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Demi Lovato - Young, Troubled and Honest

Teen Idol Has Bipolar and Eating Disorders, Self-Injury History

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Updated June 20, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato

Jemal Countess / Getty Images

Career in Brief

Demi Lovato, born August 20, 1992, started her career at six on Barney & Friends and made guest appearances on other television shows, including Prison Break and Just Jordan, before getting a role in Disney's TV series As the Bell Rings. A glance through reviews of this series shows people either loved it or hated it, but in any event, her performance there was enough to land her the starring role in the TV movie Camp Rock. She had done some singing in the Disney series, but Camp Rock launched her career as a singer as well as an actress. Her debut album, Don't Forget, was released in 2008, followed by tours with the Jonas Brothers as their opening act.

 

Troubles Surfaced Early in Her Life

Demi told ABC News reporter Robin Roberts during an exclusive interview on 20/20 that she developed an eating disorder at a very young age after being bullied about being fat, and that she began cutting herself at age 11. "It was a way of expression my own shame of myself on my own body," she told Roberts. "And there were some times when my emotions were so built up I didn't know what to do. The only way I could get instant gratification was an immediate release ... on myself."

Self-image issues continued despite her very successful career. After the cuts on her wrists were visible in a photo and gave rise to a lot of speculation, she said, she became "sneaky," cutting in places that couldn't be seen while telling family and friends she no longer self-injured. In fact, over the next few years it got worse.

On tour with the Jonas Brothers in November 2010, Demi was "losing her voice from purging" and her moods were out of control. After she struck a tour dancer, Demi's family held an intervention, and she agreed to enter treatment for her issues with bulimia, anorexia and cutting. It was during her three-month stint in the treatment center that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Looking back, she says, it made sense of a lot of things in her history, including suicidal ideation that began when she was only seven.

Bipolar Diagnosis Made Sense

"I was actually manic a lot of the time I would take on workloads, and I would say yes, I can do it, I can do it, and then I would come crashing down and I would be more depressed than ever," she told Roberts. She also told People, "One of the reasons I was so unhappy for years was because I never embraced my emotions and I was trying to stay in control. In treatment, all of the negative things I did were stripped away and I had to start processing my feelings."

She told Roberts, "For the first time in my life I started to feel. It was such a humbling experience to not just push your feelings aside and ignore them. I'm thankful now that I'm feeling."

When Demi first spoke at length about her treatment on April 14, 2011, she didn't mention bipolar disorder, but she praised Catherine Zeta-Jones for her courage in being frank about having bipolar II disorder. On that same day Seventeen magazine announced that Demi was joining the staff as a contributing editor and a press released said:

Seventeen magazine, musician/actress Demi Lovato, and The Jed Foundation announced today the "Love is Louder Than The Pressure to Be Perfect" campaign. The partnership will focus on helping teen girls cope with the pressure they feel to be perfect in many aspects of their lives including appearance, popularity and performance in school and other activities.

Eight days later, in the 20/20 interview, she revealed her own bipolar diagnosis.

Demi Lovato Filmography Highlights

Demi announced on April 19, 2011 that she would leave Sonny With a Chance to focus on her music career. "I don't think going back to Sonny would be healthy for my recovery," she said. "Being in front of a camera would make me nervous."

Sources:
"Demi Lovato's Inner Turmoil." ABC News 20/20. April 22, 2011.
Silverman, Stephen. Demi Lovato: I Had a Nervous Breakdown. People. April 14, 2011.

 

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