written by) Nancy French...do you really think she or any other celebs write their own book?

      July 22, 2011 at 18:20 | Report abuse |
  23. first wife

    First of all, I did not realize Dr. Pinsky is NOT a therapist, he is an internist. Yet he postures as though he is a certified counselor/therapist. Second, boy, did he drink Bristol's kool aid or what??? Above he states, she was a "good girl". From what I hear from people in Wasilla, (and this came out right after her mommy's VP nomination), she was known as a stupid party girl who drank like a fish and slept around. She didn't get good grades. She and Levi were sleeping together openly in the Palin's home. Dr. Drew, do your homework and check out some of the blogs out there. Another fluff interview, with no real, hard questions and certainly no honest answers. No wonder I don't watch tv anymore.

    July 22, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sea-libtard

      You get your news about the Palins from blogs? Try doing YOUR homework.

      July 22, 2011 at 18:16 | Report abuse |
    • karen503

      To sea-libtard: Blogs are more reliable than getting information about the Palins from a Palin. It's a well known and provable fact that Sarah Palin, for example, is a liar.


      Her Truth Index is an appalling minus -36.67. (Barack Obama's is plus +11.36, very good for a politician)

      July 23, 2011 at 17:34 | Report abuse |
  24. Robert Collins

    Bristol's message: Don't skip your pill

    Wait, did I read that right? Whatever happen to "Abstinence"

    July 22, 2011 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sonnyday

      At least the "pill" message has a shred of truth and reality to it.

      July 22, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse |
  25. indy_girl

    "Bristol lost her virginity to “bad boy” Levi Johnston while drunk on wine coolers."

    This is the funniest part of this whole made-up How-I-"Lost"-My-Virginity fairy story. Wine coolers? Alaskan teens drink the hard stuff. "Wine coolers" are soooo 1980's!!! As a matter of fact, it sounds like something Sarah threw into the story to attempt to make poor Bristol look less of a drunk....FAIL.

    Let me guess-Bristol and her tent-dweller friends were also listening to the Go-Go's that night. LMFAO!!!!!

    July 23, 2011 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. indy_girl

    "Based on how Bristol described her family, the Palins seem to exhibit what in my line of work is called an “enmeshed” family. It’s more than being close. It’s being too close."

    Sarah HAS to keep all of them close enough so no one opens a closet door and lets the skeletons out!

    July 23, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Brenn

    The entire Palin family are ridiculously ignorant opportunists and Dr. Drew's attempts to pander to them diminishes what little reputation that he has as a professional therapist.

    July 24, 2011 at 03:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Me

    I don't consider Bristol's inability to express herself due to any kind of "enmeshed family" theory. I give more weight to the "not too bright, no world view, lack of common sense, unrefined, intellectually lacking" gene she inherited from both her mother and her father.

    July 24, 2011 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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