Demi Lovato’s Battle With Addiction And Mental Illness – How Her Candid Story Can Help Teens
Actress and singer Demi Lovato has made a name for herself starring in television shows like The X-Factor and Sonny With A Chance. However, recently the 21-year-old star has been promoting her new memoir, Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year. The book details the young celebrity’s battles with several mental health conditions, including a drug addiction, eating disorder and alcohol abuse.
Lovato’s Personal Struggles
In her memoir and through a series of interviews, Lovato revealed her disorders as well as her triumphs. They include the following:
- Drug addiction – The star has recounted how, during the peak of her addiction, she snorted cocaine practically every 30-60 minutes.
- Alcohol abuse – Lovato reports that by age 19 her alcohol abuse was serious enough that she was drinking a soda bottle filled with vodka in the morning.
- Cutting – She’s spoken openly about her struggle with self-mutilation, which began at the tender age of 11. Lovato says she made cuts on her wrists to cope with negative emotions.
- Eating disorder – The young celebrity recalls how she first battled an eating disorder around age 12 or 13, although she began to worry about her body image earlier. This was triggered by becoming the target of bullies who cruelly labeled her as “fat.” Over the years, her self-destructive behaviors included compulsive overeating as well as anorexia and bulimia.
- Bipolar disorder – Lovato recounts how, initially, manic periods made her a productive songwriter. However, the cycles of mania and depression also made it painfully difficult for her to control her emotions.
By age 19, these conditions had taken a serious toll on Lovato’s well-being. She reports having a nervous breakdown during a concert tour. At one point, she reportedly physically struck one of her back-up dancers. That’s when her family and management team did the intervention that compelled her to quit the tour and enter into treatment. Lovato initially received three months of inpatient treatment, and then continued her treatment in an outpatient program. It was only after treatment started that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder [1-5].
Co-Occurring Disorder – Not Unique
Mental health disorders often co-occur, creating havoc in the lives of young individuals and their families. While the scope of Lovato’s conditions may seem sensational – alcohol, drugs, cutting, depression, and mania – the reality is that some teen girls and young women deal with these challenging disorders on a daily basis.
Anorexia nervosa affects up to 3.5% of women during their lifetime, while bulimia afflicts approximately 4% of females. Over 85% of those with eating disorders report first experiencing symptoms before the age 20 . Teens and young women may restrict eating habits or binge and purge for a variety of reasons, from the desire to have the “perfect” body to the need to conform to athletic standards. The impact of an eating disorder on physical and emotional health is profound. These conditions have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder. For example, 20% of individuals with anorexia will die early from complications such as suicide or heart problems .
Other psychiatric conditions, like those Lovato struggled with, also have a negative effect on adolescent girls and young women, too. Research reviews suggest that patients with bipolar disorder have higher rates of bulimia. The opposite is true as well, with bulimic patients showing elevated rates of bipolar disorder . Likewise, researchers have connected eating disorders with self-injury behaviors, such as cutting. In one study, 40% of adolescents with an eating disorder engaged in some type of self-injury. Those who practiced binging and purging, in particular, were more likely to self-harm than those who restricted food intake .
It’s also common for young people with mental health conditions to wrestle with substance abuse, just as Lovato did. A teenager or young adult overwhelmed by negative emotions may turn to substances to self-medicate their symptoms. For instance, bipolar disorder so frequently co-occurs with drug or alcohol abuse that some experts suggest that all young people with the condition should be assessed for substance abuse .
Lovato’s Encouraging Turn-Around
Lovato says she’s been open about her struggles because she wants other young girls to know their lives don’t need to be destroyed by addiction and mental health issues. In addition to talking with media outlets and writing a book, Lovato has also become a contributing editor to Seventeen magazine, with a focus on addressing eating disorders and the pressure teen girls often feel to be perfect . Earlier this year, she also joined the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to promote National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.
The popular young star’s efforts may serve to increase awareness of these issues among teen girls and young women. For example, they may help remove some of the stigma linked to conditions like depression or bipolar disorder, making it a little easier for someone to admit she needs help. Lovato’s openness may also teach some to recognize potential mental health disorders, including substance abuse, in their friends.
Additionally, her story may spark conversation about how the drive for physical perfection affects young women. Mass media and social networks have the power to convey unrealistic expectations about appearance. For example, the recent “thigh gap” trend has raised concerns because it may be causing some teens and young women to engage in unhealthy eating behaviors. They strive to become thin enough to create a noticeable space between their upper thighs. Lovato’s struggles with her own body image and the serious impact it’s had on her well-being may help some young people re-examine how they feel about their own bodies.
Reaching Out For Mental Health And Addiction Help And Healing
If you are a young woman dealing with mental health challenges, such as depression or self-harm, or a substance abuse problem – of if you know someone who is – contact a treatment center. The staff will help you determine appropriate treatment options. In addition, you’ll learn more about the intervention process and how it works to guide a person into treatment. Reach out for help today.
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